Ezy Reading: The Familiarity of Rejection

Evan Kanarakis

A few days ago I received the news that unfortunately a film script I’d written had not made it through to the next round of a rather large and -might I have won the whole thing- career-making competition. Sure, I still needed more than a few things to fall into place to actually win, but I’d not merely ‘worked hard’ in the lead up to this competition, I well and truly near fucking killed myself for it, pushing and pushing through several weeks of long days and late nights to the point that it actually became an interesting exercise in charting the various survival reactions and mechanisms of my body while under strain. I slept for nearly a full weekend after the deadline had passed. Add to that, if I had made it through to the next round, I needed to prepare for the possibility that I’d then have to dash back to Australia within the next few days and, given the meagre state of my ‘struggling writer’s’ finances, that made for some frantic pre-planning and a depressing, painful reminder of my slim ‘rent payment to rent payment’ rather than ‘mansion to mansion’ state of security. But even more than all this, despite the sustained effort and rush to the finish line, I well and truly believed in what I had been writing; it was something I had been developing and redrafting for some time, I felt it was ready and, damn it, I felt that after more than a few months now out in the writing wilderness, I was again due for that next ‘break’.

The way I look at it, when you’re trying to make a life of it as a writer, you never actually get used to rejection per se, you just happen to become more familiar with it. Whether it was five years ago or this past Friday, the sting of rejection is consistently just as strong, and it takes a few days –and considerable effort- to make sure that any of the usual daily baggage of worry and stress I have about my chosen profession is not further weighed down for too long by the additional, inevitable drains of self-doubt and self-pity that come with new disappointment. And I’ve had plenty such disappointments. At least, albeit in small degrees, I can say I’ve been lucky enough to have some breakthroughs and see the door open up a little bit here and there. Of course I’m always hungry for more, though. Pity a true genius like John Kennedy Toole who, despondent, among other things, by his failed writing career, committed suicide in 1969 only for his at long last discovered book, ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ to be published in 1980 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year. Tragic indeed.

No, it’s not an easy path, but it’s also one that -as hard as it can be to explain to even some of my closest friends- I almost don’t have a choice over any more. It’s fortunate that I indeed do very much love to write, and that, while I certainly want to share my tales with others and make a living by this, in the first instance I write for myself and myself alone. Consider it some sort of aspect of ‘self therapy’. Beyond this, however, it often feels, for good or bad, that I’ve so tied myself to the personal expectations and hopes of realising this dream for such a long time now that I’m also too far into the entire undertaking to ever consider backing out. I’m not really sure I can even stop for a second and contemplate the possibility of giving up on this without it making me feel considerably ill at ease. Maybe this is naive or impractical or unrealistic, but so long as I can remain mindful enough to not let this goal tunnel vision me away from other important experiences in life like love and family and getting drunk at the Annandale Hotel every so often to a really cracking rock act, I have to believe that one day (hopefully sooner than later) things will work out just fine and it will have all been worthwhile. My impatience doesn’t help matters, sure, and I’m not so ‘lost’ in the art that I wouldn’t like to reach some personal expectation levels of security, comfort and stability in my life one day. But at the same time, this past year I think I at last made some serious inroads into developing a healthier disregard for the opinions of the nay sayer. I’m enough of a neurotic, and this career path is hard enough as it is, without me wasting too much time worrying about the opinions of those folks that would try to lecture me on a better way to live my life, knock what I’m trying to do down a peg that they might feel better about their own miseries and missteps, or just be critical for the sake of being critical. The less I worry about the opinions of those whose opinions don’t matter, and the less I worry about trying to ‘keep up’ with whatever they’d love me to think I’m missing out on, all the better.

In the end, it was two particular emails from separate writer friends I received in the wake of this recent disappointment that really made all the difference for me in getting over myself, putting an end to all the pathetic whining and complaining, and sent me back to the computer and back to work. In the first instance, their sympathy and words of understanding importantly reminded me that, even in the North Woods of Maine, I’m not alone in trying for this venture, and there are others that can appreciate what I’m going through. This also means, by implication, that there are plenty of other folks out there who are getting rejected but then picking themselves back up again and going at it, so there’s no time to waste, hotly contested opportunities beckon. Second, one of my friends warned me off worrying about when that next ‘break’ would ever come, and to be concerned more with just getting down to writing and writing. As he put it, the break will come soon enough, but becoming obsessed with the arrival of one’s next turn in good fortune, no matter how poor and hungry one might be, is not only a great way to lose focus away from what really matters most –maintaining the quality and integrity of one’s writing- but the more we work on refining our skills and producing new material now, the more there will be to fall back on later when people are asking for the inevitable second novel or follow-up script. Right in this moment, free from the constraints of rigid expectations and pressures of matching earlier attained success was my opportunity to explore, push boundaries and reach in my writing. I like that line of thinking. Lastly, as my other writer friend so succinctly put it, in the face of our inevitable defeats and rejections, ‘Nobody knows nothing. We just have to keep going. The only sure thing is that you won’t get there if you stop.’

It’s all very true.

And so, with that in mind, I’ve cast aside time spent sadly mulling over my recent disappointment. It’s time to work on another draft. It’s time to challenge myself with entertaining new ideas and new perspectives in my work. It’s time to get moving again.

Hell, it’s time to write.

Ezy Reading is out every week.