How To: Handle Rejection (Even When You Don’t Feel Like It)

champagne giphy

It’s time to pop some bubbly because I got the best rejection letter ever. It came from a highly esteemed literary magazine (insert raised pinky here) with a reputation for publishing amazing emerging and established writers. They said my writing was “clear and concise,” that they were “very impressed,” and that I should “feel encouraged by this short note” and send them something else. BOOM. I’m tempted to put it on the mantel.

Unconvinced rejection should be something to celebrate? Try being a writer. Anyone who attempts writing will face rejection at some point, and those trying to be good writers face rejection over and over again. And again. And again. So much so that rejection takes on different shades of rejected-ness. There have been blog posts about what your rejection letter really means, from semi-congratulatory rejections to constructive rejections to meek, flat auto-responses that suggest a robot read your story instead of a human. There are people who celebrate every rejection because it symbolizes getting that much closer to an acceptance. There are also those people who cherish rejection letters enough to wallpaper their bathrooms with them.

Based on personal experience and the advice of other well-rejected writers, I’ve compiled a short list of must-dos after getting a rejection letter. Whether it’s a form letter, a thoughtful rejection, or a flat NO, here are a few things you might want to try in the aftermath:

  1. I mean it. If you got a rejection with some feedback or praise for your work, really go nuts. Even if you received a basic form letter with “you suck” undertones, rejoice! That means you’re one step closer to getting where you’re supposed to be. At the very least, it’s a sign you’ve put yourself out there, which takes courage. No lit mag—poorly funded, highly esteemed, trendy, or otherwise—can take that away from you.
  2. Get back to writing. Waiting anywhere from two weeks to nine months to get a response back about your submission can be maddening. The only thing you can do to lesson that madness is by writing and forgetting all about the submissions game. In the vast expanse of time between submitting and getting a response, you’ll grow as a writer and gain perspective. Maybe that story you sent out wasn’t so great after all, or maybe it just needs a little tweaking. But since you’ve been writing that whole time, you’ll likely have something new to polish, which brings me to the next step…
  3. Submit again. This is such an important step—for women especially. If a lit mag says they want to see more of your work, then send them something. Don’t let the negativity of the rejection cloud over the huge positive that they asked for more. Another thing to consider: you might be at “no” number 447, but unless you resubmit, you’ll never know if your 448th submission will be the first big, fat “yes.”

When anticipating rejection, we all know how we’re going to react. Our minds already go there. My personal favorite reaction is to curl into the fetal position and weep before wailing at the sky, “Why doesn’t anyone love me?” But when we try to imagine a successful outcome, suddenly our vision blurs. Our ability to read the future becomes unreliable. Why is that? Are we really afraid we’ll succeed or does it have more to do with a fear of the unknown? I tend to think the latter.

I’d also argue that how you choose to handle rejection is way more important than how you handle success. If you can pick yourself back up and keep going despite every urge to lie in the road and play dead, then you’re better off in more ways than one. Rejection can be a powerful motivator or an excuse to give up, depending on how you look at it. Don’t be afraid of those closed doors and robotic passes, but don’t be afraid of the inevitable successes either. Because, if at first you don’t succeed—well, you know the rest.

Stupid Questions Uber Passengers Ask Me, a Female Uber Driver

pink uber logo

Contrary to the common saying, there are stupid questions—often asked by equally stupid people. Every day, while driving for Uber, I get asked at least one stupid question, and I do my best to answer it without popping a blood vessel. But purely for your entertainment, I’ve got all the stupid questions and all the answers I wish I could spout back.

  1. “You don’t drive at night, do you?”

No. Never. Everyone knows that as soon as the sun sets, I automatically get raped, murdered, and/or maimed.

  1. “You don’t drive in sketchy neighborhoods, right?”

If I could, I’d intentionally seek out the sketchiest of neighborhoods. Unfortunately, I have to go wherever Uber tells me to, which is usually Santa Monica where I pick up oblivious, humorless accountants like you.

  1. “Do you actually like Led Zeppelin or do you just keep it on for old people?”

I guess because I’m 24, I’m not allowed to actually like Led Zeppelin. Is that it, you ignorant, ageist nitwit?

