Why Rejection Can Be For Your Protection
Anyone that knows me...knows that I hate being told "no".
I think it's rude. Who are YOU to deny me and not give me what I want? Don't you know that I'm stubborn? And obviously as a Renegade...we're rebels so even if YOU say NO...I'm going to get what I want.
When I decided to pursue my calling to become a writer, I knew that this was a tough industry to get into. Coming in, I already had a lot of things working against me:
1) I wasn't trained or have any formal qualifications in screen or scriptwriting
2) I didn't have an agent
3) I didn't even know where to begin to start making connections and networking with professionals or those that would be willing to mentor me
4) I was a woman
5) I was a BLACK woman
So I thought the logical thing to do was get my feet a little wet and begin my researching opportunities and initiatives for scriptwriters to get into TV/Film/Theatre as well as attend workshops and events in order to network and introduce myself.
The only problem was...I sucked at networking. As approachable as I can be and I'm able to have a conversation with people, I can be shy and hella awkward! This was an industry and room that I know absolutely nothing about and I was a rookie so I felt immediately that I didn't fit in. I would attend many workshops mainly at the BAFTA's where I was commonly the only black person or black woman there it was "qwhite" a profound feeling and something that unfortunately I've become accustomed to!
So it didn't make me feel great, I would go to events and learn about the industry, what the broadcast channels were looking for, budgeting, what they're looking for, CV's, and programmes that they are proud of, as well as remember the faces of the important movers and shakers in the TV industry (which helped me with issue number 3.)
I began looking on BBC Writers Room and Twitter for any open submission calls looking for writers and scripts. I began developing some of the ideas that I was most passionate about and getting them up to a standard ready to submit for the opportunities dependant on what they wanted.
Obviously, it goes without saying I underestimated how much work go into every submission that you do. Not only do you have to send a script, you also have to submit your writers CV, a treatment or synopsis, answer any additional questions that they may have about themselves including "why you are a writer/what TV shows do you enjoy and why/what show would you change and why/what's your aspirations" the list goes on, and finally you may have to submit 2 other scripts because obviously...having one isn't enough and you're under a deadline so that's fun so whilst you pull your hair out to ensure that you smash every section of the submission, the nerve-wrecking time comes to clicking the "submit" button, you pray over it, think positively and then you know it's no longer in your hands once you receive the confirmation email that your submission has been received.
Then the bit that I hate the most happens..it's the waiting game. Every time you receive an email your heart skips a beat then you roll your eyes because it's just Groupon or Wowcher telling you about deals that you don't give a damn about. So you wait...and wait...check the website to triple check the date they said they would get back to people...and wait again.
Then you finally receive the email and it begins with the stereotypical "Thankyou for your submission to "insert opportunity" we received a substantial amount of submission with stories that ranged from "blah blah blah" to "blah blah blah" it was such a high level, it was hard for us to finalise our winners. Unfortunately you have not been successful..."
The first time I received an email...it was difficult, mainly because I am very competitive and driven so I hate losing but I thought it was my first rodeo so it would have been quite arrogant for me to believe that I would get through on my first time?
I recall reading somewhere that on average a writer will be rejected at least 100 times. Now, you guys know ain't nobody got time for that, but I am not in control of my calling so I have to know that it comes with the territory. Besides, if all the people that I look up to have had a history of rejections and set backs who am I to think that I would be any different.
So I took the rejection on the chin and kept persevering, whilst I was working as a Head Of Year we constantly drilled into our students the importance of having a growth mindset. So, I dust my shoulders off and I got to chugging away again, reworking my drafts, looking for more opportunities, attending more events knowing that eventually I'll catch a break..right?
BBC Writers Room Drama 2016 & 2017, Sister Pictures, Channel 4 Scriptwriting Course, TriForce Network, Swanfilms TV, Sayle Screen,Tall Story Pictures, Writers Room for Channel 4 "Ackley Bridge", London Calling Plus Fund, 2017 Alfred Fagon Award, BAFTA Crew 2016 and 2017, The Screen Arts Institute, BFI:Network 2016 and 2017, Verity Bargate Award, Channel 4 Talent Pool, ITV Talent Pool, BBC Three Talent Pool
This is a list of the submissions this far that have told me "NO". This also doesn't include the numerous production companies that I've submitted my scripts to in order to partner with them on my ideas or the other opportunities that may have come through the grapevine. Let's not forget that the majority of these opportunities do not give you feedback therefore you aren't aware why exactly they didn't pick your script and what you need to work on, which doesn't help you either.
I'm not showing the list to put all these places on blast, but because I believe that transparency is key in everything that I write. I won't lie to you it is not easy, you will sometimes question whether you made the right decision/you doubt your abilities/you feel tired from constantly having to battle the world/you want to give up. Trust I have been there; many times I have prayed to God and questioned whether I'm doing the right thing, if I should just go back to my job within education or maybe I've got my calling wrong...but God hasn't taken me this far for me to quit.
My favourite scripture is Phillippians 4:13
"I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me"
It doesn't say "most" or "some" or "a few" therefore I have to readjust my mentality and know that despite the many setbacks and failures that I have had and I am yet to have, during those times it has made me see how badly I want this, it has built up my grit and character as well as push and motivate myself when I'm still in my feelings for being rejected to keep on writing and looking for the next opportunity.
All it takes..is that ONE YES!
You don't know when it will come, or by whom...but know that it is is coming. But first and foremost...you have to say YES to yourself. Choosing to pursue your dream means that you will have to fight for what you want, I could write some stereotypical but it really comes down to if you believe that you've found your calling/purpose in life...what are you willing to do to see it done?
YES...you will spend a lot of time by yourself, reading, researching, applying, picking yourself up when you've been rejected, times when you have nothing left to give, you have creative block, life gets in the way, bills have to be paid, you need to spend time with your partner/friends/family, you have to take care of yourself and make sure that you are ok mentally, physically and spiritually. Trust me I get it.
My sister and mentor Ronke Lawal breaks it down in her excellent Youtube seminar in regards to being rejected, sometimes being told no...is actually a benefit for yourself. I regularly watch her YouTube videos and follow her on Twitter as she consistently drops bombs of knowledge at the right time. Not to mention, she is a PR extraordinaire and BOSS of her PR company so why wouldn't I listen to her?
You may think that it would have been a great opportunity for you...without knowing that something better might have been on the way or you could have avoided a complete train wreck.
So YES rejection sucks batty...but don't let a NO stop you from striving towards your goals and achieving your dreams.
When I am on that stage winning a BAFTA looking at the very people that told me no...I will remember that every single one of those rejections made me a stronger person, a better writer and more relentless in achieving my dreams.