Rejection and why it’s good for you

By now I guess a standard joke about Fifty Shades of Grey must have emerged along the lines that none of the painful looking sexual practices shown in the film are half as painful as watching it.  Writing and submitting work is not quite the same as willingly being tied to a bedpost but in both cases you are deliberately exposing yourself to the possibility of future pain for the sake of pleasure.

Thursday evening, to those people submitting to Newsjack is “email day”. And no news is always bad news, at least once everyone else is getting their emails through. There are two levels of email: the “good email” – telling you that you have something in the show – and the “bad email”- telling you that you almost had something in the show, but it got cut.

There are maybe 20-30 credits available on each show and some of those will be taken up by staff writers and commissioned writers. So of the hundreds of people submitting, the vast majority will end up “rejected”.

But this is no different to the professionals. Most of the projects even pro writers work on, don’t get off the ground. They might not get picked up as a script, or they might get optioned but not made, or they might get piloted and then not picked up for a series. And even if they do, and even if they are great they might not get another series.

The same is true of prose fiction writers. We all love the stories of how many people passed on Harry Potter before it because an international megahit. But this is not the exception. It’s the rule.

For a working writer,  rejection – not getting a particular piece used – is part of the job.  But don’t worry. It’s good for you.

For a start getting used to rejection makes you better able to do the job. You are going to have to get used it sometime, just like plumbers have to get used to climbing under dirty sinks.

But it’s more than that. Getting your work knocked back, ripped apart and made better helps to knock the preciousness out of you. The insecurity that insists that the world loves you every word without alteration will only hold you back. Don’t be precious about the work as it is, be determined to make it better.

Rejection is also a great filter. Do you want the world to see your best work? Then be grateful for the filters standing between you and the world. They are the reason all your bad ideas don’t get made and that’s a good thing.

Look at what happens when people are considered geniuses whose work can’t be questioned. Most of the time their work gets flabby – and these are generally the most talented and knowledgeable writers. Not having a good filter, be that editor, director or producer makes even brilliant writer’s work weaker.

So next time you get a rejection, don’t be angry or despair. Be grateful. And go away and do something even better.