Your Rejection Does Not Work For Me At This Time
I’m a really good secretary. I mean really really good.
I’m organized, efficient, smart, punctual, reliable, personable, kind, funny, discreet, resourceful, and motivated. There are probably other things you need in a secretary and I’m those too.
The problem is that I’m not a secretary. I never wanted to be a secretary.
I always wanted to make stuff.
As a television producer I enjoyed making something out of nothing. First there wasn’t a show, then I was given an assignment, and 30-60 days later there was a show. To the viewer, the show appears as if by magic. Behind the scenes, it was 30-60 days of long days and nights and dreaming in Avid timelines. I loved the research, the creativity, and the execution. It required all of the skills that a good secretary needs, and more.
Reflecting on my professional life, I see that the easy path would have been to be a really good secretary, or assistant, or whatever you want to call that job. Some companies and industries pay those people a nice fortune for that kind of work. But no, I work in a creative industry, where judgment of your work is entirely subjective. But it’s on the internet, where that subjectivity is measured in hits and unique visits, my work must compete with Everything Else for eyeballs and readers and dollars.
I’ve been learning a lot over the past six months about rejection, and how one’s path is shaped by one’s own reaction to it. As I pour my heart into writing for the sake of writing and then trying to sell my work, I find I have different levels of caring about each pursuit, and thus different ways of coping when my work is not appreciated.
I’ve gotten a few notable rejections in the past couple of weeks. One of them is big, involving work that I really enjoy, and that requires all of my heart and all of my skill. Having that rejected feels personal – it’s me putting myself out there in the biggest possible way, and failing. It’s one of the most common reasons that people don’t risk, don’t try, don’t pitch. If you try and fail, that’s the worst, right? Well. That’s what is happening to me.
At first I was very emotional and frantic. I did what I thought I could to save the deal. It’s going away anyway. Over time I have become resigned to it. But what is surprising me is that I’m also feeling more protective and defiant when I think about my creativity and my talent. I’m like one of those American Idol contestants who gets rejected in the very first round. Told he cannot sing, the young man says “Oh yeah?! I’ll show YOU!”
Meanwhile, the universe reaches out its long arms and snags me with successes in other areas. The “secretary” areas. I don’t mean to downplay those successes, but those are not things that I sought. Although I am doing better at staying focused on my creative goals, the rejections make me needy, and the validation (and money) that come from other areas are welcome at the time. While these other projects are going I don’t have time to dwell on how disappointed I am that the job I love went away, or the essay I pitched was turned down, or I got passed over for some other opportunity.
So for the next few months the writing I love will no longer be my “day job.” I’ll continue my creative work on the off times – in the evenings, on the weekends, or as inspiration strikes me and makes me sneak away from my family to capture the words on the keyboard like a gambler frantically grabbing at the jackpot of coins pouring from the slot machine. Sometimes that happens.
My reaction to rejection or disappointment is a model for my children, too. As Kyle gets older and faces bigger challenges at school and in friendships, I have seen him go through parallel experiences. I have also seen him have epic meltdowns that look frighteningly like the ones I know I have had in my life. I think to myself “I wonder where he gets that?” but as soon as I do I know the answer.
Considering my children, I resolve to handle rejection in a less obviously emotional way. I want them to see me as a positive, creative woman, and I want to model that it is okay to be disappointed when something doesn’t work out, but that it is better to pick yourself up and try something different or new to make your goal a reality than to give up completely. And that sometimes it is okay to change your goals.
If only it was easier said than done. I’ll get back to the work I love, soon. I’ll show YOU! In the meantime, excuse me while I go make some coffee, fill out a spreadsheet, adjust the schedule, and take a memo. All at the same time.
I told you I’m good.