  1. “Are you sure you’re old enough to have a driver’s license?”

No, I’m not sure about anything anymore.

  1. “So, is this your only job?”

I get this one a lot and I’m still not sure how to answer it. I mean, it’s basically how I pay my rent right now, but I also do about one million other things—paid and unpaid—so no? But if it were my only job would that be such a bad thing? What’s with all the judgment?!? Leave me alone!

  1. “Let me guess, you’re another one of those struggling actresses?”

No, but if I were, that would be an incredibly rude, insensitive thing to ask. Idiot.

  1. Gross, British white guy wearing bling: “Do you ever have issues with the guys you drive?”

You mean guys like you? Um, yeah, all the time. Thanks for asking.

  1. Stoner: “Can you drive me through Del Taco?”

Get your own ass through Del Taco. I don’t get paid enough for your shenanigans, sir.

  1. A real New York housewife: “Why are you doing this?”

Me: “To pay the rent.”

NY housewife: “But there are lots of ways to do that.”

Like marrying rich?

  1. A real Beverly Hills cleaning lady: “Why are you doing this?”

    Me: “Well…”

Cleaning lady: “It’s too dangerous. Get yourself in a nice office making fifty an hour. I never want to see you again!”

You never want to see me again? Really? Because I thought we were making a connection for a second there. No? Shoot. Making friends in LA is hard.

Tiny True Story: Auditing Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop

palm tree cloudy day

I expect to sit in a sea of chiseled chins and expertly curled hair. With the exception of two or three dead-eyed models sent by their agents, the crowd appears likeably normal—artsy even. Asymmetrical bobs and band t-shirts abound. These are the types of people, it seems, who want to get more connected with reality, not less.

I try to drink from the water bottle I brought and spill all over my chest. Not a drop makes it in my mouth.

Anthony Meindl strides onto the stage. I want to pronounce his last name like Howie Mandel, but apparently it’s mine-dull. He has a star quality about him. He’s a fast talker, loud and motivational in tone. He seems to have an abundant cache of that showbiz brand of energy.

He also seems sincere. He asks us auditors and students alike to repeat after him. “I am going to stop beating myself up for where I am… I’m going to stop making personal attacks against myself when I’m not working in a way that I hold myself to.”

Soon I am chanting with the rest of them. It takes on a religious quality.

“The things I think I need to hear from others are the things I must give to myself.”

The lecture over, two students—a man and a woman—begin their prepared scene with scripts in hand. Meindl asks the woman to put herself in her character’s headspace.

“What have you been struggling with this past week?” he asks.

“Where do I start?”

“You have kids, don’t you?”

She starts to cry. He tells her to use it. Halfway through class, everyone on stage on has cried. I am in awe of their willingness.

On my way out, I spot the woman from the first scene eating chips in the hallway. I make eye contact, smiling dumbly. She stares back blankly and pops another chip in her mouth.

A minute later I’m on the street, walking home in the dark and avoiding all eye contact.

Two youngish guys file by, making room for me on the sidewalk. “But mistakes are good,” one of them says, “You can learn from that shit.”


Weekend Writing Prompts

If you’re like me, then the weekend is a great time to get some writing done. Whether it be a novel, screenplay, sketch, poem, essay, grocery list, blacklist, or love letter, long and lazy weekend days can easily turn into a great opportunity to get stuff done. But before the getting done part, there’s the getting started, and that seems to trip a lot of people up. But it doesn’t have to! Not when you have some handy writing prompts to guide the way.

Take a gander at these and get those creative juices flowing:writing prompt snack

  1. Take a trip to Whole Foods and grab a bag of wholesome chips. Then go home and write. When the going gets tough, you’ll be glad you grabbed a snack.creative writing prompt puppy
  2. Write about all the things you would do if you were a puppy. writing prompt jesus
  3. Imagine Jesus was your BFF. What would he say about your writer’s block? Write that down. Then let everyone know you’re a prophet.

    writing prompt tombstone

  4. Think about what your tombstone will say when you die. Or think about what you want it to say. Get creative!

On Droughts

vintage lemons

Day three in the new home and my resident sense of dread has already taken root. I finally have everything a writer could want: a 1930s LA bungalow bathed in natural light, a backyard boasting two citrus trees and a fig tree, a dog that’s willing to curl up with me and wait patiently while I write—not to mention a loving, supportive partner with whom I can share it all.

