On Failure graphic showing a woman with her head in her hands with the words On Failure, when taking the leap doesn't lead to flying

When taking the leap doesn’t lead to flying.

In June I took, what felt like, the biggest leap of my fledgling playwrighting life: I entered The Bruntwood Prize.

It’s the largest playwrighting competition in the UK and, gloriously, it’s anonymous.

I made the decision late.

I’d spent a number of hours haunting the website back in January. Reading and rereading the submission criteria; quadruple checking the rules. Clicking away from the site … and then back. In nerves. Who am I to enter? My play’s too traditional. My play’s too dull. No one would want my play. Imposter syndrome or truth? I fear it’s the truth and make the decision to wait until the deadline was closer. That’s June so there’s plenty of time polish the play and make a more affirmative choice.

No harm in waiting, I told myself.

I then promptly forgot about it.

Until June.

With just 48 hours to go, I set about some last minute editing. I checked for spelling mistakes, changed the title, fiddled with the layout. Too late for any major changes.

And so, late on the 5th June, I found myself finalising my draft and opening the submission form.

And that’s when I hit The Snag

(there’s always a snag)

All entries must be submitted under a name that is in no way similar to your own. Ah. I needed a new name. Shit. Who has spare names knocking around? I mean, I could have called myself after one of the characters I suppose, but that didn’t occur to me until just now, so … errr… yep. I was stuck.

I brainstormed a few random words I liked, ones that seemed magical or surreal, juggled them around and hit on a gem. A quick Google told me no one else had this name and I was over the moon. Ngl, I still am.

I made it with a few hours to go.

OMG, I actually did it.

After that brief flurry of activity, came the restless peace. Now what? The long list was set to be published on the site on Sept 13th. Until then, I did my best to push it out of my mind. Every so often, I’d catch myself daydreaming about what it would be like to see my play on the list, or wondering how I’d feel if it wasn’t.

I checked in on the 13th. The long list will be announced on the 30th now. There must have been a larger number of entries than they had anticipated, I reasoned. Is that good or bad news, I mused.

Every day my mind flickered over the calendar, ten more days. Three.

The 30th arrives and it’s Hocus Pocus day. I watch the film. An hour and a half of beautiful distraction, and it was so much better than I’d feared so it was good day.

Then comes the sinking feeling … and I realise I can’t put it off any longer. It’s time to check.

The long list is conveniently arranged alphabetically by title, making it easy to find where my play is. Or rather isn’t. Only two beginning with the letter ‘i’. Mine is very clearly not there.

And I’m not going to lie.

It hurt. Not the ‘rejection’ of it, per se. It’s the old feelings of inadequacy that resurfaced, that hurt. The years being told I had no imagination, and believing it; being told only an idiot didn’t know the very things I didn’t know; the myriad times a joke I’d made had been met with silence or a moment of sincerity greeted by laughter came back and the million other small things we all have stuffed our mental baggage.

But this time, they were dulled.

True, it hurt but nowhere near as badly as I’d expected, or would have done a few years ago. There was no tailspin; no wondering if I should quit. I’ve finally come to understand that success isn’t one continuous string of big ‘wins’; it’s many smaller ‘wins’ scattered among the multitude of missteps, wrong turns and ‘fails’ that other people rarely see.

This is just one step on my path to becoming a produced playwright.

There’s always another year. And another play.

And on another the bright side, the name may well be making an appearance again. 😉

How do you deal with rejection?