Letters from fake people with real problems.

Dear Earl – 

I just submitted my masterpiece to

  • a reviewer OR
  • a publisher OR
  • an agent OR
  • a producer OR
  • a film festival

and I haven’t heard anything back. It’s been months. What do I do?

Signed,

Everyone Who Ever Made Anything, Ever

Did you follow up after a few weeks?

Dear Earl – 

Yes. We haven’t heard anything, and it sucks.

Signed,

Still Us

Okay. Odds are, silence is the only rejection letter you’re going to receive. Maybe they just haven’t seen your submission yet, but if they do, and they like it, they’ll call you. Might as well move on and –

Dear Earl – 

What? How can you say that? These people are insensitive bastards who won’t even deign to send a simple email saying, ”Sorry, we don’t like it.” THEY OWE US THAT MUCH.

Signed,


Still Us, Slightly Drunk

Oh. I see.

Okay, this is a common misunderstanding for people in the entertainment business. You’re interpreting their lack of response as disrespect. What it really is, however, is a lack of interest, which can be more hurtful, but is not really designed to be insulting.  That’s why a creative career is so tough to gauge: a success looks just like a failure for the first ten years.

If you want, I can state the obvious, which is that their disinterest isn’t a direct comment on your talent, it’s the end result of countless factors, including: the state of the marketplace, the economy, the creative direction of their company, their personal taste, and whether or not they had bran that morning.

BUT –

That’s little comfort when you’re the one being rejected. What you need to know is that rejection – and its mutated-birth cousin ”total silence” even more so – is an ingrained part of any creative career. You should reasonably expect to be ignored and rejected at least sixty percent of the time (eighty to ninety percent is not out of the ballpark).

That’s why a creative career is so tough to gauge: a success looks just like a failure for the first ten years.

SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN THE ARTS

They were rejected and ignored for years. And just when they were about to quit, someone gave them a chance.

FAILED CAREER IN THE ARTS

They were rejected and ignored for years. And just when they were about to quit, they did.

If you look at every rejection as a judgment, it’s going to wear you down. You’re going to either give up, or else become one of those cynical people at parties with faces like lemons.

Or, you can choose to look at rejection as a natural part of your process. Plumbers don’t complain when they have to deal with crap; why should you?

THAT MEANS YOUR JOB IS NOT ”TO BE SUCCESSFUL”

Your job is to be talented, at the right place and time.

When and where is that? Nobody knows.

That’s why, outside of the time when you are actually creating, your primary role is being an ”opportunity collector.” You should look for and pursue as many opportunities as you can, until it’s clear that they are tapped out; sheer odds will guarantee you’ll get your chance.

So if someone doesn’t respond, or rejects you outright? Learn what you can, and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s one more email or phone call you don’t have to follow up on.