You have to take the good with the bad.
Sometimes you do all you can, and things don't turn out ideally. The trick is not to rest on your laurels or get caught up in the shoulda-woulda-coulda syndrome. To borrow a sports analogy (metaphor, simile?), it's why they tell you to take one game at a time, or that it's a long season. There's always another game. Some nights you're going to be off, and there's nothing else to it. Other nights you're playing out of your mind, but it just isn't enough. Shit happens. Pick yourself up and keep moving.
I got a call tonight about a project I put some work in on. I wrote a treatment, helped get a project sold (or optioned, I'm not privy to the contracts), and that means at this point I'm out. Wasn't my concept to begin with, and the people who have the money want to use their guys/name guys. I'm neither one, so at this point I exit stage right. I'll get paid for my contribution, and there may be some ancillary work coming as a result, but for all intents and purposes my services are no longer needed.
Some people in my position would get pissed off. They'd bitch and moan about how it's unfair, they deserve more, they're better than the guys who are going to get brought in, etc. That's not how I roll. I know how these things work. This is the second time I've written a treatment on spec that got taken to a studio and optioned and then I was excused. This happens all the time, especially when money is involved. In both cases I was developing based on someone else's original content, so I was just the flesh-out/development guy. In the first case I got bent over and taken forcibly from behind. In this case I've been treated as well as is possible, given the circumstances. I knew this was a possibility, and I know there are far worse possibilities that could have arisen.
So what's next? That's one thing off my plate. It would have been an awesome project to write, and for all I know I may still be involved in an alternate capacity, but for now I move on. I take the experience, the contacts and the work, put it in my library and go off and create something new. I keep plugging away, trudging along, hoping to get my own projects closer to fruition.
If you want to make it, especially in a creative field, you can't be bitter. There are too many people involved, too many links in the chain of collaborators, and no one is irreplaceable. Don't believe me? There are two Terminator films that James Cameron didn't direct. Six different actors have played James Bond. There have been four different men playing Batman on the big screen, and only six movies. Hell, IMDB has a Raging Bull 2 in its listings, and neither Marty nor Bobby are involved (and yes, we are all on a first name basis). Everyone can be replaced.
Point being, check your ego at the door. There's always somebody better, faster, nicer, more connected or hungrier. And they're waiting for you to falter. When you burn a bridge or slam a door on opportunity, someone else takes your place. Make the most of every opportunity given, show respect all around, and in turn you'll be rewarded.
I got the shot to do something. I did the best I could (practically overnight), and I helped move the project forward. The people involved will do their best to take care of me, just as I did for them. And I can guarantee the next time someone says, "Hey, do you have anyone who..." my name will be at or near the top of the list.
Be a professional. Hang your head high in good times and bad. Be smart about what you do and who you do it with. Someone is always watching, whether it be an employer or competitor. And when you give them an opening, they're going to seize it. Don't get caught off guard.
Roll with it.