Saturday, April 12, 2014

How Annie Hall helps me cope with rejection

Doggieane Keaton

Yesterday I posted about the fear most of us share that we will never reach our lofty goals. I got a lot of support, and I thank you all for that.

So as a sort of follow-up, I thought I'd add something that helps me sometimes when I face another round of rejections:

I hate Annie Hall.

I'm sure a lot of you are judging me right now. Maybe you're thinking you were too hasty in your support of me yesterday. How can I hate Annie Hall? Everybody loves that movie for a thousand amazing reasons. You're probably questioning my taste level.

This isn't an opportunity for me to explain why I hate Annie Hall. I have my reasons. It's not an opportunity for you to convince me to like Annie Hall or give it another chance.

The point is, it's a mantra I repeat whenever rejection gets me down.

I hate Annie Hall. Everyone else loves it.

So every time I put a script out into the world and someone doesn't like it, I remember how much I hate Annie Hall. Just because one person doesn't love something I create, that doesn't mean it's not a valid creation. That doesn't mean someone else won't come along and get it right away.

You have an Annie Hall. There is some movie that everyone raves about and you can't fucking stand. If that script had come across your desk you would have set it on fire, but somebody read it and believed in it and made it and the world loved it. You may not get it, but a lot of people did.

So if one person doesn't love your work, that's okay. Maybe it's Annie Hall.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fear of failure

Time for some brutal honesty.

If you decide to be a teacher or an accountant or a lawyer or a doctor or a construction worker or most jobs in this country, you have a clear order of operations to make that happen. You go to school. You get an entry level job. You work your way up. You have a career.

It doesn't work that way for screenwriters. There's no prescribed degree that will qualify you for the job. There's no entry level position from which to work your way up. You have to wave your arms to get noticed, and then you have to hope that what you offer is what someone else is looking for.

I've been writing since I figured out what a pencil was, but here I am, a full-grown adult, and still not a paid writer.

Sure, I've been validated. I know I don't suck. I've been repped and won a highly rated contest and met with producers who tell me how much they like my writing. But that doesn't make me a professional writer. It makes me a talented hobbyist.

It's so easy to get demoralized. Half the time, you have no idea why you've been rejected, so you start to second guess everything. Did they think I was a comedy writer? Is it because I'm a woman? Are they looking for something more commercial? Do they not like my snazzy writing style?

Or the worst one of all, the one we all have to face down at regular intervals: What if I'm not as good as I think I am?

What if you're the kid at the American Idol audition who talks about how amazing he is, then opens his mouth and wails like an angry goat? What if every person who ever told you that you were any good was just trying to make you feel better, or trying to make you shut up, or had no taste themselves, or was making fun of you? What if you are just wasting your time?

You could throw in the towel and go back to looking for a job where your resume and an interview are all you need to get hired, where you won't be told constantly how amazing you are by people who won't hire you. It would be so easy.

People do it every day. They leave Los Angeles and go back home, often swearing to return once they've gotten their shit together. But they almost never do. Most people take one shot at this, and when it's over, they fold up their tent and get an office job.

I think about it sometimes. I was a good teacher. I didn't hate teaching. What if I just went back and made it my career and stopped trying to be something else? That wouldn't be so bad.

But I'm not there yet. I still think something is around the corner.

I've wanted to be a writer my entire life, so every time I think about throwing in the towel, I think of Little Me and what she'd say. She'd tell me to shut the fuck up and get back to work on the next script, because Little Me apparently had a foul fucking mouth.

So for now, as I seek new management, I put my latest script, Nobody Lives Forever, up on the Black List site. I'm very proud of this one. It's an action script with a white male 30-something lead and a strong hook with an emotional core. It's got bromance and fight scenes and a female villain. I believe in it. It's probably the most sellable thing I've ever done. And while I wait for the downloads and the reads and whatever they may bring, I'm going to keep working on the next thing.

Because I'm not ready to give up, no matter how many times the bastards try to get me down.