Welcome to the Real World

How a scene from 'Game of Thrones' changed a young writer's life

It was 1 am, and I had just experienced my first professional rejection. I was in the middle of watching Best Scenes from Game of Thrones when I got the notification on my phone. I paused the video in haste and opened the email. As I read the lines of a literary agent’s secretary ‘unfortunately, she is unable to offer you representation at this time,’ I felt my stomach sink and my chest tighten. I felt dejected and disappointed; disheartened. I thought, how am I going to sleep after this?

I felt nauseous, but I did not cry. I refused to give in my power so easily. It was the first query I'd sent and the first rejection. I knew there would be many more in the future. So why did I feel so cheated? Why did I feel like I was not good enough? Why did I feel talentless and powerless?

I decided to continue watching the youtube video to distract me from the sick feeling in my stomach. Coincidentally, I was on the scene where Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth were sitting around a fire in silence. Jaime had just gotten his sword-fighting hand cut off, and Brienne had just almost been raped.

This was their conversation:

Brienne: Eat. What are you doing?

Jamie: Dying.

Brienne: You can’t die. You need to live. To take revenge.

Jamie: I don’t care about revenge.

Brienne: You coward…one misfortune and you’re giving up?

Jamie: Misfortune. Misfortune?

Brienne: You lost your hand.

Jamie: My sword hand. I was that hand!

Brienne: You have a taste, one taste of the real world, where people have important things taken from them. You whine, and cry, and quit. You sound like a bloody woman.


And Jaime just stares at her as if she had grown a second head. But, however begrudgingly, he picks up the bread. He starts to eat.

They sit in silence, unblinking.

Watching it, suddenly everything became so simple. I realized how good I had it. Brienne was right—people go through rejection and pain every day, and I had just gotten a little taste of the so-called "real world." And I was just going to give up? Let it push me down? Was that the kind of person I am, who falls at the slightest push and doesn’t get back up? I felt I was doing a disservice to Jaime, who had just lost his hand and been tortured, and Brienne, who had gone through things unimaginable. I felt I was doing a disservice to the many people in the world who were going through much worse and still found the strength to stand up, and live on, and find happiness. But that was how it was in the world. People died and suffered, and experienced rejection, and much worse, every day. And here I was, letting a simple rejection dictate how I was going to feel?

I realized that I was making everything more complicated in my head. One rejection from one person did not matter. It did not make me a bad writer. It did not make my story unworthy. It did not make me talentless and a failure. If you go right down into it, it wasn’t even a rejection. It was a necessary step in life. Another perspective. I did not need to take it as if it were a bad thing.

Instead, I decided to learn from it. I decided what kind of person I wanted to be. At that moment, the complexity and bitterness disappeared. My problems seemed inconsequential in the scheme of things. Physiologically, my stomach had stopped squeezing. My chest stopped aching. I felt free; liberated. Unattached. A little wiser than a minute ago.

How a simple, short, straightforward scene from Game of Thrones, of all things, had managed to put things into perspective; humble me, and teach me a most valuable lesson, was crazy. Out of all the shows, out of all the scenes, out of all the characters: It was a short, gritty, traditionally “forgettable” scene with Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth that was the most powerful and impactful, that knocked me out of my wallowing. When I looked at it, it was almost ironic.

It could have been any other myriad of iconic, badass scenes that Game of Thrones specializes in. But it was this short, seemingly inconsequential scene between the Kingslayer and a secondary character; during being tortured and imprisoned and belittled. That small slice of hope, of strength, of righteousness—that refusal to be defeated in that small moment, to eat the damn bread and get fucking over yourself—was what had been the most powerful out of all of them.

I think it was because of how personal and grounded the scene was. They were covered in dirt; Jaime’s hand was fucking gone, there was absolutely nothing liberating or extravagant or badass about the scene at all. They were imprisoned and bound. They looked like shit. Jaime had literally just drunk horse piss out of dehydration. Everything had gone to absolute shit and there was nothing they could do about it.

But Jaime snapped out of it, thanks to Brienne. He pulled himself together. He held onto the last shred of his dignity. He picked up the damn bread. He accepted his circumstances and didn’t let it destroy him any more. It was such a short scene, yet it changed my entire perspective and made me into a wiser person, and I can’t thank them enough.

I wanted to share this story because I know there a lot of young authors and artists who get discouraged (as is normal) when getting a rejection. Nothing hurts more than getting told, directly or indirectly, that your work is just not good enough for them. I am a sheltered kid—I had seldom experienced rejection in my life at all. This experience should have ruined my night. It should have discouraged me from writing altogether, but it didn’t, because I didn’t let it.

Just because your work is not the right cup of tea for one person, does not make you untalented. It does not make you a bad writer or a failure. J.K Rowling experienced 12 rejections for Harry Potter. Walt Disney got rejected 302 times before finally getting financing for his dream of creating Walt Disney World. Look at them now. They built the legacies they did today because they didn’t let those rejections destroy them. They didn’t give their power away, like I was about to do. They persisted and persevered until they found someone who shared their vision and values.

My advice to young writers is: Don’t let a rejection push you down. You can only be pushed down if you allow it. Don’t let a rejection stop you from doing what you love. Remember that rejection is an essential and necessary step in success. Don’t take it as a bad thing or failing—take it as a learning experience, a chance to grow, give you another perspective. It can help you decide what person you want to be: Someone who gives up, or someone who stands up and brushes yourself off and keeps going. It can help you grow thick skin. It can make you wiser. Be grateful for those rejections—for they have helped shape people into who they are today into better versions of themselves. Keep your dreams and success in mind—but don’t be attached to the outcome. Do not let “failure” dictate your future. And your future is bright. It is.

I couldn’t be more grateful that I’d got that email right before I watched that scene. I was misbehaving at the time: I was supposed to be sleeping, I had said goodnight to my parents, it was 1 am. But I just wanted to watch game of thrones, no matter how late it was. And I’m so glad that I did. I call it Divine Intervention.

As I write this, its the next morning. I’m putting that positive energy out there: The image of my success is in my energy field. But now, I am not attached. I don’t feel anything negative about that rejection email, or the possible future ones. I have accepted that necessary reality—that people experience rejection every day, but they keep going.

It’s almost as if that scene, that night, had cured me. Humbled me.

It gave me a small taste of the real world. And I am stronger, wiser from it. And now, I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for me.

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Grace Curley
See all posts by Grace Curley