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Highs & Lows

This writing thing is great, I love it.

But it also sucks. Big time.

It’s inevitable that if things go well, they have to be pretty rubbish as well. It’s balance, just part of life: stuff goes up, it’s gotta come down too – else how will you ever know how good, good is if you haven’t also experienced the bad?

That’s what I’m telling myself at the moment, anyway. I’m feeling pretty dejected about the state of my career at the moment – I’ve had a few too many rejections close together, basically – and I’m wondering if I will ever “make it”. It happens at least once a year and usually goes something like this:

ME: Husband, I have been rejected from blah, blah and blah. What do they want, blood? Or how about my first born son? Hmmmmm?

HUSBAND: Well, dunno about the first one but the first born son is in the living room, dear. You could offer. You never know.

Oh ha ha. I am bereft of ribs from laughing so much. Aren’t you going to give me any sympathy?

Sure, poor you. Now stop whining. You know how hard it is to get through this writing lark, even if you are good. People all warned you. And you’ve only been doing it five minutes. Just keep going.

But what if the reason I’m not getting anywhere is because I’m no good?

HUSBAND: Right, you’re no good. That’s why unconnected people say you are, for no reason at all. Now please be quiet. And make my dinner.

This is why I married my husband: everything is so straight forward to him. You’re disappointed in a result? Then look at what you’re doing. Anything wrong there, anything you could be doing instead?

I can’t think of anything. I’ve done the courses, built the contacts, worked on my craft, polished my specs til they shine like new pennies, got the necessary feedback on them too – acres of it. Although confusing that I can’t seem to break through that glass ceiling just yet, maybe it’s just a case of serving my time.

So I have to just keep going.

And not whine.

And if you feel the same way as me right now (or in the future), so do you.

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37 thoughts on “Highs & Lows”

  1. You’ll be OK – you seem indefatigable and will soon cheer up.

    Just remember the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald who papered his office wall with rejection slips.

    I think all professional writers get a rejection at some time or another. In a way, it’s a good sign – it means you are finishing work and sending it out, and if you keep doing that, it will eventually lead to success. Which in turn will lead to even more success.


  2. Someone once told me it takes an average of seven years from the day you start trying (i.e. actually sending scripts out and getting them read) until you “make it” or at least, can expect to make a living at it.

    How depressing is that? Of course, how anyone could ever work that out I don’t know, so it’s probably a load of old rubbish. But the point remains, perseverance, perseverance, perseverance…

    Keep your chin up!

  3. Wasn’t F Scott Fitzgerald an alcoholic as well? ; )

    You’re absolutely right tho Helen: gotta keep going. And I’m cheering up already thanks, I have things on the backburner that can be brought to the front, so to speak. Never say die and all that!

    And hi Michelle – thanks, that’s actually that’s quite uplifting, cos I heard it was TEN years, not seven: knocking three years off sounds quite appealing! Though I also know a professional writer who reckons it took him 22 years, so we could be knocking on the door for a fair bit yet… Bring it on!

    Oh – and thanks to most of my address book who I whined on at over the weekend by the way, but especially Jason and Lianne! You guys all rock.

  4. Sorry to hear about your rejections. To me (what do I know tho’?)it seems kind of obvious that you have ‘something’ and you know your stuff so I’m sure that you will make it. What a life to choose eh!

    22 years – oh my god! Now that would be depressing.

    Hope this week is better…

  5. Thanks Caroline. I know, what a life! I think you have to be slightly mad to want to be a writer – as the likes of English Dave always point out, even if you DO make it people still act like you don’t exist most of the time. Crazy, hey? Yet something in us makes us want to write – so by jove m’lady we shall!!!

  6. I think you should go out and make this stuff yourself Lucy! Start off small and then conquer the world! And rope your husband in!

  7. Hi Lucy, hope the black pit of dispair is all filled in now. With the rejection letters. Then add petrol, light match and stand well back.

    I was told you need to have a good story (you’ve got that), know how to write it well (you have that again) then hope you win the lottery and it lands on the desk of someone who’s looking for that kind of thing that day.

    That’s the depressing bit. Except its just beating the odds. The more you have out there the more chance of hitting that person.

    Or, like Potdoll says, make it yourself. I can’t see you struggling to sort out the crew.

