I’m used to rejection, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when it happens.
The rejections in my life are professional and two-fold – both as a sales representative and a writer.
As a sales rep, “no” is more frequent than “yes.” I represent ten directors, talented and seasoned pros for whom I secure commercials for them to direct. I feel responsible for their livelihood and aspirations, and doing so requires perseverance, a thick skin, and an abdication of control (or deluding myself into thinking I have some).
I hear about a project that may be right for one of my directors, and my job is to contact the gatekeeper in charge – the advertising agency producer. I used to be an agency producer before I transitioned to sales, so I certainly understand their position of being bombarded by hundreds of reps like me in an attempt to sift through the emails to find a match to present to their creative teams and clients. Often, my email (I don’t believe in hounding via phone) doesn’t make it through the noise, and the lack of response doesn’t upset me. Because I’ve been there. So when I do get a response and am asked to send reels, I rejoice. And when the reels get viewed and shared (we reps have spy-ware so fyi we know when this happens) I experience a win-thrill. I got a chance to throw the ball into the basket! Whether or not it goes in however, is not up to me. My job is to sit on my email-hands and instead send Jedi waves through the ether (“This is the director you’re looking for…”).
I try to turn a “no” into a “maybe,” and a maybe into a “yes.” And in the crazy ever-changing business of advertising, when that actually does work (I like to believe it’s because of my mind force) the ball can still bounce back out of the basket, even after it’s gone in. (Forgive the metaphor – I played basketball aka Jew-Ball in high-school and I sucked but played Center anyway because I’m a tall Jew). In a sense, I move air around for a living – trying to make a match between a project description and a person via the interwebs. Like a real estate broker without an abode or a shoe salesman without the shoes.
But my real currency is relationships; befriending and wining and dining the gatekeepers – many of whom have become long lasting friends – with the hopes that my email will break through the next round of clutter. Because if the gatekeeper doesn’t know me, the lack of recognition – just my name in the signature of an email – gets lost, confused, and sometimes, I’m mistaken for a dude from India.
But in the last week, I’ve found myself suddenly reacting with sensitivity and frustration (privately) to these rejections, and I couldn’t figure out what had changed.
Until I realized that earlier that day, I had received another kind of rejection.
My memoir is out on submission with my literary agent. My writing rep. In a sense, she has my job – sending material to the gatekeepers at publishing houses who say yay or nay to my book. She’s a straight up thick-skinned gal (my kind of woman), and we agreed that whenever she receives a reply from an editor, good or bad, she should feel free to hit “forward” so I know what’s happening, no emoticons or hand holding required. I’m cool with this, but on a particular morning last week, on the heels of a rejection from an agency producer, my agent forwarded me an editor rejection, “Not for me. Thanks.”
Ouch. My thick skin spontaneously melted into flimsy skin. It took a few forwards to my husband and to my group of writer pals to get over it and move on. In truth, I prefer the straight up pass, rather than a long explanation of tropes or apologies.
And yet, I keep going. Writing essays and submitting them to anonymous editors. Writing books and putting them out into a vast world of unknowns. Curating director reels and finding out of the box ways to get them viewed and considered, and trying really hard to let go of the outcome. Assuring my directors, just like my agent assures me, that it just wasn’t a match. Believing in my directors’ talent, like my agent believes in mine. But mostly, finding a way to recycle my belief in myself and not take the rejections personally, because as the old saying goes, it really isn’t personal.
The antonym for “rejection” is “acceptance” and “choice.” So I choose to embrace my choices and to do what I must. To keep going. Repeatedly hearing “no” is not going to stop me from exercising my throwing muscles, over and over, and reminding myself that the more “no’s” I get, the closer I get to a “yes.”