To be clear, the first meeting went great.
The 30-minute drive to her office was a blur of heart palpitations and anxious thoughts. I could barely believe the situation I found myself in. This actress who I was going to meet wanted me, of all people, to write her autobiography: her story, but my name on the cover. She wasn’t super well known, not outside of New York at least, but she was still someone. Someone who saw the potential in a college freshman’s small portfolio of writing and decided to take a chance. She was my way into the writing world. I wouldn’t let this opportunity fall to the wayside.
We met at her small office and nothing went amiss. It was a petite office with blue walls and minimal decorations except for a large analog clock directly behind her head.
This woman meant business. She’d already tried to get her story written multiple times. An exhausted sigh foundering out when she said She wanted this story out fast, her tell-all displayed in the front of local Barnes and Nobles within a year. I assured her it could be done. After all, this was my big break; I was devoting my entire summer, maybe even the rest of the year to seeing this project through. It would be the only project I worked on, the only thing I thought of in every waking moment - I would become her and tell her story for the next 365 days.
I took dubious notes and showed her my outline for her novel. A chapter here about your upbringing. A small detour for a verbatim interview with your parents. In the next installment, your big break and your rise to fame. Finally, we end on an anecdote about a recent event and leave the readers enraptured by the glamour of it all. She nodded vigorously and shook my hand. I trust you on this, she said. We were in this together. I gazed at the clock behind her, the seconds bleeding into the hour hand as it chimed noon.
I left with joy overflowing. Shaking, I got into my car and blasted happy songs with the windows down on the way home, reveling in triumph. Finally, the moment I had been waiting for, which would jumpstart my writing career, was here. I could practically see the cover of her book with my name ordaining the cover – in small letters, albeit, but it was there. All I needed was this opportunity to prove to myself and to the world that my writing had worth and I was capable. I went home that evening ready to, perhaps for the first time, commit to writing a novel. I kept my promise to the actress: the only thing on my mind was this book.
Everything changed come Monday morning. That’s when I got the text. It read:
“After thinking the book over I’ve decided I’m going to wait. I need to slow down and decide what I want. If I need a ghostwriter again in the future, I will contact you. Thanks!”
It was a moment of utter shock. With 35 words, my dream shattered. Outlines were drawn, chapters were plotted, interviews were formulating, ideas were blossoming - but all of that was put on hold with a single text. I sat at my kitchen table, paralyzed, for an hour. Everything I had done to get to this point was a waste. I was upset, yes, but also terrified of the future. I felt as though I would have to wait years for another opportunity to come my way.
And yet, summer still came and went. I got a summer job at a tiny restaurant in town. I wrote other small stories and dreamt of a writing internship for the following year. The actress went to shows across the state and held her events - and I didn’t hear from her again.
Throughout the entire summer, I reflected on this journey. I let the idea run wild and free in my mind – the utopia of what could be. My imagination blurred the reality that this project was still in its beginning stages when it ended. This is so incredibly common in the writing and freelance industry, to start a project and never finish it with the client. I was naïve. I never thought it would happen to me.
The truth of the matter is, I don’t know why she didn’t want to have her book written anymore. It could have been that she didn’t want to work with me as a young writer with no ghostwriting experience. Perhaps it was too much money to spend during this time in her career. Or, maybe she realized a book wasn’t what she wanted to spend her energy on. I try not to take it too personally, but it is entirely possible that I am the reason this didn’t work out.
While I didn’t realize how blunt the writing industry truly was, I realized something equally valuable from this rejection. Even if I am the reason she didn’t want the book written, I cannot let that define my writing. I’m young, and my writing reflects that, but I will only grow with patience, practice and the cruelest of all, time. My skill does not need to be quantified by her. At least not right now. Any opportunity that is suddenly taken away stings, but there is still so much time. Passion does not grow overnight, nor does it die away with one disappointment. It may have been a setback, but it will not stop me from finding ways to improve or take a chance on an opportunity.
Rejection stings, especially one of this magnitude. I was prepared to put my entire life on hold for this project. But some things, especially in this industry, don’t work out. And that’s alright with me. I just need to keep writing and hold tight to my passion.