Ask the Mentor: How do I stay motivated after rejection?

Media Mentors' Esther Coleman-Hawkins answers your career questions with brisk no-nonsense advice for screen industry professionals.
Ask the Mentor: How do I stay motivated after rejection? Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash.

Esther Coleman-Hawkins

Tuesday 12 May, 2020

The Problem

Laura writes: 'I’ve written a screenplay but it keeps getting knocked back. I’ve taken it to producers and agents and I keep getting feedback about it but I’m really struggling. How do I keep motivated when I feel like nothing is going my way?'

The Answer

I hear you. I feel your pain regularly when no-one seems to like my ideas or offer me work for weeks on end.  And not only do I hear you, but I bet every single person reading this does too. So you’re not alone.

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Is that comforting? Is your misery thriving in company?  Hmmm not so much!

So let's focus on solutions.

Try this for starters: Write down in two columns what you think is happening and compare it with what is really happening. Sometimes things are WAY worse in my head than in reality.

I had a chat to best-selling author Alli Sinclair, who, as an author, knows all about rejection and struggle. She reckons the joy is so much sweeter if it comes after a struggle.

Really?

Yep. And she also suggests you consider:

  • Are you doing everything you can to reach your goal? Do you need more skills and experience? Do you need more contacts? Do you need more industry knowledge? Are you knocking on doors and increasing your chances or are you waiting for something to fall in your lap?
  • Do you need to reassess your goal? Is what you’re striving for reasonable and realistic? Can you adjust your expectations to fit with your current situation?
  • Get feedback from experts. Find a mentor or someone in the industry you want to be in, ask them about their experiences and how they got to where they are. Often, you'll find some gems who might help you reach your goal.
  • Network! Meeting other people and talking to them, and sharing challenges and solutions is not only good for the soul, it can also help your career. You never know when one of your colleagues may know someone who can help you. Even if it has to be yet another Zoom.
  • Give yourself the best chance by examining where you are now and where you want to be. Map out what you can do to reach that goal. Sometimes, there are things beyond our control, but other times we make our own luck by being prepared and equipping ourselves with the right attitude and experience and contacts. 

If this is your dream, go for it. Don't give up as you never know when that 'yes' is about to arrive.

As Churchill is often reported to have said, 'When you find yourself in hell, keep going.' 

Motivation is a strange thing: it grows out of action. So, what are you going to do off Alli’s list?  Sitting on the couch, pondering motivation clearly isn’t working.  So force yourself to choose one thing and get on with it – even if you reckon it’s pointless.  It might work! You can succeed.  

Next week's question: 'Time for a change? Our letter writer works in TV production and wonders if it's time to change to a safer career in communications.'

Got a question for the mentor? Send it to us at editor@screenhub.com with the subject line 'Media Mentor Question' and we'll pass it onto Esther.

Media Mentors are currently partnering with ACMI to produce the twice-weekly Running Free online skills workshops for screen industry professionals and enthusiasts, delivered free. The next event, going live on Wednesday 13th May at 10am features Rachel Griffiths talking about backing her own ideas and how her dream of saving Ben Affleck turned into a pitch.

About the author

Co-founder of Media Mentors, Esther Coleman-Hawkins, is an experienced TV producer, conference organiser and career mentor. She’s made factual series for public service broadcasters around the world. She has also had the dubious honour of developing or producing 13 series about obesity… She’s developed numerous ideas for Australian production companies including 'Secrets of Our Streets' for SBS and 'Luke Warm Sex' for ABC1; she has an electric google search history. With Media Mentors she is building on her passion for helping people to develop their careers in the creative field.