Thursday, July 21, 2011

How do You Handle Rejection? Not with Kid Gloves.

Why did I choose the professions I chose? Am I a glutton for punishment? Working as an actress in New York and LA, the rejections come fast and furious. It means you're out there, you have a chance at landing that agent, that role, that spot. There is plenty of time to protect yourself before you get serious and throw your hat squarely in the ring, but once you do, you're in it baby, and I found I was spent more time vying for the jobs than I did working them. The good news there is that it is a numbers game and when you're moving that fast you don't have time to worry about what you've lost, you're on to something else.
When I moved from Hollywood to Denver years ago, I had a small child and plenty to keep me occupied: Hot Wheels, zoo trips and Dr. Seuss. The two years before relocating I'd lost both of my parents and became a mother. During the pregnancy and grief, I lost the taste for the game of having to be "picked" in order to do what I do. I am well trained, talented and ambitious; the spinning plates of self-esteem seemed somewhat crazy, after all you are the same person whether they 'pick' you or not. Nothing is diminished, you just don't have the gig.
Becoming a writer, and more specifically a playwright has shifted the power. Now I get to experience the joy of creating first, sharing it with others when I'm ready. The trick here is discernment, knowing when you're ready and whom to share with. Public readings can be brutal if you don't know what you want from an empowered audience and when you ask people to come and listen to a work in progress, that's just what you do. After you've poured out your imperfect soul, you sit in a hot seat and ASK for them to tell you what is wrong with your baby. Crazy, huh? But it is part of the process. It used to be that scripts were nurtured and pruned in a writer/director collaboration with a trusted group of actors brought in as needed. Not so much anymore. Everyone's in the game; an entourage of opinions, insights and yes, rejection marches into your quiet little writer's world. Add to this, my career as a Realtor and... let's just say it's a wonder I'm not medicated.
I find that most of the "rejection" I face on a weekly, if not daily, basis can be handled with one of two strategies. A.) Take a nap. And B.)Downsize.
A.) Allows for the idea that I may be exhausted. Putting yourself out there on the page or in front of people is an immense output of energy. With two sons, two careers, three cats and a social life, the chances are that I'm not putting in much regenerative time. This could mean that a power nap or a meditation to bring me back to center may be all I need to "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."
B.) Is a shift in perspective. Is whatever I'm experiencing right now big enough to make me stop doing what I want to do? Usually not. Even that "Big Thing" doesn't have more power than my passion. I learned a long time ago to ask myself "Would I do this, even if I am only mediocre? Would I do this without the 'Big Break'? Do I love this enough to do it for myself and the pleasure it gives me?" I can answer yes to all three questions. So when I downsize the situation, looking at it from the context of the whole, it is usually very small. It stings, but scraping my knees when I wiped out on my Stingray never made me sell the bike.
Rejection will always be there if you are brave enough to take risks in your life. Discovering the greatest risks from the deepest part of yourself and taking them bring far greater rewards than the temporary feeling of emptiness or unworthiness that not being "picked" can slap you with. Swimming in the deep end gives you an opportunity to face those feelings and release them as false assumptions and outmoded conditioning. They will pass.
So rather than treat myself with a kid glove approach, I throw down the gauntlet and go face to face with the fears, the feedback and the fuckers who stand in my way.

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