How not to handle rejection…

My short play got rejected from the festival I’d entered it into (fools), and I have to say I don’t think I handled it very well, got a bit moody and depressed – though I think I’ve bounced back now.

Of course, I like to analyse things, and this ties into the research which suggests that one of the reasons why women may not be forging ahead in this highly competitive industry of film and theatre is that women  are less well-equipped to handle rejection than men. It may be that women are more easily deterred from their goals, and the report suggests that might be a reason why there is such a large drop in numbers from those who train to be writers and those who actually get work produced.

Skillset notes in its ‘job profiles’ that one of the things a screenwriter (or scriptwriter) needs is to be willing to accept criticism. (From ‘Scoping study into the lack of women screenwriters in the UK’.) But it’s hard when you’ve put so much of yourself into your itinerant scribbles. As a writer your writing is very much tied into the person that you are, an important part of your identity, so if someone’s criticising your work, they’re criticising you directly.

And I wonder if there really is a Mars/Venus difference in the way the sexes can handle that criticism of self and why that might be. Chatted to a couple of friends (male and female) and we came up with the theory that maybe it’s to do with upbringing of boys and girls. So it’s all the parents’ fault… as Freud of course knew.

Is it that in our very patriarchally-based society, men are conditioned to handle more knock-backs in their personal and private lives just due to the very fact that they are putting themselves out there more, so get more used to dealing with rejection? It’s still, for example, the man who makes the first move in the majority of romantic approaches, still the man who the bill is placed in front of, still the ‘man of the house’ the market-researcher asks to speak to.  

Or is it that men just don’t take everything to heart, so can bounce back much easier from a rejection? And I know that’s a dreadful bit of gender stereotyping and we should look at it on a person by person basis, but stereotypes do come from somewhere…

Maybe it’s simply a problem that little girls are still made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ and little boys are still made from ‘slugs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails’, but here again we are back at childhood, so maybe the problem of women writers in the theatre and film goes further back than I thought… like Freud, I conclude, I blame the parents.   

What’s the solution? Try not to take it to heart I suppose. After all – so much of what gets produced is simply chosen on somebody’s taste. Be realistic and play the stats game: for every 10 things you put out there, you will be lucky to get a positive response to one of them. Most importantly, don’t give up, I suppose the longer you keep at it the better your chances are of succeeding. Unless, of course, your writing is rubbish. Which I don’t think mine is.

…In light of this, we will be running a course on ‘Handling rejection’, once the courses are up and running…

About 17Percent

A campaign to get more plays by women playwrights onto UK stages.
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