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Chasing Rejection

It’s one thing to spew out words on the interwebs. Hold a mirror up to myself, navel gaze, and tell the world (the world being the dozens of you who still read this blog). It’s another thing to follow through.

But I did! Take that, haters. As discussed in my previous entry, I continued to pretend that I had pressing deadlines. In fact, I had another big submission to do and finished it earlier today. Now I have another big deadline next week. Even though my chances of getting accepted into these festivals or conferences or workshops are long shots, it still gives me immense satisfaction to finish the job. Putting the big envelope in the mail used to be such a cathartic moment; now, of course, hitting send on the online form almost gives the same feeling. I have kept a log of all my submissions for the past 9 years.  By “submissions,” I consider festivals, publishers, competitions, and theaters with open submissions. I don’t count film and TV scripts to producers and agents, as those submissions fall into a grey area. I also don’t count collaborations, jobs for which I am hired, or other freelance gigs that come from networking (which is a lot).

So how do I measure success? Not necessarily by victories alone. If I apply to a prestigious event, for example the O’Neill Playwrights Conference or the Nicholl Screenplay Fellowship, then I consider it a success if that script makes it to the semifinal level. Or if I make honorable mention or runner-up in a screenplay contest.

I keep these stats in a detailed spreadsheet so I can track and follow up on everything, minimizing what falls through the cracks. So what’s my success rate? Well, that’s private.


Oh, who am I kidding, blogging is about revealing all your private details, right? I’m also wearing grey Hanes boxer-briefs right now, FYI. So what is my success rate?


Technically, 13.79%…but I’m an optimist.

For every 100 scripts I submit (and believe me, that number jumped north of 100 years ago) only 14 times am I successful, by my own definition of success.

That means that for every 100 times I sit down to prepare a submission, which takes anywhere from 15 minutes to days of prep work including writing support essays, getting recommendation letters, and last minute script revisions, I am rejected 86 times.

Got that? I AM REJECTED 86% OF THE TIME. A .140 batting average would not get me to the majors.  Making 14% of my free throws would get me cut from any basketball team in any league. Getting 14% of the vote would certainly not get me elected to any political office, not even Florida in 2000.

But in my world, 14% makes me a success.

Why? Am I delusional? Only my imaginary friend Wallace knows that for sure.  But I know there are many factors in why someone gets rejected, and often it’s luck. A few months ago I got a very nice rejection letter from an artistic director at a theater in Ireland who said they absolutely loved my play Broad Daylight, but already had a similar play slated for their upcoming festival written by a local writer, and they favor local writers. A rejection, right? But not really.

Because I’m putting it out there. I’m putting myself out there.

14% success is better than 0% success. Because only not trying is failing.

So now, with each deadline met, with each application out in the mail (or e-mail), I pat myself on the back FOR A SECOND and say, “what’s the next deadline?” And I start up again.

And that’s how it’s going to go. There is always another festival or competition to enter. There is always another draft to finish. There is always another script to begin.

I have to finish this blog entry now. I have many more rejections to chase.

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