Every artist experiences rejection. Even artists who hit Big Time. Even artists like you. Even artists like me.
That’s why I understand when artists say they’re suffering. Rejection never feels good.
It happened to me recently.
A project that felt rightly mine was rejected. The disappointment hit hard. It felt as if I myself was rejected. Surely you’ve felt this too?
I decided to follow my own advice. We can’t control how others see our art. We can only control our energy. My energy took a dive, and I was feeling sorry for myself when I chose to change things around.
There was a Qi Gong class in the little village where I live. Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese practice that works with energy. Surely that would change mine?
I hiked to the village to give it a try. The truth is, I cried the whole way.
When I got to the class, I found the door locked. Damn. Another disappointment.
I said a little prayer to The Universe as I bit back tears, “Please help me change my energy and move past this.”
I looked up and … uh oh…. It was her. She was the last person I wanted to see. She’d wanted to go to the class too.
I told her that I hadn’t seen any emails about its cancellation. “Computers,” she groaned, “I don’t have one.”
This woman is talented, strong and independent. In many ways, she’s who I want to be when I grow up. Except one thing: She’s a crabby old lady.
The last thing I needed then was a crabby old lady.
She invited me to the cafe. “No,” I demurred. “I was just rejected for a project and I’m feeling blue.” My lip quivered. Anyone could see I was struggling.
She made me go to the cafe anyway.
There, I told her about my rejection and she laughed dismissively, “Don’t you have a real job?”
I told her that I help artists on the Internet.
“Is this that Google thing people have?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“I thought you wrote. You call yourself a writer. You don’t look like one though.”
I sighed. She’s always like this. I don’t know why?
“I’m finishing a book,” I explained. “It’s called From Feather to Wings: the 10 Steps to Working as a Soulful Artist.”
“Soulful? That’s stupid.”
I told her that I wasn’t sure about that word myself. Maybe I’ll leave it out?
“Soulful. What a dumb idea. Show me a soul. You can’t!” she challenged.
I really wasn’t in the mood.
Then she lectured me about her thoughts on the soul, on art and artists, on the self-help industry, and then that stupid Google thing that I work on.
“You say you help artists. What gives you the right?” she challenged, as she pounded on the table with her fist.
Sometimes she’s hard to love. This was one of those times.
I could cry or I could get angry.
I got angry.
I was mortified to find myself shouting out lines from my resume. But I couldn’t stop myself as I rattled off accomplishments that frankly, I’d long forgotten.
“I’ve collaborated on artwork that lives in the Museums of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, in the Art Institute in Chicago, the Walker Museum in Minneapolis! I’ve written catalogues for the Metropolitan Museum, for the Photography Museum in Paris! I had a column in the Guardian newspaper in London! And I produced a documentary film about art that was short-listed for an Academy Award!”
She grunted in reply. I couldn’t stop myself now.
“And thanks to this Google thing, I’ve shared everything I know with thousands of artists in over 80 countries. THAT gives me the right!”
“It means nothing to me,” she laughed dismissively.
That’s when I cried. I also regretted having ordered a Perrier instead of something stronger.
I was able to turn the conversation to her work. She’s a poet (can you believe it?). But talking about her work did the trick. She became a bit nicer.
As I walked home, I realized that in spite of coming completely unhinged in front of a crabby old lady, I was feeling better.
“Why,” I asked myself, “was I so desperate to convince her of my worth?”
It’s because I wasn’t owning it myself. I was letting rejection define me, not the truth.
“That’s why we keep crabby old ladies in our life,” I surmised.
So now I offer this advice it to you, <<First Name>>. Are you feeling beat up? Does it sometimes feel like you’ll never get real traction? Does disappointment hijack your energy?
I have 2 suggestions:
- a.Pull out your resume. Even if you don’t have one, list out loud what you have accomplished. I’m sure there are lots of achievements you’re proud of. Big or small, say them out loud and own them. It really does change your energy.
- b.Or… find a crabby old lady to push you over the edge. It works for me. 😉
Remember, you have value and so does your art. Rejection is part of the artist’s job. You will get there, look how far you’ve come. It’s going to be okay… I’ve got your back.
P.S. And if you need help, here are 3 ways we can work together:
1. Learn more about living and working as an artist:
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