Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On Rejection

Like a lot of us here, I want to make writing a career. But because I’m at home 24/7 with so many other things calling out to me, I get distracted. So…I spend a lot of time playing video games. For a while, I was in a pretty bad rut – lights off, shades pulled, drinking beer and eating Belgian Doritos while slumping in an Ikea chair and hunting down bandits in some cave in Skyrim. But then I had this great idea: I should try to become a writer for video games!

Yeah. Yikes. Like I said, it was a low point.

I applied to my favorite game studio on a whim with a simple open application – “hey, if a job comes up, I’d like to be considered,” that kind of thing – and, amazingly, after a couple months I got a follow-up email asking me to do a writing test! So I did it, sent it in, and then heard nothing for another few weeks. Right at the point where I thought they weren’t going to contact me again, I did get a response, and they wanted to interview me! I couldn’t believe it. I thought things were finally turning around.

Narrator: Things were not finally turning around.

I didn’t get the job. It was a really tough rejection, because it felt more personal than getting a rejection email from an agent. With agents, most of those rejections are after reading five or ten pages, hardly anything. I could get over those because…well, they didn’t really know me or my writing. But with this, I’d spent a lot of time and effort getting to that point with the tests and the interview, and it felt more like I was being rejected and not my work, if that makes sense. It felt so much more personal, and that was crushing.

Getting over that rejection took more than a month. This year hasn’t been particularly easy – I feel like things have been going downhill since April – so it was just one more thing that firmly cemented 2018 in its place in the pits. One evening when I was crying in the bath, I realized that maybe being at home all the time was the problem. It was giving me the time and space to wallow, encouraging me with its cupboards full of bread and beer. (Yes, I have fully embraced Belgian life.) So I planned a trip for myself, just to get away. I had no real plan other than “not here.”

Weirdly, it worked, but not for the reason I thought it would. I stayed in this really sketchy AirBnB in Vienna, which focused all my energy on “Jeez, am I going to get murdered in my sleep tonight?” instead of “Man I wish I’d gotten that job.” I went to coffee shops and museums, doing anything I could to get out of that AirBnB. And somewhere in there, I found other things to think about. It dulled hat knife and helped me realize that I’d gotten through hundreds of other rejections from jobs and agents and schools, I could get past this too.

I’m still not really over this – I mean, it was basically my dream job, and now that opportunity is gone – but I’ve also been rejected from my dream school, my dream agent, and so many other lesser things along the way. And I’m still here. I'll make it work.


  1. "The only thing that I know how to do is to keep on keepin' on"--Bob Dylan
    Rejection is tough. Some time early next year, I'll be climbing back on board the Rejection Train (i.e., querying agents) again, and it won't be easy. But the only way to reach those goals is to 'keep on keepin' on.' And don't spend too much time in your own head.

  2. This is such an encouraging story, Amren! Of course I'm so, so sorry and bummed you didn't get the job, but thank you for sharing your story with us and opening up about what you learned from it. And you're right — as long as you're still here, still trying, there's a way to make it work!


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