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Greta Gerwig: Actress, Writer, Rejection Handler Extraordinaire

Greta Gerwig’s made herself a household name for her amazing abilities in the entertainment industry over the past couple of years as an actress, writer, director, playwright, and countless other successful roles. But the one role and ability I admire her the most for? Her candidness and resilience to rejection.

I watched Frances Ha my senior year of high school and immediately fell in love with the film, the complexity of Frances (played by Gerwig) as a character, and the exploration of the complexities of being a woman in a modern urban city. Gerwig’s been a household name these last few months for her directorial debut of Lady Bird, which was met with critical acclaim. Lady Bird deserves to be commended for its poignant and realistic portrayal of the more gritty parts of teenage adolescence that most other coming-of-age movies often gloss over, or just simply omit.

I came across an interview that Gerwig did for Fade In back in 2012 where the main focus was the recollection of her roots in the entertainment industry, around this time last year. I expected mainly to read about how Gerwig’s Barnard education, coupled with her exposure to the expansive art and writing culture in New York City, as well as her pure talent all sent her up for success, but the interview was a complete 180 from my expectations.

Gerwig talked candidly about how post-graduation, she was rejected from every playwriting graduate program she applied for, but she didn’t allow for this one setback to deter her future as a successful screenwriter. She mentions how the one thing she is grateful to have been blessed with was a resilient attitude towards messing up, and how she looks at each setback she faces through a lighthearted and humorous lens. She stresses the importance of being able to laugh at yourself in the face of rejection, as that’s an important step towards toughening yourself up.

Reading the interview felt like a fresh breath of air. As someone who has been wishing and working towards turning writing into a career for years, I couldn’t help but applaud Gerwig for her honesty and openness. The one thing that I’ve learned from writing for many years now is that it’s not one linear motion; there are many different twists, turns, and even pitfalls before you are able to achieve success. Even after that, there are still twists and turns, but there will always be success. I can’t begin to count the amount of writing that I’ve had rejected before, but there is also the writing I’ve written that has been successful.

It feels like a breath of fresh air when you realize that even the people you admire the most have experienced setbacks, but they still managed to get back up and keep working towards their dreams. In this day and age, I feel like it’s easy to fall trap to the idea of the seemingly perfect road to success, without acknowledging that rejection indeed helps you grow tougher and allows you the strength and determination to work twice as hard for what you desire.

I will admit that I compare myself more to people’s successes more often than I want to, and I feel the overwhelming need to just give up writing entirely over small rejections, every now and then. But the one thing I’ve learned that’s important in writing is the ability to dust yourself off and get back on your feet again. And Greta, thank you for your candor and openness in how being a successful writer doesn’t make you invincible to failures, and it’s okay to mess up.

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Written by Irine Le

Originally from the Bay Area, Irine is now studying journalism at Seattle University. Her main loves in life include The West Wing, Fiona Apple, and mixed media art.