"...And Make It Real Creative!": "Oh Yeah!?" And Other Intelligent Answers To Rejection

by Andy Capp

It was probably the last place she wanted to be at that moment. Looking back, I can't blame her. It was like she had opened Pandora's box, had thrown a lit match in a keg of gun powder, had pulled the lid off six month old leftovers. She had done the unthinkable and called my baby ugly, and I was explaining to her, loudly, how much she had, "PISSED ME OFF!!!!!!!"

Thing is, other than the normal day to day whining about the sales staff, I usually keep my cool at work. But this salesperson had not only told me that she "didn't get the joke" in the spot I had spent a lot of time writing and producing, but also that she refused to play it for the client because she didn't want to "embarrass the station!"

That was four or five years ago, and hindsight has only recently kicked in. I still believe she could have handled the situation better, but I suppose I could have too. I mean, if she didn't understand the joke, would our listeners? Who really knows the clients' taste? The person who calls on them every week, or the geek that locks himself in a room and tries to decipher the production order? And, was I mad because I had to re-do the spot, or because my ego was bruised?

Just lie back on the couch Andy, and tell Dr. Freud all about it....

The Thrill Of Victory And The Agony Of Defeat

It seems that creative types are born with a Jekyll and Hyde ego. For example, imagine a producer who has just received a compliment on a spot, "Oh gee, thanks, gosh, golly...you know, it could have been better if I had just...."

Now, the same producer faced with criticism of their work. How do I describe this...okay...the look on Ted Knight's face right after Rodney Dangerfield tells him he might buy the Country Club in Caddyshack, immediately followed by the nuclear explosion dream sequence in Terminator 2.

It makes sense that the first response is to blow up. If you're excited at all about creating, chances are there is a lot of you in your work -- your experiences, your skills, your voice. So, when someone says your work stinks, they're saying you stink -- at least that's how it feels.

The conflict comes because the rest of the world doesn't have time to analyze the relationship between you and your work. The work is either right or wrong.

So how do we keep from becoming emotional candidates for a rubber room (or a fast food joint, toting an Uzi)?

Answers From Above

I received a few answers in a recent conversation with my friend and hero, J.R. Nelson, the last person in this production business I could imagine facing rejection.

"Bullshit!" was his reply. He then cited a recent experience where one of his regular clients almost nixed a spot because it wasn't "urgent enough." You heard his demo a couple of months ago - J.R., not urgent?

"So how do you deal with rejection," I asked.

"Heroin," laughter. "Nah, that was in the old days!"

He went on to explain that it's good to put things in perspective, that of the people who reject your work, 9 out of 10 wouldn't know if it was any good anyway, that even baseball batting champs strike out more than they hit, that even a 50-50 batting average is considered great, and we all have a better acceptance to rejection record than that in this business.

"If worse comes to worse," he added, "look at the positive in the situation."

It took me a while to accept that one, but it's true. We can learn a lot from rejection. The closer we get to our work, the blinder we are to its flaws. By rejecting the work, the person could actually be doing us a favor, showing us areas where we can improve. Maybe it is a good idea to set our egos aside sometimes and see what we can learn. Sure, digging deeper might only teach us that the detractor is a mental midget or a jerk, but that can be an important lesson too!

(Thanks for your thoughts, J.R.!)

Doctor, I Still Have A Pain Right Here

I know, I know. These things are easier said than done. Even the most rational person can go nuts in the heat of battle, especially when they're forced to do something over that was "bad."

Here's a last resort: run away!!! Make it a part of your schedule everyday (i.e., getting out of the building for lunch, exercise, continuing education classes). It's a great way to keep little hassles from getting to you.

It's also a good idea to head out the door when you think you're about to hit the end of your leash (like when someone knocks a spot you poured your lifeblood into). Don't worry, any supervisor worthy of the title "Manager" will understand the need to get away, even if only for a few minutes, to avoid an eruption in the office.

Besides, even with sales folk and clients, justifiable homicide is so hard to prove these days.

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