Why rejections make me laugh. Auditions are good prep.

I was talking with one of my theater friends the other day and told him about this very cool audition I have lined up. I realized as I was talking that there’s a difference in the way theater people approach auditions and the way writers approach submissions.

Granted, every person is different, but for the most part the mentality going into an audition is that it doesn’t matter. I mean, you want it. You want it badly sometimes, but there’s this mental adjustment you have to do in order to survive the audition process. You focus on it the way you focus on doing a show. So the goal is to give a really good audition, the same way you’d do a really good performance and then you walk away.

Because out of the hundreds of people they see for that part, the directors will cast only one person.

With writers, we do this whole rejectomancy thing, trying to read into the rejections to see how “close” we came to getting the part. Really, it doesn’t matter and in some ways it matters less than in theater.  How so? Let me explain and I’ll explain using a real world example.

Before I go any further let me explain the etiquette of discussing pending auditions.

I’m a normally rational person, around auditions I get very skittish and superstitious about jinxing things by talking about it.  As I said, my brain is not rational about this. There’s this whole variety of things that I have to do to convince myself that the results of the audition don’t matter when, of course, they do.

Please do not wish me luck. You can talk about how amazingly cool the show is, but not about me in relation to the show. If in doubt, just pretend the audition doesn’t exist.

Okay?

I mean it.

So, I’m going to be in NYC starting on June 15th to audition for Warhorse. This is exceptionally cool and the sort of audition that I would go to just for the chance of trying the puppets.

Here’s the trailer for the show, for those who haven’t seen it.

The show is one of the most beautiful uses of puppetry I’ve seen over a twenty-year career and I want this part very, very badly. But…

Realistically, my chances are slim because I’m at the bottom end of their height limit. With puppetry, there are solid mechanical reasons for casting someone based on size.   Even so, for the next two weeks, you’ll get to hear me talk about the things I’m doing to prep for the audition. This is why I want to hang out with horses for a bit. Youtube is only getting me so far and the clips are too short.

I’m doing all of this because I would dearly love to land this role but my focus isn’t on landing the part, it is on turning in a really good audition.

This is why for me, as a writer, rejections don’t really matter.  In theater, you go to auditions and sometimes, man, you want that part and you do a lot of intensive prep for the audition, then– maybe you don’t get past the first round, or you make it all the way to the end and get a cold, or you just aren’t right. Whatever it is, the rejection comes hard on the heels of the work and you only get one chance.

I’ve made the mistake of focusing on landing the part and hoping. I was one of the last three women called back for Avenue Q when it moved to Broadway. I worked so hard prepping that I lost my voice.

It was devastating, in part because I’d done it to myself. It is dangerous to want something too badly.

With writing, the rejection comes months after I did the work, after I’ve already moved onto another project that I’m excited about. I just pop the story in the mail and send it off to someone new. Eventually, it will sell if I’m patient enough.

There’s always another chance to sell a story. And I only have to do the work once.

This is why I say rejections don’t matter in fiction. Of course, I’d rather sell the story but the important thing, the thing I learned from theater is to put all my effort into performing the audition — which in writing is the story — and not worry about the results of the casting.  The performance of the audition is in my control. The casting isn’t.

The writing is in my control. The editor’s choice, isn’t.

You see why rejections for fiction make me laugh?

Just don’t wish me luck for an audition. It will make me think about landing the part. It will make me hope. I can’t afford that.

Did you know you can support Mary Robinette on Patreon!

21 Responses

  1. Sarah Monette

    Those are AMAZING horse puppets. Strange and beautiful and simultaneously alien and very horselike. Wow.

    I couldn’t quite tell from the trailer: are they rod puppets or something else?

      1. Sarah Monette

        So is there someone inside the armature then, as well as the puppeteers alongside? (I just watched the trailer again and I still can’t tell.)

  2. Michael Curry

    That looks like an awesome opportunity! I hope handling the puppets is an exceedingly cool experience.

    So….will this be a packed schedule lightning strike on NYC?

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      It should be a blast.

      No, I’m actually there until the 25th but am not quite sure what my schedule is. I was going to drop you and Jenn a line when I had a better idea. I know the date range for the first round of auditions but not when my slot is yet.

  3. ebear

    I’ve been seeing discussion of this show around and it looks so amazingly beautiful and cool.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      When you consider that there are three people working in concert it begins to get even more amazing. It is truly beautiful work and everyone who has seen the show talks about how heartbreaking it is.

  4. Julia

    The fact that you made it so far in getting into one of my most favourite Broadway shows ever just makes me insanely happy. Actually, I’m glad you didn’t get in, because then you would just be too cool and I would be embarrassingly worshipful.

    That show looks awesome! What a cool use of puppetry. I think watching real horses will definitely help. 🙂

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Truly, if I’d landed Avenue Q I probably wouldn’t be a writer now. Weird how things work out, eh? This is probably more satisfying in the long run, but the other still twinges.

  5. Kelvin Kao

    Oh, I’ve definitely been to auditions with the “cool, I get to play with the puppet” attitude. It’s like going to E3 standing in line to try the new Wii for just a few minutes.

    Channel your inner My Little Pony, Mary.

      1. Julia

        Did someone say sparkles? The Disney princess can deliver! *summons a Fairy Godmother to pixiedust you thoroughly*

  6. Samantha

    Those movements are astonishing. The big ones are impressive enough, but what gets me are the small neck/head movements, which are spot-on. I can’t even define why.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      In one of the videos they talk about not anthropomorphizing the horses. That they have to consciously not listen to words or stage directions but instead react to tone and body language. I think that’s some of it.