I’m a professional actor and I’ve learned a thing or two about rejection- from my first stage kiss when the guy ran off stage yelling, “I hate myself I hate myself!” (no it was not in the script) to finding out I lost a role while I was working- I served dinner to a familiar-looking guy who turned to his wife and said, “This girl just auditioned for me. And you know what? She almost got the part.”
So when you’re rejected by the latest agent/editor/whoever, here are some ways to cope:
1) Drink a latte and call your mom. She thinks you’re great. She’ll be happy for the call even if she’s sad to hear the news. And sometimes making other people happy will help you feel happy too.
2) Think this happy little thought: Everybody fails. Every. Single. Person. You are not alone, even if all your Twitter buddies are getting million-dollar advances or whatever. They have all been in your shoes. And you know what? You will fail WAY more than you succeed! Why? Because it only takes one success and then you stop trying, right? It takes a bajillion failures to get that one success- that agent, that contract, that whatever (and then you start trying for something else). Although it’s sad, failure is a perfectly normal place to be!
3) Think this vengeful little thought: They might regret this. It might make you feel a little better. And who knows? Maybe they will! I can think of two specific instances when I was called back for a role and they gave it to someone else who was TERRIBLE. “Ha!” I thought to myself when I read the reviews/heard the horror stories. “Bet they’re wishing they’d picked me now!”
4) Consider this: You may have missed it by only two inches. I once lost a role to a girl because she was two inches taller than me. I’m not joking. The director had praised my audition to the heavens saying (and this is a direct quote), “That’s perfect! That’s exactly what I want!” and he gave it to this other girl. It was college and he said we could ask him about his casting decisions, so I did. It was because she was two inches taller. Two. Inches. Taller. I can’t tell you how many writing rejections I’ve gotten that said something along the lines of, “I loved it but the team didn’t,” or, “It’s just too quiet to break out in this market.” (I have a pretty good list of direct quotes from editors here) Two inches. That’s it. Yeah, it’s sucky, but you were close. And you know what? Maybe next time you’ll get the role because you’re two inches shorter.
5) Now: Change your way of thinking. They are not rejecting YOU. They are not even rejecting your book baby. They are simply looking for something specific and your book wasn’t it. Which is okay. Here’s the thing: I will never play Cinderella in Into the Woods. Ever. Because they would have to find a Little Red that’s shorter than me and, well, good luck with that. Here are more roles I will never play: Marius in Les Mis (he’s a boy), Adelaide in Guys and Dolls (she’s a dancer), Sarah in Ragtime (she’s black)… the list goes on. And you know what? That’s OKAY! There are plenty of roles I can play that those people can’t! Little Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan, Lydia Bennett, Amy March, Hermia… the list goes on! Even against people of my own type, a director might cast someone else because he or she envisions the character a little heavier, a little scrawnier, with blonde ringlets, with a snubby nose, with no freckles, a higher voice, etc, etc. Your book is great! They are not rejecting your book! It is simply not what they’re looking for. And guess what? Someone else may be looking for your book.
6) Finally, be a little sad, but try again. Yes, there is a time to give up and you’ll feel it if it comes. But don’t make any hasty decisions. Give it another shot. As Amy March said, “You only need one. If he’s the right one.”
PS- At least writers actually receive rejections! Actors usually hear from the company only when we get the part- not when we don’t. It’s just an indeterminate wait until you hear that one of your friends was cast or rehearsals start and you aren’t invited. It was sweet, sweet relief when a rejection email first landed in my inbox.
How do you deal with rejection?