The art of going on

A big part of life as a writer/director is handling rejection. Rejections from festivals, prizes, grants, producers, actors… I mean, anyone who can reject you will do so. Perhaps several times. And even someone who appears successful externally is getting crushed with some form of rejection.

Some rejections you can brush off and move on. Others linger. The depth of the wound and the recovery time is directly proportional to the sum of how much you deluded yourself and how much you wanted it.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. So when Peter Bradshaw linked to this article by Rose Tremain, I read it immediately. If you are a filmmaker, you should read the whole article.

The most significant hurdle of all is finding the resources to defeat the almost inevitable 48-hour blues that follow the non-win, and the energy to return to the work in hand, unaffected by what’s just happened to a different book. Every writer I know feels more or less contented or discontented with day-to-day life according to how his or her writing is going. Many, many things will affect this, but I know that the non-win of a prize can seem to infect the ongoing work with a badness-virus and lay the author low. What’s on the page or screen – in which there had been stubborn belief, perhaps even garlanded a bit with excitement – can suddenly appear less than first-rate. Sentences crease and bend. Dialogue sounds wan. Even the ideas which inform the book can buckle at the knees.

The art of surviving this is simply the art of keeping on. Time and hard work will heal the poor ravaged thing. In the work lies the future. In the future may lie other shortlists and other wins or non-wins. And so the whole darn desperate process begins again …

By the time I reached the end, I was tearing up with empathy1. But, taking her advice, I shall get back to work instead.


  1. My rejections, to be clear, are on a much smaller, less relevant scale.