First the exciting news: Scattering Jake is a top ten drama finalist in the Page Screenwriting Awards! Yayyy!
Now, that sounds cool, right? Validation! But what if I told you that I received not just one, but THREE rejections in the same week that I got this news?
Warning: this post is about to start sounding just a little preachy.
I’ve written about how hard this work is. And I know plenty of other people have articulated the ups and downs of creative life. But I just want to keep reiterating (as a reminder to myself and maybe to anyone else reading this who needs a boost) that it can’t be about external validation. It has to be about the process itself. The actual work.
Let me restate that for emphasis: I can’t do this work for outside approval. I have to do it for myself. Because the doing is all that matters.
IT’S. ALL. ABOUT. THE. PROCESS. NOTHING. ELSE.
This stuff is subjective. That’s not news. We all know it. But it’s hard to internalize the fact that you don’t need EVERYONE to love your work. YOU need to love it and believe in it and to love doing it because it makes you whole and happy even when it’s hard and miserable.
When I was in a rut a year ago, I thought about how maybe this was it. Maybe this was as good as my career would ever get. Maybe I’m not the exception, that rare collection of people who “make it.” Maybe I’m the rule, that vast majority who don’t. I asked myself, if I knew for a fact that I would never have a really big break, would I still wake up and want to write every day? Would I still keep my creative routine going if I was doing it just for myself?
I’m not going to pretend that was an easy question to answer.
But I realized that the days when I wrote, when I made good progress, when I thought through the tough questions of a story, THOSE were the days when I felt the best as a person. I like doing the work. I want to keep doing the work. Even if it’s for an audience of one.
Am I saying I don’t want a bigger audience and more measurable success? Absolutely not. Allow me to redirect you to my contact page, where I will accept all varieties of amazing opportunities, accolades, and investments. But I am saying that I can’t hinge my happiness on those things.
How many times do we hear about so and so famous person who seems to have it all and is actually miserable? The external validation is cool, but if you’re not happy as a human being in the world, no amount of career achievements is going to fix that. I’m really lucky because I really love the basic elements of my life. My family. My friends. My health. My community. My work. My routines. A dishwasher would be great, but overall, as far as the basics go, I’m in pretty good shape. (This is not the post where I freak out about how it’s all fleeting and ephemeral and precious and could end at any moment. I’ll save that.)
My writing group and I have been collecting and sharing all of the “no’s” we receive. It’s humbling and also a great shift in perspective. It pushes us toward celebrating the fact that we’re putting ourselves out there and going for it rather than fixating on the rejections. And you know what, if you get enough of those “no’s” a “yes” is bound to sneak in. Which is really cool, but also CAN’T BE THE POINT BECAUSE THE POINT IS THE WORK ITSELF AND THE DOING. (Have I made that clear enough yet?)
I’ll close with the link to an article about aiming for 100 rejections that inspired our writing group. Also, here are some quotes from the judge’s feedback the year that Scattering Jake was a Nicholl Quarterfinalist as evidence of just how subjective this work really is. The exact same script, as seen by six different readers:
“The tone here is nothing short of impressive. This piece is meaningful, poignant and funny and sad all at once, quite an accomplishment. The story is unique and well executed.”
“This script has a somewhat original premise, but it is mostly a series of missed opportunities, and predictable scenes.”
“The characters here are distinctive with a unique, quirky appeal. Their interactions are complex, comedic and have a ring of truth even when the situation might seem over the top.”
“The characters do not seem fully developed.”
“Dialogue may be this writer’s greatest strength.”
“The dialogue was sometimes too on the nose.”
Other quick updates: I’m chugging along on two short projects I hope to move into pre-production soon! Perhaps I’ll share more about those soon. I’m also in deep researching a biopic, and might be heading out to LA again soon. Stay tuned for that and more soon!