Handling rejection, part 2: some tips from a Nickelodeon Fellow and TV writer on hard knocks

Love Kiyong Kim, a 2010-2011 Nick Fellow and current NBC Writers on the Verge (WOV) finalist among many other creative professions. His blog and twitter (@mr_kiyongkim) is always full of resourceful info and inspiration. Here on the Nickelodeon, Nick Writing Facebook page, he answered someone’s question about how he handles rejection. It’s far more uplifting than mine! But we do share one philosophy: remain productive and don’t go at it alone.

I’m sure you all spent a lot of time working on your script. You mailed off your application in February, and have been hoping for that phone to ring. Then you saw the list of semifinalists, and you’re not one of them. I’m sure you’re disappointed. You don’t feel like writing. Maybe you’re considering giving up. I know a little something about disappointment. I applied to the Nick Writing Program in 2009, made it all the way through as a finalist, and then didn’t get in…

When Karen told me I didn’t get in, I was crushed. I let myself be sad for one day, and then I IMMEDIATELY went to work on another script. From September to the deadline in February, I worked on my spec and submitted again. I also worked at making myself a better writer and a better candidate. I took an improv class. I took a TV Writing class (where I happened to meet Brian Stampnitsky). I wrote and directed a short film. I made an effort to network and meet other writers. I wrote another spec. I kept working on my craft until August came around, and I got a call from Nickelodeon. I made it through as a semifinalist again, and that year, after all the work I had put in, I was accepted into the Program.So the answer to what should you be doing right now? Writing. Being a writer is like being a shark. You have to keep moving, keep writing, or you sink.

You know that scene in “Bridesmaids”, where the girls are too poor to pay for the bootcamp class, so they hide nearby behind a tree and follow the workout? Do that. You didn’t get into the Program, but follow along. Karen makes the writers take an improv class, so go sign up for an improv class. The fellows have to write scripts in 6 weeks, so put yourself on a similar schedule. When they take meetings with people in the Studio, go out and network with other writers. Follow the Nick Facebook page, see what the writers have to go through, and put yourself through the same thing.

Even after the Program ended in October, I still kept writing. I finished one pilot and started another. I started a writers group. I wrote and directed another short film. I worked on a web series pilot with some writer friends. I also worked on my spec and applied to all the other writing programs (as you should all be doing). I applied to CBS and Warner Bros., 4 years in a row, and 4 times I got a rejection letter. I applied to Disney and only once did I get a request for more material. I applied to the NBC Writers on the Verge program 4 years in a row. For 3 years, I just got a rejection letter, but this year, I finally made it through as a semifinalist! I already had my phone interview, made it through as a finalist, and I’m scheduled to have an in person interview on Monday. I’m hoping I get in, but if I don’t, I’ll keep writing.

I’ll end with one piece of advice:   Don’t write in a vacuum. If you isolate yourself and write without getting external feedback, your progress will be much slower, and even worse, you might just reinforce bad habits. You need to test yourself by getting feedback from other writers. A sword gets stronger by hammering at it. Take a class. Join a writers group. Find people who will hammer away at your script and make you a stronger writer.

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One comment

  1. This is great advice, especially about writing in a vacuum, something I’m definitely guilty of.

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