Fear of failure is what stops some writers and screenwriters from starting and constrains others from prospering. As writers we can become so precious about our work that it becomes a struggle to handle any form of criticism or rejection. This process of sharpening is what actually makes us better writers – giving us a chance to gain fresh perspective and new focus. You’ve got to sift the constructive from the destructive. Otherwise, it’s as good as closing your eyes and swinging!
There are many stories of great writers who were met with one rejection after another in their early days. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a fine example, where one of the most beloved fantasy collections almost never happened. Imagine Rowling had just given up after the first few rejection letters. Of course there are instances where some writers found instant seemingly overnight success, but this is more of a fluke and related to good timing more than anything.
The commonalities often exemplified by those that get to the next level are patience, persistence and perseverance. Having the patience to polish your work to the point that it becomes worthy of publishing or producing is the first step to getting a foot in the door. We may think of ourselves as the next Sorkin or Hemingway, but most publishers are looking to make money not unearth artistic genius. You’ve got to know that your talent is being seen as a product not an artwork.
Moreover, being inundated with new scripts, there’s little time to give everyone their dues. It comes down to submitting your work through the right channels, networking, meeting with people who have done it before and can offer guidance. It’s a process often restrained by lack of know-how and those who would want to keep the path narrow.
You may take some knocks to your ego, but don’t give up. Toughening up, learning how to take criticism and even suffer rejection is an art form in itself. This is why persistence is so important. Think of actors and the audition situation. You may not be right for the role, but there’s no help in wanting to take the rejection personally. Casting agents can sense desperation, so it’s about sticking it out, keeping your chin up and explains why there are so many cliches around the idea of getting back on the… achem, mechanical bull.
While a close cousin to persistence, perseverance is required to suffer the slings and arrows with a smile on your face. It’s one thing to keep on keeping on, but you’ve got to stay optimistic… going in to each meeting or submitting your script exuding confidence, starting from ground zero. It’s so much easier to talk about it than get up in the morning and take the day with a click of the heels.
You’ve got to keep hope alive, stoking your true passion with dreams of what may come. You may feel like you’re delusional some days, but the secret is to keep going taking one little bit at a time until it is done. The spin-offs are part of the writer’s story… realising that you’re growing even in your darkest days. The experiential learning is invaluable, giving you eagle vision when it comes to your own work, getting to know your industry, meeting friends and foes as well as developing your own character.