You Don’t Need Permission

No matter how much I tell myself it’s okay, rejection is hard.

I recently had a pretty big audition for a pretty big part that I didn’t get. There are all kinds of benign reasons why, most of which I’ve told myself over and over until there’s nothing left in my brain to think about. There are also the non-benign reasons why, and those I mostly ignore to prevent being swallowed in a fog of soul-crushing depression. Truthfully, I’m not sure the benign reasons don’t do that, too, but my mental health is fragile enough that I try to not think about that, either.

The thing is, it’s never going to go away: filmmaking, acting, writing — these are careers fraught with rejection at every turn, but they’re what I do. I have developed a pretty thick skin, one I credit to being in TV news for a while and then, local print journalism. Trust me. Say something about the school board or a beloved politician someone doesn’t like and you’ll learn very quickly how to not take things like “fat head up your fat ass” and “go back to fucking New York City” not personally. The latter I’d actually take as a compliment anyway, but since it was meant as a severe insult it creates a bit of cognitive dissonance when I try to think of it that way.

I think the one thing that keeps me sane in the midst of constant rejection is my propensity to create my own work. You don’t need anyone’s permission to create. I sat in on an acting class in an honors conservatory here in DC about a year ago where the three teachers — accomplished professionals whose work and teaching I really admire — spent a ton of time talking about this with their students. They told them to not wait for the phone to ring. I’d probably tell people to stop waiting for the emails to come, because no one makes phone calls anymore but the point is the same. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do what you love. This is true more now than ever. Filmmakers have distribution options that didn’t exist even ten years ago. Musicians don’t need record labels as much as they used to. Writers can get by without big media publishers.

You are the one person who won’t ever reject you. Not getting the roles you want? Then write that role for yourself. Perform it in a Fringe Festival. Shoot it on your damn iPhone and post it to YouTube if that’s what it takes. No one wants your essays? There’s this new fangled thing called a blog that I hear some people have had success with. Just get yourself out there, stop waiting for permission and start creating. Even if it sucks. That’s all part of the process.

And hey, maybe you’ll end up walking through the forest alone — for a while, anyway. But when has blazing a trail ever been a bad thing? Go.