Thanks, but no thanks: a guide to being unceremoniously shot down
Creative professionals often have the lion’s share of the world’s rejection letters. Some artists – actors especially – say they grow a thicker skin, while other artists can develop drinking problems, self-doubt or depression. If you put your work into the world – auditioning for jobs or sending your manuscripts out – unless you are very lucky, you will be rejected at some point. So you have two options: stop trying or learn to deal with rejection. I beg you: please don’t let it be the former. Instead, try these steps for getting up, dusting yourself off and cracking on.
Before you’ve even left your bed on the morning of the audition, or clicked ‘send’ on your application, you’re nervous. Recognise those nerves. The knock-on effect of welcoming nerves at the root is that it’s easier to apply the same approach through the rest of the creative process. The more you stifle nerves and fear, the more powerful the feelings are. They’re part of the process – they’re going to come along for the journey, so it’s easier if you get along with them.
Bring yourself to the present moment: all the preparation you’ve done, all the planning and mistakes and successes – they’ve brought you here, but they are no longer important. Let them go and focus on now – all you can do is be yourself and flow with the moment, there is nothing else to be prepared. Letting go of past moments can help focus in on the audition or performance, or get on with the rest of the day once you’ve sent the email or finished your audition.
Once the audition, interview, screentest – whatever it might be – is over, arrange for something else to do. Don’t let yourself get too upset or two excited about the outcome. It’s over, and you can’t change anything. If it feels good to summarise, quickly list three things that were good and bad, and then let them go. Go and do something else – meet up with a friend, take a walk if you’re in another city, go to a gallery and let the calm wiggle into your muscles.
There may be a wait before you hear back – you may not even hear back at all (I think this is super disrespectful as an employer – so don’t take it personally, it’s their bad). You need to accept that this phase will feel a bit awkward. You’ll be thinking about that job, hoping you get it, but don’t attach yourself to it. You can’t change anything, so worrying won’t help. Get on with what’s happening now – enjoy your days and acknowledge the little nagging voice in your mind that wants you to think about it all the time: “I know you’re there, but we can’t change anything, so I’m just going to carry on as normal.” Keep applying for other projects, start something, go to classes.
And finally you’ll hear back. Maybe you got it, maybe you didn’t. You should thank the people for their time and the opportunity either way, and then carry on with your day. Nothing has changed in the present. Remember that for performers, auditions are part of the job – they are the work. We’ll be cut down, rejected and not-replied-to more than anyone. It’s not personal, and very often it’s no reflection of your ability. You will get a ‘yes’ sooner or later – but you have to try again in order to find it. Remember, your work as a creative is vital to us all – together we create a soul for our combined human existence. Never stop, and never be put off.