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How to Deal with Rejection as an Artist

Hello and welcome back to Creative Zero. Today we’re talking about rejection and how not to let it stifle your art. All of us become afraid of rejection at some point in life. Asking out someone on a date, your first sale, preforming on stage, it happens. Even I deal with it from time to time. Which begs the question: How do you get over the hump?

Speaking from experience, you don’t entirely get over it. Sorry, but that's the truth. I believe the mark of a good artist is to have that little bit of doubt and anxiety, otherwise how would you know if your stuff is any bad? What makes an artist bad isn’t the work they put out—that can be improved over time, but the attitude at which they approach their craft. If someone became a painter to stroke their own ego, or because they thought it was easy, then they are going to have a much more difficult time than a painter who, A: genuinely enjoys it, and, B: always approaches their craft as a student rather than a master.

And this goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway—no one is perfect. The Beatles, Richard Pryor, Hemingway, all of the greats have had their work derided and trashed by the public. One of Bob Dylan’s most iconic moments—when he played “Like a Rolling Stone” on the electric guitar—ended with the audience booing him off the stage. Be at peace with the fact that you’re never going to please all the people all of the time.

To go back to ego and the anxiety of rejection, let’s talk about when you do get rejected. How should one react in the face of failure, especially when you put blood, sweat, and tears into your product? For me the answer is to take the constructive criticism as a free lesson. Which leads to the next question, how do you know which criticism is good constructive criticism?

In my eyes, the best feedback is feedback that will clarify what you want to convey in your craft. If someone tells you that your movie script would better if it had aliens in it when it’s clearly a western movie, that’s not good advice. That’s someone projecting their own wants and needs on you. That’s not making the story better, it’s only making it different. However, sometimes critiques are more nuanced in terms of quality. With those, only you can differentiate the spectrum of mediocre to excellent advice. And learning how to do that comes with practice and time. In a way listening (and giving) feedback is an art unto itself.

Another great thing about failure is that the more you fail, the more you get used to it. I forget the exact quote as well as the writer who spoke said quote, but I’ll paraphrase:

“Stepping on one needle is more painful than laying on top of 10,000.”

So take rejection as a challenge to overcome. Love the challenge. Because if you don’t, it can paralyze you. It may be a lifelong process, but anyone can do it if their willing to dip their toe in the sea of uncertainty. I promise you it’s the only way to get better.

What do you think? What else would you like to talk about? Feel free to leave a comment below.


Note: I realize that I've been a tad late on my blog posts. Life stuff. However, I'm planning to resume the regular schedule of one post every Saturday.

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