It’s spring which means it’s time to think about who you’re going to ask to the prom. At least that was the case for me in those years when things that matter little now took on a terrible importance.
When I look back at that time I realize just how much control I had over my life. I would ask and it would either be a yes or a no or “I’ll let you know in a week. You’re my backup plan.” The response would come quickly. There was no waiting around for an answer.
Playwrights have little control over what happens to their lives…their plays. Some time in the late summer or early fall we get our plays out there with the hope they find a home somewhere (multiple homes if you’re lucky). Once the work is out there you start wondering if it will be a yes, a no, or maybe even some theater’s backup plan.
Winter and spring are the time when the rejections come. They come in waves; and you wonder why if they like you and your work so much (this is always the case with any rejection letter I get) is the play not being chosen. Unlike prom season, no matter how many theaters you send your work to a yes is not a guarantee.
So what to do while waiting? Well you either read a good novel or watch the NCAA tournament. Recently I’ve been doing both.
A few days ago I watched Oregon knock out defending national champion Duke University. For those of us who know college basketball Mike Krzyzewski, the coach of the Blue Devils, is a legend having won five NCAA championships. Losing is not part of his vocabulary. However, he has famously said that “the life expectancy of a team is about eight months. Then the next year is a whole new team.”
The life expectancy of a rejection letter is a day, a month, a year, or even a lifetime. It’s what you do with it. If you follow Coach K’s philosophy you try to figure out why you were rejected…why you lost. You figure out why and you rebuild. You start over. Every eight months is a new team; every eight months hope comes around again. I think Carly Simon may have said that last statement better but I have no space left — nor enough of your attention — to go and quote her.
It hurts to be told no but remember that the no gains you access to a special club of writers who have been told no multiple times only to win in the end. It gains you access to a special club of losers who will win again.
Next year Duke will once again be in contention for the national championship, you will be in contention for a special place in some theater’s season, and some poor soul in high school will be hoping to be more than just someone’s backup plan.