Add Me to the List

NOR Skrik, ENG The ScreamToday started like many other Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee and a game of Cribbage. The breakfast nook is perfectly lit for this morning activity. Filtered sunlight shines on the table making a healthy glow in the room. Very nice.

After cribbage (I did win this time but not every time) I checked my email and there was a rejection letter for my play that I entered into the Truckee Community Theater 10-Minute Play Festival.

It’s hard to be rejected and not take it personally. Lots of internal crap comes forward from the simple statement, “I had a panel of judges reading all the plays and I am so sorry, but yours was not highly rated.”

With this rejection came a “but” statement. “But we want to work with you to produce it for the next season’s festival in August 2019.”

Somehow the “but” statement doesn’t take the sting away from the rejection. Yet I consider myself fortunate as not all rejections come with an offer to help you make it producible for the next season.

Many years ago I worked with a very smart guy at Intel Corporation who did research on resilience. Although he was researching resilience in a corporate setting and how employees face feedback regarding job performance, promotions that didn’t happen, and a variety of other disappointments, the one great cure for rejection comes from the power in resilience. 

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. We do not let failure drain our resolve. Instead we find a way to rise up from the ashes.

Psychologists, scientists, people researchers, and other teachers and students of human behavior site attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions and see failure as a form of helpful feedback as a way to bounce back. We harness our resilience and change course and soldier on.

Here’s the deal if you want to publish your work, see your plays or screenplays produced, or participate in any number of public-facing writing activities — you will face rejection. It’s the way it works.

It’s not the rejection that we want as a defining moment, it’s the resilience we want to be the story. Our courage to keep going. And in case you don’t believe me, here are some authors that dealt with rejection and must have been so beautifully resilient. It’s a list I’d be honored to join, and I will.

  • Dune by Frank Herbert – 13 rejections
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections
  • Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 17 rejections
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 29 rejections
  • Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections
  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections
  • Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book
  • John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book
  • Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – around 800 rejections before selling his first story
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book
  • From rejection slip for George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
  • From rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It: “These stories have trees in them.”
  • From rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
  • From rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”
  • Rejection slip for Dr. Seuss’s And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street: “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”
  • Rejection from a Chinese economic journal: “We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.”
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It’s About Belonging

I’ve asked myself why I continue to contemplate the idea of community. Like it’s something wholly new and foreign. But it’s an ancient topic. There are entire literatures and academics on clans, cultures, tribes, and other assorted ways of gathering.

IMG_3978Yes it’s true that Mom, Greg, and I belong to a new, big community in Northern Nevada with 2,000 families. One that is post my dad Milton’s death, includes my sister and her group of Tahoe-friends, and allows us to explore with a new-found freedom our dreams and health, hobbies, and way of being in the world.

It’s also apparent I rarely thought about community before moving to Nevada. I lived in a routine called corporate America. There were rules. Managers with expectations and directions. All my friends spoke the same corporate language. Our woes alike and our differences rarely shared.

IMG_3889Now I’m with everyone here who is from somewhere else. We are strangers and friends at the same time. Different perhaps from where we started but we chose this place. 

Each of us belongs to many communities. When at yoga I’m in my community of yogies with our ancient language and exercises. Later I’m a volunteer at the Nevada Art Museum with people who live and breathe art. In my ukulele class I’m strumming with my fellow students trying to figure out how to make music from four strings.

You get the drift. It’s easy to think of all the places you hang out or things you do then realize they are all communities with a language, activity, personality, a place of emotional or physical belonging.

So you can imagine how happy I was when I stumbled across a community of Jewish seniors from Palm Desert, California who celebrate the Sabbath in a local Wendy’s fast food restaurant.

cr=w-200,h-140,a-ccThe short film about this weekly group is called Wendy’s Shabbat. They say the traditional Jewish blessings, light the candles, break the bread called challah, and toast with grape juice. Sadly no wine is allowed at the Wendy’s. 

I’m so touched by this film and what it represents in our world filled with discord and isolation. Through all of life’s ups and downs, they get in their golf carts and head to Wendy’s for Shabbat, burgers and fries. (Please click here to view the trailer).

Wendy’s Shabbat only confirms what research already tells us about the value of community and relationships on our long term health and happiness.

The data is clear. Find a group of people that do what you love or find important, and hang on to each other. You’ll live longer, have more fun, and belong to something that is bigger than you.


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It Begins

Happy 2018. Yes. 2018. Another year begins.

I start each year hopeful. My optimistic nature kicks in and I believe in all the newness of a new year. Why not? I could start each year with a dread in my heart as in, “Oh no, another year.” But instead it’s always, “Yahoo! Here we go!”

Each December 31, Greg and I do our tradition. It includes the following: A bar, a cocktail, a pen, and the proverbial cocktail napkin ideally with the bar name on one side.

First we review the current year and our list of resolutions. Where did we miss and/or exceed? Where did we travel? Who were we with and where did we spend the holidays? How was the year?

Then we toast to making it to another December 31st.

Next we delve into our hopes and aspirations for the new year. We each pick 3 resolutions and one we both agree to. After much discussion, and a few more drinks, we write those on the cocktail napkin. New Year resolutions done.  

This year we invited a couple of friends to join. They were worried. “We hate resolutions.”

After the delicious snack fest (we ordered everything on the happy hour appetizer menu and needed an additional cocktail table to stage our snacks) and a couple drinks, we got out our cocktail napkins.

Greg and I started. We take one little square napkin. Draw a line down the middle. Put 2018 at the top in the middle.

Greg had something about teaching. I had one about my ukulele practice and one for screenwriting. We both agreed to a push up goal. Three each. We can only take on so much.

Then our friends said, “That’s it? Okay we can do that.”

I wrote them down. Three resolutions each and a date for December 31, 2018 to review. 

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