  8. Cheers Rach – though I might be able to rustle up a crew, it’s knowing what on earth to do with them! Just the thought of Directing fills me with THE FEAR. I suppose that’s being out of your comfort zone… Funnily enough though, I quite like the idea of producing and holding the purse strings.

  9. Producing… no thanks. Too much like what I do in my other job. Directing is a bit more appealing but I agree very scary.

    I know a few that have gone that way. The single ones say its easy. The ones with family say it eats into every free second they have. They do it because they love it though. Not sure I would.

  10. Yes, what rach said. Directing is hard to fit in with family life, I think.

    I’m producing a three minute animated short for a script and really enjoying the whole process, so far. Good as you say Luce, to bring the back-burning projects to the fore.

    Hope you have a better week. x

  11. producing is a great idea Lucy! you write it and then choose and hire a director!

    if you start small you don’t have to pay anyone.

  12. Is that a hint PD?? ; ) Hey we should start our own production company, we could call it GIRLS ON FILM productions and only make stuff with female protagonists. What do you think?

    Elinor – I didn’t know you were doing an animated short, why not?!? Though I have been lax about reading everybody’s ELSE’S blogs lately, sorry!

    Some retail therapy via eBay is doing the trick by the way.

  13. lol it wasn’t a hint but I think we do have to take control and empower ourselves.

    GREAT name for a production company!

  14. Yes the great philosophers Duran Duran were a big influence in case you couldn’t tell, lol

    Defo with you on the empowerment bit though PD, no point whining the door’s closed, gotta get a big fuck-off crow bar and get it open by whatever means possible!

    My language is outrageous today. Many apologies to my less profane readers.

  15. Well, obviously my people were keeping your people out of the loop. They have been replaced.

    Seriously though, Girls On Film is a great idea and you should totally do it.

  16. They might have been replaced Elinor, but have they been TERMINATED as well??? For I will tolerate nothing less for such a misdemeanor.

    I love the idea of Girls on Film too, maybe us girlies should ALL get together and see what we come up with??

  17. I’m not against including fellas as long as they appreciate they are honorary girls and will be writing/filmmaking about women and women’s POVs. Female protagonists are SO overlooked, especially in the genre film – I think it’s time we saw some real women on screen instead of men with boobs.

  18. I think the best thing to do in the first instance then, if laydeez are interested is to start an online group of some kind – a “hub” where producers, writers and directors can all come together and talk about this issue and collaborate and/or find specs.

    Then we can find our feet over several months, maybe all get behind the ONE script in the long term, go for funding etc eventually – get it made! Oh it all sounds so straight forward. It won’t be. There will be much gnashing of teeth, screaming, murder etc I have no doubt.

    But – does that sound like a good idea?

  19. Oh – and thinking some sort of perimeters would be good, since JUST because you’re female doesn’t mean you write good female characters… BUT not keen on reading a zillion submissions either!

    I suppose a sensible starting point would be those people’s work I’ve already read through Bang2write, I can already think of at least half a dozen scribes who’ve written some great female protags.

    Also, what perimeters do producers and directors have? How do they demonstrate their desire to make films about female protagonists? Any thoughts appreciated.

  20. Count me in for this very interesting initiative.

    Not sure how producers demonstrate their desire to produce films with a female protagonist. The animation short I’m producing interested me because it was set in a run-down estate and subverted the hoodie stereotype (ironic I know, now we’re at open warfare with the Peckham boys) but this hub idea is a good one. We shall draw them to us like moths to a flame…

  21. Hi Luce,

    Sorry you’re down in the dumps.

    A wise person once said that it was totally okay to feel down, just don’t do it for too long.

    And I can see that you are organising with the girlies, so that’s cool. I used to be an honourary girl (my elder sisters used to use me as a doll and dress me up — when I was much younger I hasten to add).

    So I shall just cheer from the touchline.


  22. Thanks Steve! Pity you don’t want to be in our gang, I thought Chloe was wick and a perfect candidate for Girls on Film! : )

  23. So much encouragement.

    So little realism.

    I don’t want to be unduly negative, but the chances of someone outside the business breaking through as a screenwriter in the UK is functionally zero.

    The BBC gets 10,000 unsolicited specs a year.

    When Red Planet ran a competition a while back they were hit with 2,000 entries in a week.

