I am used to rejection. I have spent the last 11 years being judged on my body, vocal range, face and physical ability and have heard “NO” in one hundred different ways. Each time I have found the reserve to dust myself off and go back for more. I can’t pretend to have the skin of rhinoceros but as an actor you cannot, in the words of Natasha Bedingfield, ‘bruise easily.’
As I learnt my trade I found my place within the industry and the problem, in trying to embark on a writing career, is not yet knowing where I fit in.
I know that I am an appalling ballet dancer and would never dream of inflicting my Odette/Odile onto a paying audience so if I am unsure of my writing ability, should I inflict my thoughts and words onto the infinite readers in cyberspace? Or am I unwittingly behaving like those people on outtakes who are convinced they’ve “got the X-Factor!” and typing away to an empty, or worse, mocking audience
Fully aware that I would need to start from the bottom I applied for an internship at a glossy magazine. Despite being 10 years older and wearing less Top Shop attire than the average applicant I worked really hard on my trendy, plucky and content-appropriate submission. I try to put my all into whatever I am doing; whether it is learning script for a job I have yet to get or devoting days to the perfect cover letter and submission.
The more effort I put it and the nearer I get to a “Yes,” the more I start imagining that it could happen and planning my life post accepting the offer.
I convinced myself I could survive on the minimum pay (at least it was a paid internship) because the skills I would learn would catapult me towards my dream career change. I spent ages discussing and choosing the perfect interview outfit because the actress in me always loves to dress the part and I needed to channel “trendy writer - what this trendy rag? I just roll out of bed and I’m this trendy!” The fact that I’ve used the word trendy three times more than highlights the fact that I am way too old to be writing for glossy mags.
My pitches about box-sets affecting your love life and a column citing my disaster with a knight in shining armour turning out to be twit in tinfoil, secured me an interview.
Despite polite feedback, the rejection came explaining “there was just somebody with more experience.” Fair enough, I thought, but isn’t that the point of an internship, to gain experience? There’s no point in making tea if I’ve had articles printed in Vogue. The more I thought about this rejection the more wishy-washy it appeared.
I am used to having a clear cut reason for my rejection; in acting you either can’t kick or sing high enough or you just don’t fit the costume.
I end up knowing I need to work on my classical voice or time-steps for next time but this rejection left me confused. How should I improve my pitching? Was it a writing style issue or my interview skills? With no further information I didn’t know what areas to improve and I am fully aware I need more experience, hence why I was applying for an internship.
I have found a literary rejection to be a more private thing; when the magazine said ‘no’ it was through my laptop as I sat alone. At best I would have been surrounded by ‘yummy mummies’ in a coffee shop chain but there was nobody to talk it through with.
Normally when I get a “no” from an acting audition you are telephoned by your agent so you are forced to talk about what went wrong or groan about how they only cast 22 year olds these days. When you are “up” for an acting job other people know about it; you see fellow actors at the audition, word is buzzing round the circuit and your Grandma lights a candle for you in church whilst you belt out your final notes.
But when I submit writing pitches or apply for jobs, only I know how many emails I have sent and how many times I hear nothing back. To me:
Literary rejections are lonely and somehow more personal.
But perhaps that is because I have 11 years worth of experience of batting off negative comments about my performance of somebody else’s words and fewer experiences of people criticising my own.
Hopefully there will come a time when I have a pool of fellow writers to chat about rejections with and my confidence will grow with each pitch. But for now I will play the part of a writer until the time comes to wear the costume full-time.