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Entries in success! (3)


Keepin' track of what and where

Happy Friday!

Writer and playwright Monica Byrne (who I discovered through the blog of playwright and actress Emily Kaye Lazzaro) posted an amazing piece about success and rejection:

  1. Of all the things I’ve ever submitted to or applied for, I’ve gotten 3% of them.
  2. I’ve been rejected before being accepted. See: FringeNYC, Millay Colony for the Arts, Shimmer, Impact Theatre, North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship.
  3. I’ve been rejected after being accepted. See: Durham Emerging Artist Grant, and God knows more to come.
  4. A work’s rejection rate has no clear relationship to its eventual success. In various guises, The Girl in the Road and What Every Girl Should Know have each been rejected 67 times.
  5. Of all submissions I made to theaters that accepted unsolicited submissions, 68% never replied at all.
  6. My personal rejection rate is 17%, which is great and kept me afloat a number of times. (Thank you, anyone who ever took the time to write me.)
  7. Yes, I’ve written exactly one erotica story. It’s about a trip to the ophthalmologist. It’s great.
  8. The same week my huge publishing deal went down, I was rejected from the third of three MFA programs I’d applied to. C’est la vie!

Read the rest here!

In particular, be sure to look at the spreadsheet she uses to keep track of what she's submitted and where. Wow.

If that doesn't inspire you to up your game, I'm uncertain anything will.

See you Sunday with Week 25's story!


In which your thoughts are PROVOKED

From jeffjlin.com, a different reading of director Ang Lee's career than you might usually see:

From age 30 to 36, he’s living in an apartment in White Plains, NY trying to get something — anything — going, while his wife Jane supports the family of four (they also had two young children) on her modest salary as a microbiologist. He spends every day at home, working on scripts, raising the kids, doing the cooking. That’s a six-year span — six years! — filled with dashed hopes and disappointments. “There was nothing,” he told The New York Times. “I sent in script after script. Most were turned down. Then there would be interest, I’d rewrite, hurry up, turn it in and wait weeks and weeks, just waiting. That was the toughest time for Jane and me. She didn’t know what a film career was like and neither did I.”


Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine starting something now, this year, that you felt you were pretty good at, having won some student awards, devoting yourself to it full time…and then getting rejected over and over until 2019. That’s the middle of the term of the next President of the United States. Can you imagine working that long, not knowing if anything would come of it? Facing the inevitable “So how’s that film thing going?” question for the fifth consecutive Thanksgiving dinner; explaining for the umpteeth time this time it’s different to parents that had hoped that film study meant you wanted to be a professor of film at a university.


Of course, looking at the Ang Lee story now, who wouldn’t want to trade places: what’s six, seven, ten, even more years if you knew it would result in massive worldwide commercial and critical success? It’s common to hear “follow your bliss” or “do what you love and success follows.” Sounds great, right? Except here’s one small detail: You never get to know if it’s ever going to happen. You don’t get to choose if and in what form the success manifests; you don’t get to choose when it arrives.

Read the whole thing here!

I think about stuff like this a lot. How, once there's great success, the narrative of a person's life seems to gain this sense of inevitability. You know intellectually that Ang Lee, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, et al. worked and suffered and doubted and then worked some more, but it's difficult to imagine that they would or even could have given up.

But they could have! Of course they could have. But those aren't really the stories you hear. Those who have a dream but also debt and commitments and god forbid a family... when exactly does mortgaging your happiness today for maybe possibly a better tomorrow stop being admirable and start being selfish... if not outright destructive? One year? Two? Six? Ten? Twenty?

I think it's interesting because it's a question I sometimes struggle with. Every day is a juncture that could go either way. I could decide tomorrow that I'm not going to get up at 6:30am anymore to write. And I could invest all this time and energy into things I know will pay me and help me to build a better life. And ultimately whatever I decide to do will be my story. No one would feel the loss of whatever stories I might have published but didn't. 

Ang Lee could have been your friendly neighbor who worked in IT and made kickass home movies of his kids. That's a thousand times more likely than what did happen.

Anyway, great article.


Week Seven: Live on Stage!

Just a quick post to let y'all know that a revised version of Week Seven's short play will be appearing in this year's Hovey Summer Shorts Festival! [Here's an article about last year's show.] 

As I wrote in Week Seven's reflections, growing up a bit has helped my writing quite a lot. Being accepted into a festival such as this was my holy grail toward the end of college, but in truth I wasn't ready. At that time, writing was about the end result, not the process. Hence the procrastination. Hence the reluctance to start something new when the last thing I wrote didn't earn the accolates I craved.

Now it's all (okay, mostly all) about the process. Which is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Huge thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed Week Seven or any of these weekly challengesyour continued interest is the reason I received the exciting email I did this morning.