Read the rejection letter. No, really read it. Read the language. Is it a form rejection or do you think whoever rejected you really thought about each word? Did they copy and paste something an intern wrote, or did their heart break over this letter to you because you were just shy of glory, they fought for you, even, and they are seriously considering whether they can even stick around after this, the travesty of your rejection, but anyway, no, yeah, sincerely, respectfully, best wishes, see you next time.
What time did the rejection letter come in? If it was an email, look at that time stamp. Is it business hours? Or did they schedule it to come late at night when they’d least expect anyone would be looking at email…but of course you were because you’re you, which means always, a little bit, hoping the next thing that’s going to change your life will be sitting in your inbox. So you were in bed or on the toilet and then it was there, staring at you, and you’d definitely look strange if you replied right then so you were forced to become one of those people who don’t react right away, who let things sit for an appropriate amount of time before responding. But do they expect a response? Would that be weird? Do you seem angry if you don’t respond but desperate if you do? Which is better?
If they sent you a letter through the mail, look at the postage. When was it mailed? How long ago did they know you were being rejected and you had to wait for the news, a week or two’s delay like you’re in a Bronte novel (any of the three Brontes). Even your mail carrier knew before you, just by the thinness of the letter, and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to look him in the face again – though of course you don’t even know what he looks like and are pretty sure you have a rotating group of different carriers and you don’t have time to build a relationship with each and every one and figure out who delivered this precious object just so you could avoid them. No, you are a modern woman who is very busy. Whoever the mail carrier is, he could tell it was a rejection by feel, that there’s a single sheet of paper paired with a little return envelope with a plea for a donation. So you clutch the rejection letter to your chest and stare out the window at the storm clouds brewing and wonder if that’s a wet signature at the end of the letter, if they actually signed there name with real regrets, or if they made a stamp for the rejecting person’s signature and that poor intern, again, sat there. Stamping away.
Imagine being a person who is so important, who rejects so many writers from things, that a signature stamp is made. In the early days, maybe their hand cramped from signing so many rejection letters and it shut the entire organization down because of that, so, you know, the stamp.
Share a screenshot of the letter with your group chat. Obsess over how quickly or slowly people respond with condolences, offers to murder the leadership of the rejecting organization, or with positive, affirming advice about you being so close / everything happens for a reason / they seemed to really love you though. Obsess even MORE about those who don’t respond to you at all. Find one true or comforting thing someone says and hold onto those words like they are a dying star.
Did you have an interview before the rejection? Start from number 1 again using your (quite perfect and unbiased) memory to analyze everything said and unsaid in that meeting.
Wonder if there was a mistake. Not a THEM mistake, but a YOU mistake. Did you mess up some small technical thing like leaving your name on something that was supposed to be blind? Did you use Ariel instead of Times New Roman? You’re pretty sure your margins are one inch but maybe you should check. You read once that if your resume is too fancy in its layout, AI at companies won’t read it properly and you never get into an applicant pool to begin with. So that could be the reason. There’s an AI who couldn’t read your CV, or, let’s face it, was just jealous and trashed your application.
It’s time to put it behind you. Look at your spreadsheet that tracks submissions or madly dash through your notes or confirmation emails. What should you be hearing from next? Note a date if they provided one. Make a Google calendar for yourself so you are sure to put time aside to work through this list for the next one.
Let anger fuel a renewed sense of injustice. Gatekeepers are not the answer! It’s time to publish/produce/otherwise realize your work on your own! But you can’t afford it. Okay. So, obsess over your low wages at your day job. Obsess over how many hours you actually work past the number specified in your job description. Those are writing hours they are taking from you! But if you work that much, you should be rich by now right? What IS capitalism anyway?
Start planning the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist revolution. No. Something better. Outside validation is fueled by white supremacy in a false scarcity system that demands perfectionism and productivity. Vow to never feel exactly how the man wants you to feel again.
Read the list of the Chosen Winners/Fellows/Beloveds for this particular writing opportunity once it is announced on Twitter or whatever, and sometimes even before you get the rejection. Why did they get it over you? Obsess over their bios, follow them on Instagram, read every page of their website, try to figure out their age to compare it to everything you’ve been able to accomplish in more (probably) years than them. Wonder what you’ve even be doing with your time.
What even is an artist statement anyway? Maybe you should rewrite yours. Maybe you should radically rewrite it. But what would THEY want to see? Obsess over not obsessing about what they want to see.
Or maybe it’s the play/story/writing. Maybe the play/story/writing just sucks. Read the work over and over. Look for all its flaws like a pageant mom. Yell at the writing for being so imperfect, so ugly, for trying so hard.
On your fifth read, fall in love with the play/story/writing all over again. Your baby deserves this opportunity and so much more. They don’t even understand what they are missing out on. Find the next opportunity. Hell, find 15 new opportunities.
After you send the applications, with your new radical artist statement and proofread writing, obsess over when you’re going to hear from these opportunities. Make sure you have the time open in your calendar in case they invite you, in case you have to travel. Because you will have to. Because you are going to get this. Your play is just that good and your artist statement is FIRE now, so there’s absolutely nothing, not anything, that could go wrong.