As an actor and writer, I've been thinking lately about how I’ve been dealing with the failure I seem to be having at auditions and with writing submissions. Rejection is not always personal, but it’s too easy to internalize it and get stuck in a “failure loop” if you let it circle and define you, whether it’s a relationship, job interview, raise or promotion. Here are some coping mechanisms I’ve learned and how I keep on track:
1) Have an interesting life. Always plan some essential or fun activity for the hour after putting yourself “out there.” Go run an important errand, meet a friend you haven’t seen for a while, keep a promise to a child, volunteer. This keeps the audition in perspective and reminds me that life is full and complex. My identity isn’t defined by this one success or failure—I’m a busy, fascinating person with stuff to do.
2) Nobody plants an abundant garden by planting just one seed. It takes a "dandelion" mentality to make sure one's efforts are spread out and multiplied for the strongest possible outcome. Some soil will be stony and infertile, but not all of it. By submitting projects to multiple people, being rejected on just one submission or audition or attempt at friendship loses its sting. A successful playwright friend would proudly show me her stacks of rejection letters as proof of her persistence. She gained valuable feedback and became a stronger writer as a result. Failure cues us to the fact that we’re growing and evolving into experts with each unsuccessful effort.
3) Be true to yourself. It's better to be rejected for who you are or for a project that you’re passionate about than to be rejected for some abstract idea of what or who you think the decision maker wants. Something amazing happens when you’re authentic and personal in your work. I always tell acting students that the more personal and specific the work is, the more universally relatable it is. “You’ve got to bring your gift,” says filmmaker Blake Robbins (“The Sublime and Beautiful”), “because what if you’re the only one who has it?” Somebody somewhere needs what you have and has never experienced you before.
4) Realize that the search itself can be your successful outcome. Give yourself credit for continuing. Let go of results and just do the work. It’s the fact that you continue to try and don't give up on what you're passionate about—that is success, whether it's getting work, finding an audience, or a mate. Fall in love with your own valiant life as it is at this moment.
Brynn Baron is a Portland screenwriter, producer of two short films, and a 2014 Oregon Actors Award Nominee for her film and stage work. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and OMPA. She is constantly amazed. To learn more about Brynn, you can visit her on LinkedIn, ImDb, Facebook, @brynnbaron on Twitter, Google +, or watch her in Jacqueline Gault's Sack Lunch.