Set Back That Led To Success 1
My First Professional Commission: A Half Name For A Half Person for Radio 4.
My first success as a professional writer was an afternoon play for Radio 4. It was the result of 2 "failures". See Dealing With Failure. Had I given up after these initial set backs I would not be a writer today.
The truth is, a writer's life is full of set backs and I have plenty to share. There will be more. I will keep adding them to the blog. I do it to offer other writers a realistic perspective and to inspire them to keep going. I also do it to keep myself going. Set backs and rejections hurt. Even the most resilient can struggle to bounce back sometimes. It's tough being your own first believer. It helps to share.
So, back to the story. A Radio 4 drama producer came up to run a workshop locally. Everyone submitted scripts as a result. Everyone got a response and brief feedback, except me. I was pretty disappointed given that I had organised the workshop in order to create this opportunity for everyone. When I contacted the producer to ask for feedback I was told the play just wasn’t working, but they couldn’t say why. It wasn’t a definite no, but it wasn’t a yes either.
Then, the agent who had committed to selling my debut novel received 12 responses from publishers saying much the same. Good writing but not quite right. Couldn’t say why. The agent then dumped me.
I could have given up then. I was devastated. But the radio producer had been a little bit interested…. So I wrote another radio play. A better one. I developed a 10 minute script-in-hand play that had been performed locally into a 45 minute drama for radio. I sent a copy in to the BBC in Manchester and another copy to the newly formed Writers Room in London. I eventually got a reply from London saying it wasn’t suitable for the BBC. Standard rejection, no feed back. But 3 weeks later, I got another letter from the BBC. This time from a different producer, who had been forwarded the script I had sent to Manchester. This producer said the play was “clear evidence” of my “talent” and asked to meet me. What followed was over a year of rewrites but eventually the play was commissioned and broadcast in 2002. 3 years after I graduated from my MA and those first rejections.
I have kept both those letters to remind me that responses to our work are subjective and success or failure can be down to who reads your script and the circumstances surrounding that. I call this serendipity rather than luck. Serendipity is when things come together in a way you may not have been expecting. It has something a little magical about it and there is no knowing when it may happen. Luck is something less tangible associated with both good and bad luck and probably the subject of another blog!