So what do I do? I bake cookies. I bake mounds of five-ingredient, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and then proceed to stuff my face with said cookies before they cool to edibility. Then I sit around sipping a glass of almond milk, feeling sorry for my singed mouth. Tomorrow will be a new day, right?

Technically, yes. Psychologically, no. This morning, halfway between editing and collapsing, I decided it would be a good time to tone my hair. Because nothing gets you back on track like dumping on chemicals until some strands turn silver while others defiantly remain a shade of rust. Because nothing puts your fear of writing in perspective like fearing your hair will fall by the handful. I stand under running water watching the puddle turn purple at my feet and soak up the self-loathing that comes with wasting water on my vanity in the middle of the drought of the century. Lathering up in a second round of conditioner to calm my burning scalp, I comfort myself with the headline I read the other night about domestic water use only accounting for 5% of California’s total water supply. So surely it can’t be entirely my fault, it’s big farming’s fault, and how self-important of me to even think myself a pivotal factor in the decline of California. I consider the two cartons of almond milk in my fridge and the fact that almond farming wastes an unimaginable amount of fresh, clean water nurturing something as silly and inessential as a nut. Each almond is so thirsty that when I take a sip of its milk, it’s really like I’m drinking a sea of generations with big water needs. We’ll all be parched and desperate as the desert reclaims this settlement long before my lease is up 363 days from now.

I have so many serums and lotions to slather and gel on every inch of my body, serums that will likely do nothing—all in the name of self-improvement. Standing naked and cold in the open doorway Michael left ajar for the cross breeze, I realize I’m too hungry, too weak to care what stranger sees my perplexing tan lines. I reach for last night’s cookies and a swig of almond milk straight from the jug, and straight to hell I will go because the thought of assembling a salad in my state daunts me. I won’t brush my teeth until four in the afternoon today. It’s turning into one of those days.

Wolfing down snacks over the kitchen sink, I spy a suitcase spilling out of the closet with clothes destined for Goodwill. Defying any seed of common sense I have stored, I rifle through again under the guise of being thorough. I find a floor-length, peach-colored slip with an overlay of black lace—the kind of nightgown dress that belongs in neither the bedroom nor the boardroom, the Whole Foods on Fairfax nor Queen Elizabeth’s breakfast nook. I can’t say it belongs anywhere. Maybe I can relate. Maybe it grows on me. I put it on.

And maybe it’s the fumes I’ve inhaled or the neuroses I’ve allowed to seep in and make themselves cozy, the cushy folds of my brain acting like sofas; anyway, I notice a crack in the plaster wall of the closet and willingly suspend my disbelief that it’s a poor choice to insert my fingernail in the crevice and peel it back just to see what’s inside. I don’t think anything of the large pieces flaking off, falling on the original hardwood floors, to reveal a human-sized hole, a hole that begs me to enter and follow the light flickering at the end of the tunnel to wherever it leads. I reach the bottom of a hole that plummets straight down, halfway to China like the holes we used to dig in the backyard as kids, and lift the latch that leads to the den conveniently located beneath my new house. “We’ve been waiting for you,” says the oldest shaman with a skinny grey beard and a sorcerer’s stone, so I naturally take my place in the circle of like-minded folk and accept the tabs and tinctures as they come my way. Eventually, as the time passes and time slows and I unravel every question I’ve ever had about time, I stand up and tell the gang it’s about time I go. I toss a scarf around my neck for dramatic effect. My husband expects me to be home for dinner, I say. They all nod and it’s all very pleasant because there’s no such thing as a true goodbye, so I escape through the hatch and back through the tunnel and just when I get turned around so that I don’t recognize which way is up or down, I land back in my closet in a pile of clutter without a word on the page or a coherent thought in my head.

Still it seems everything will be alright. I smell potatoes roasting in the oven, hear a love song through the speakers and my dog snoring in a pile of blankets on the legless armchair by the windowsill. Yes, I imagine everything is going to be alright. Now it’s time to write.

LA bungalow