    Of those with the talent to deliver a broadcast-quality script (a low threshold at the moment) I doubt if even one in a hundred will go on to sustain a worthwhile career.

    Taking a rational view, for most people, the time and effort involved simply isn’t worth it.

    Good luck to anyone who wants to try and beat the odds. But be realistic about your chances.

  24. Man. Gotta *love* the mentality that if it’s really hard to do something and it’s unlikely you’ll get anywhere, you might as well not bother. I wonder what the world would be like now if Ghandi and Martin Luther King had the same attitude.

    Life is hard, no matter what you do. My dream is not being a screenwriter as it goes. I enjoy writing and making short films but it will always be a hobby to me.
    I have other dreams that are just as hard to put into play. But I will still do them, just as Lucy and all the other spec munkys will carry on writing. If you’re serious you carry on no matter what, doesn’t mean you can’t feel down from time to time.

    You don’t have a dream because you CAN achieve it, you have a dream because there’s a need in you to do SOMETHING in particular. Maybe you will fall by the wayside. But it’s not just about what happens AFTER, it’s about how you approach it and live it too. If that’s unrealistic, then so be it.


  25. Thanks Dazza, I agree with you 100% though not sure screenwriting can be compared to Ghandi! Blimey…

    I can see J&C’s point tho – many may want to write but are put off by the slim chances of ever getting anywhere.

    But they just don’t want it enough as far as I’m concerned.

    Of course the odds are stacked against us. But I know too many people who’ve had far more adversity make it out the other side. Why should I or anyone else be the same if we put the work in?

    Of course there’s no guarantees of that either and that’s what really smarts. But end of the day, you just gotta keep going IF you want it enough. And if you get nowhere, at least you can say that you went for it. No shame in that.

  26. The BBC may get 10,000 scripts a year, but I’m pretty sure they only get about 10 good ones.

    If you’re sure yours is one of those…

    (Unfortunately, the less talent someone has, the less likely they are to recognise their lack of talent (by definition) and give up).

  27. Maybe we are all just bloody minded sods. I’ve spent my education and career doing what people said I couldn’t and succeeding, extremely well.

    I probably tried harder and did better because people said I couldn’t.

    The odds hurt but maybe it raises the bar and we produce better work for it?

  28. Lucy, I’m only just starting out of course, but I’ve been through this process in another industry (in fact, still am going through this process in another industry) – if that’s taught me anything, it’s that you have ups and downs. Sometimes you get several downs in a row. But as someone wiser than I once remarked, you only appreciate the ups after the downs.

    I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing just now, and he notes that he had a nail in the wall with all his rejection slips. It didn’t stop him, and it won’t stop you. He also mentions that after he sold Carrie, it was amazing how many previously rejected stories he subsequently sold.

    Oh, and King was an alcoholic as well. As was Hemingway. 😉

  29. What’s really depressing is that even if you are good enough, there doesn’t seem to be a place these days for people who actually want to write, as opposed to just become part of some vast sausage machine squeezing out TV product.

  30. Have a look at the BBC site. They launched a scheme last month for emerging comedy writers (that’s already-successful writers within a single genre) and they ended up with 1200 applications.

    So roughly 200 qualified people are chasing every entry-level job in the business.

    You’ve been around the block, Lucy (in a nice way) so this isn’t news to you. But these numbers shocked me the first time I saw them, and I’m sure they’ll shock others. Even the guy from the Beeb seemed surprised by the response.

    Having a dream is fine (although getting shot for one is of debatable value).

    But if you’re going to put a lot of time and energy into something,
    at least do it with a realistic sense of what’s involved.

    And be prepared for rejection. Lots of rejection.

  31. Writing is a prison sentence. I know that now.

    I seem to be going through the exact same thing. “This is not going to happen.” And I haven’t had one rejection yet. This scares me even more, when I hear your story.

    I have read that successful writers all seem to have one common facet, they persist, through thick and thin.

    Also, fate plays a big part in life and hence a writing career? When the time is right, the door opens, if it’s mean’t to. Trouble is, we’re all in the dark looking for the doors. Maybe it will happen when you’re in the right place and time in your life. Is it about tapping into what people want?

    My door is open by the way, if you need some input. But what would a fool know? 😉

    Do not give up.

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