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Don't Let Rejection Stall Your Career

Nov 27, 2007
Rejection hurts. Many artists think about rejection so much that they are afraid to even put create. This is a crime - a theft of art before it is even born. How do we deal with the suffering that comes with hearing no, no, no, time and again? Over the years I have had my share of rejection and coached artists through this painful part of the artist's journey. Use this anti-rejection checklist to ensure that rejections are few and far between, and when they strike, that you have a plan to move on.

1. Separate the creating and the promoting process. I suggest creating first, and thinking about selling later, when your art is complete. Do whatever you can to produce the best art you are capable of.

2. When submitting your work, set aside the quirky artist you and assume the professional stance. Submit your impeccable slides or queries - absolutely free of errors, typos and smudges. Show up in a professional way and expect to be treated professionally.

3. Do your research. Seek a true match for your art. Be clear about the submission process for each gallery or contest that you submit to. Make sure to follow the guidelines. Again, this is not the place to express your abundant creativity, unless it's in the vein of how you can get in front of your target audience.

4. Set up a system to track your submissions. Know where you have submitted your work so that when you get a rejection, you are ready to resubmit to another likely candidate. Make it easy to keep submitting - you don't want to be so overwhelmed emotionally that you can't keep going.

5. Speaking of emotions, its inevitable that you will be awash in a whirlpool of emotions. The work of making and selling art is a deep and powerful expression of the human existence. No wonder we get emotional! Anger, resentment, frustration, and sadness may all threaten to overtake your resolve to make and show art. This is normal, yet you don't want to dwell in the storm. Experience the emotions and then move on. Give yourself a suitable period of time for you - an hour, an afternoon, a full day, and then keep going.

6. Be very clear about what is being rejected - this particular query or this particular piece of writing. You are not being rejected. Your entire creative life and artwork are not being rejected. We can get depressed beyond repair if we globalize the rejection and take it to mean that we are no good or our art is no good.

7. Know that rejection is as much a part of creating as is the thrill of inspiration. Rejection is built into the game. Get used to it and be willing to take it in stride.

If you are getting rejections, take it as an excellent sign. It means that you are moving your art from the privacy of your home and into the world. It means that you are trying, and that you are taking your work to the next level. It means you are taking yourself seriously enough to risk a no. You should feel good about this and acknowledge your efforts to bring your work to a wider audience.

Okay, so you have done everything on the anti-rejection checklist (and more!) to ensure the best possible result. And you've been rejected nonetheless. Now follow the post-rejection checklist to deal with it and keep moving.

You can only do so much to avoid rejection. How you deal with it will determine how successful you will be. Here are ten rejection rituals to overcome the sting of 'No.'

1. Write an encouraging letter to yourself. Remind yourself why you do art and why it is worth some suffering.

2. Write another letter that expresses your emotions to the rejector (then throw it away). Make this fun and really go for it, because you are not going to send it.

3. Revisit a former success such as a contest won or a prior showing. Gloat over your previous victories and know that they are just the beginning of your success.

4. Spend some time free writing on your experience with rejection. Start with the prompt, 'When I was rejected....'

5. Throw a tantrum. Grab a big pillow and pummel it with all the force of your disappointment and anger. Rant and rave about the unfairness of it all.

6. Exercise. Go for a walk or a run or a bike ride, or whatever you do to get into your body. Offer up your sweat to the rejection.

7. Some people save their rejection letters. You may want to add it to a file or...

8. Burn the rejection letter, and with it, all the disappointment.

9. Call a supportive friend and tell them about the rejection. You may ask them to recount your strengths as an artist and a person. Make sure this friend is able to offer unconditional reassurance as part of your rejection ritual.

10. Do any of the above rituals and then get back to whatever you were creating. You must keep going!
About the Author
Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse helps writers and visionaries make their brilliant ideas a reality. Author of Create Your Writer's Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease, and Go For It! Leading Tours for Fun and Profit, Cynthia coaches from Boulder.
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