Story by Neville Cole
I am quite used to rejection. I’m not saying I’m good at it; but I am very used to it.
Way back when, before I got old and comfortable, I was an actor. So, yeah… I was dealt a heavy dose of rejection very early on. Rejection for an actor is constant, immediate, and pretty much soul crushing. In fact, right behind the almost total lack of monetary reward, rejection is the worst thing about being an actor.
All of which is to explain why, after 10 mostly forgettable years, I couldn’t take it anymore and got a real job. Yes. It’s true. I gave up the actor’s life before I hit thirty. I am the very definition of a corporate sellout. It wasn’t as hard a choice as you might imagine. In fact, very soon thereafter I noticed something quite strange: I was happy.
I started doing fun things like go to the grocery store and buy supplies without first figuring out exactly how much it would all cost. I even did a few truly crazy things like buy health insurance*.
*Author’s Note: For those of you reading this outside the general realm of United States, note that health insurance in the US costs approximately twice what the average actor makes; at least it sure did back when I was still doing it.
Still, despite all this positive change, and despite all the years that have passed me by; deep down in my soul, a tiny but mighty creative flame still glimmers. All I need is the barest flicker of hope to ignite that spark.
Some dry tinder was thrown on that fire recently in the form of a playwriting competition. Specifically the temptation I could not ignore was an invitation to enter the WORST Play Ever Contest. It was an opportunity too perfect to resist.
“Hello. I thought. This is right up my alley. In fact, it’s perfect! Theater is in my blood. It’s part of my DNA! Why, I have stacks of horrendous material and ideas to draw from!”
I threw myself into the project without delay. I have to say, the bad playwriting process is unlike any other I have encountered. I fell immediately into that trance-like state known as the zone. Epically terrible dialogue flowed through me like… well, like fecal matter through a shit tube. I sat there, hunched over my laptop like a gargoyle on a gothic cathedral, motionless except for my ten furious fingers flailing away. Imagine Kerouac, hepped up on bennies, banging out the scroll for his magnum opus On The Road and you get the picture. Before I knew it, all in one marathon sitting, I was done. That is to say, over the course of a couple of hours. It takes a couple of hours to run a marathon, right?
Having spewed out such a violent torrent of words, I didn’t even consider anything as onerous as editing. In fact, mere moments after I finished typing “The End,” my masterpiece of stupidity was off to the review committee at a lightning fast 18 megabits a second. The rush I felt faded the moment I hit send.
Those of you familiar with rejection know all too well how quickly creeping doubt seeps into your consciousness. At first it was little more than nervous whispers.
“Are you sure that was your absolute worst work? Wouldn’t it have been better to wait a day or two to let it sit so you could review it with a clear mind? Do you really think it was a good idea to base the play on actual events? Couldn’t having some form of plot and character work against you in the long run?”
Not an hour had passed before despair hit me like a 2×4 to the noggin. “You idiot,” I screamed. “That pathetic piece of crap is nothing close to your worst work!”
The dread that followed was almost too much to bear. With each passing day I became more and more convinced that rejection was inevitable. I knew with absolute certainty that a cruel dismissal of my creation could hit my Inbox at any turn.
“We’re sorry,” I imagined it would begin, “but your play was too good to be considered for this contest.” Before the rejection officially arrived I set about to mend my broken psyche.
“Tomorrow will be another day.” I reassured myself. I will rise again. I will put on my suit and tie (my business costume) and head off to the safety of my office where so little is expected and everything not done can be put off till next week. “I will survive this,” I said wiping back tears of regret. “I always do. I always will.”
And then, today, my friends…something magical happened! This was in my Inbox!
Hello Horrible Playwright,
I regret to inform you that your play has been selected as a finalist in the WORST Play Ever Contest to be performed on Oct. 12th.
Who says dreams have to die? Who says we have to live under the brutal heel of rejection’s dread? Not I. Not today! Today I revel in the words of the great American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who famously wrote: “Do not waste yourself in rejection; do not bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of good.”
Then again, there are five other finalists still. I bet one of their plays is worse than mine. Hell! All five are probably much worse than mine. There’s no way I can win. Oh well… I better get to bed. I have to get up early and get to the office. I have a big conference call in the morning.