5 Ways to Beat Rejection
Rejection is the worst. Every writer who has ever shown their work to someone else knows this. Sharing your most personal creations puts you at risk for the most terrible sort of pain. Unless you’re standing on a boat, scribbling pages and tossing them into the sea, sharing your work means there’s a chance you’ll face rejection. And everyone, everyone in Hollywood gets rejected at some point. Yes, everyone.
One of my favorite Hollywood mentors once told me the best predictor of a writer’s success was how that person handles despair. This sounds depressing at first but it’s actually powerful advice: those who handle rejection well inevitably succeed because they keep at it — and the most important thing is to keep at it. As Ray Bradbury once said, “you fail only if you stop writing.” Knowing how to survive rejection is part of what makes a successful writer, so let’s thinks about some ways to cope with it.
No 1 – Give Yourself A Time Limit For Wallowing
Notice that I did not suggest you forego wallowing entirely. Up to a point, wallowing is an extremely healthy way to respond to emotional pain. But letting it go on indefinitely can be destructive. Give yourself a time limit — say, one full day — and then decide that you’ll move on. It gives you a little taste of what you need without letting it ruin you. Sort of like having one cupcake but not eating everything in the bakery until you barf. Small doses.
No 2 – Get A Posse
If you don’t have a writing group or a friend who also writes, get one stat. Sure, relationships with other writers can be complicated — writers can be jealous and vain. But they also know exactly what it feels like to pour hours and hours of hard work into something that a Hollywood producer passes on after a ten minute read. It’s excruciating. Find a friend who nods knowingly and tells you you’re going to be okay. Because you really, really will.
No 3 – Get Away From It All
Exercise should be written out as a prescription for writers. It doesn’t work for everyone, but there are a lot of writers who swear by the endorphins. Even if it’s just a quick walk around the block, getting away from your desk can help you clear your head. Look at the pretty birds and remember that one rejection isn’t the end of the world. You’re more than one script. You’re a whole person, and if you stay determined, you can do this.
No 4 – Distract Yourself
One of the best ways to handle rejection is to pretend it’s not happening. You read that correctly. The way to do it? As soon as you send something out, open a new document. Force yourself to free write. Push yourself to outline. If you’re busy writing the next thing, you have less brain space to fret about rejection. It’s not foolproof, but it helps. It also helps to see a good movie and eat ice cream and a large tub of popcorn and a candy bar. Possibly.
No 5 – Get Up Off The Mat
Another favorite mentor of mine likened Hollywood to a boxing match. You are going to get knocked down — that’s for sure. The important thing is to get back up off the mat. If you get up, it’s not over. You’ve still got a fighting chance.
So if/when you get that next rejection: take it on the chin, then GET UP OFF THE MAT. Go back for more. Your future as a writer depends on it.