Rejection. A Wilderness Guide for Writers

Mark Evanier, one of the biggest writing talents in TV, comic books, and blogging has been writing a series of articles on the bugaboo of all creative people, rejection. As he puts it:

This is a series of articles I’ve written about writing, specifically about the problems faced by (a) the new writer who isn’t selling enough work yet to make a living or (b) the older writer who isn’t selling as much as they used to. To read other installments, click here.

But before you click, why not try out this post, Part 23 in the series, for size:

by Mark Evanier

As I’ve probably mentioned more than once in past installments of this series, I’m not a big fan of a piece of advice that is often dispensed to wanna-be writers and actors and musicians and all sorts of folks who aspire to the careers that many covet. It’s the old “Never give up, keep at it, don’t let anyone discourage you and you’ll eventually get your dream” advice. I don’t think that’s true.

When you hear that, you’re almost certainly hearing it from someone who did achieve their dream. If people don’t, they don’t tell you that. So in a way, it’s like someone who won the lottery telling you, “Hey, if I won, so can you! Spend every cent you can on lottery tickets.” That may be good advice for two or three people per lottery but not for most. The odds of winning one recent PowerBall were one in 292 million and they rarely get much better than that.

The odds of you or anyone attaining a dream in the creative arts will, of course, depend a lot on what that dream is, how suited you are for the position and what kind of access you may be able to get to those who hire. Included in the “what that dream is” factor is the question of specificity. If you say “I want to be a working actor,” you stand a better shot than if you say “I want to be a working actor who takes over playing James Bond, wins many Academy Awards and earns $20 million per movie.”

And sometimes, the dream can be so narrow that nobody can see it happen. At the Baltimore Comic-Con last year, I had a brief conversation with a reader of this series who wants to write Marvel Comics…but not just any Marvel Comics. He wants to write all the Marvel Comics. This is approximately what he told me — and remember, this is a person who has never written even one comic book of any note. Nothing for Marvel, nothing for DC, nothing for Dark Horse or IDW or Boom or any of those…

“I want to do a run on Fantastic Four. I’ve read it for years and I have great ideas about how it should be done. This will be the definitive series, the one everyone will point to and say, ‘That’s how F.F. should be handled!’ And then I’ll do a run on Spider-Man and show everyone how that book should be done, a run on Thor, a run on The Avengers and so on…”

This is not going to happen. And even if it could happen, it’s a pretty unhealthy way to approach a new career. This guy’s goal should be to get to write one issue of one comic for anyone. If he can achieve that, he can aspire to writing a second something somewhere.

All writers, even the lousy ones, are real good at fantasizing. Often, we’re too good at it. Dreams are great but making a dream into a reality requires dealing with that reality.

You can have an idea for the greatest movie ever and, hey, maybe it really is that. But it still has to be written and marketed and even if some big, legitimate producer says he wants to make it, you’re still only about 15% of the way to the start of principal photography and light years from opening at the IMAX. I’ve known writers who didn’t have their breakthrough screenplay finished but they’d done eight drafts of the Oscar acceptance speech to go with it….

Read it all at Mark Evanier’s outstanding blog