Screenwrites – How rejection improved me as a writer

I have only shown my scripts to two industry people who I met through serendipity. (Although I never underestimate the value of filmgoers and also rely on a small coterie of discerning critics who understand drama and represent different audience demographics to constructively challenge my work). The first time I sent out my work to an industry person – I received validation but the second time, I received a rejection albeit with compliments. One recent script I sent out to a competition received a simple rejection. My responses to the setbacks gave me a great insight into myself. I discovered that my struggle as a writer resides inside me not the outside world.

I am sharing what I have learned about myself as I hope it will help others find the real cause of their struggle should one exist.

My rejection arrived without feedback – a lonely place for me as a writer. My inner feelings of worthlessness gave away my story. I was seeking external validation coming from what I call Success Led Goals (SLG’s). Surely ambition is a good thing, you say?  A goal is great but SLG’s are destructive. At least, SLG’s are bad news for me. SLG’s promise to keep me in a yo you state until death does us part. SLG’s guarantee to compromise me and ‘push me’ to rush my work and prevent my writing from becoming a craft that continually matures, changes and develops. If I continue on the path of SLGs, I will spend my sorry life worrying about the success and failure of validation and not become the amazing writer I want to be.

My research into the life of Alfred Hitchcock is partially responsible for my realisation. I researched his career and I discovered that Hitchcock’s love for film centred and focused him and his wife Alma to keep his eye on the prize – great films come from great scripts. Nearly all of Hitchcock’s personal interests were used to concentrate on using and developing his talent and skills to develop the script into a film which gave his audience visceral, thought-provoking and often groundbreaking entertainment experiences. A true artist for me is one that connects with an era and an audience even if their way of expression is not fully understood during their lifetime – Hitchcock, Orson Welles and countless others faced this journey. I do not compare myself to these giants but I want to be a true artist and yes, I do want to paid well for my art but not at the expense of my art.

The rejection is my new start. I can first thank the person who rejected my work because they gave me the gift of this knowledge. I understand my personal goals for the first time since I started writing. A secret goal of mine to be the best writer I can be for me would always have been hidden. My life as a writer would have been dictated by impatience and ego-led fear of rejection calling the shots.

Should I ever achieve outer success in the future – my efforts will continue to be invested in what is truly important – my writing as a craft not reacting to the yo yo of success or failure. So here are my reassessed goals for 2013:

I am an artist. I work for myself. My writing is taking me on a journey of discovery to help me develop my craft. I know a few things on this journey. I write to share. I love writing. I love the classical form and I love analysing, watching and going to see and hear great films, plays and poetry. I will write what I enjoy and think is worthwhile. On my new journey, I will be my audience first. Second, I will find a way to test that I write for and respect the relationship with my existing and potential audience. I will learn how to share my writing with my potential audience to discover what makes my voice and work unique so my scripts engage with audiences in a meaningful way. Like I felt the first time, I read the power behind the plays of Sophocles, Ibsen, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Sarah Kane, Harold Pinter, Mark Ravenhill or watched Shawshank Redemption, The Matrix, Citizen Kane, Alien, Welles’s Othello, 12 Angry Men, Star Wars or went to see Death of A Salesman etc

I also thought about my responsibilities to myself as a writer and as a person when worrying needlessly about being a successful writer. Writing is a small step by step process requiring time and patience to develop my craft. Once this journey fully becomes my goal – it will give me true joy and unlock my inner talent – this is my prize. My goal is to write and perfect not be swayed by or worry about those SLGs (Success Led Goals), expectations or needless comparisons with others. I am not always able to write as I am sometimes unwell and this requires patience and compassion to work hard when I can and not beat myself up about it when I am unable. I will look out for factors that hinder my development as a writer. Most of these factors reside in me not the outside world and this frees me up to solve my own problems. So my new mantra is “I am a constructive developer of my creative craft”. This way, I can dispense with the pointless critic and work on the craft hiding deep inside.

Finally, I was scared of posting my failure but in reality the dark clouds behind these feelings were fleeting, drifting and parting to open up a bright blue sky. My success is to give myself permission to continue on the road to real success. The confidence to continue no matter what.

I hope some of this information is useful or good for writers, film makers and artists of any variety struggling with similar issues.

If not, rest assured, I will return to writing something more useful than navel gazing next time!

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2 thoughts on “Screenwrites – How rejection improved me as a writer

  1. That type of introspection is awesome and super important to our improvement as writers. Just remember that there will always be rejection at every level of this game. It’s always good to step back and question whether there’s something you could do better, but it’s also important to remember — sometimes, they’re going to be wrong.

    Best of luck with your new outlook!

    • Thank you so much NG Davis for your comment and your sage like advice. What was interesting for me was to discover that rejection itself did not bother me, I was the problem as well as my need for validation (the yo-yo). I guess rejection showed me that what I really need is patience and perseverance to give my writing a chance to mature and develop according to my aspirations. Until then, as a philosopher once said, wherever you go, there you are.

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