I kept all of the rejection letters. All of them. They made me angry; I was hurt and sad. That anger stayed with me for a long time. I just couldn’t understand why. Why didn’t they want to hire me? Why didn’t I even get called for an interview? My resume was beautiful and my cover letter was perfect. If they would just call some of my past employers, they would know I was a hard worker, never late, and very dependable. The truth is: I hardly ever got called for an interview. And any interview I did get, I could tell they already had someone in mind. I was a number; a required number for the interview list. Why me? What did I do wrong? I scream and scream. ARGGGGGGGGHHHH!!!
Rejection still hurts. I create art as a hobby. My goal is to eventually become a full time artist and that takes time. Everyone knows that you have to get noticed; get your name out there. So, I constantly apply to exhibit my work locally and throughout the state. I have had some solo shows and several several SEVERAL rejections.
Rejection stinks. When I get the fancy letter about “we had so many talented artists submit a proposal and we could only accept so many”…blah blah blah. “Please apply again or get on our mailing list”..blah blah blah or “Thank you again for inspiring us with your artwork” blah blah blah…
All I heard was REJECTION. That word is right up there with loser, fail and not good enough. I have to be honest, I cringe. I hold my breath; I get red in the face, and shake a fist. Why me? Or better yet, why not me? I didn’t even make it to the top 25% percent? Are you blind???? Pathetic… come on!!! I APPLIED 5 TIMES! What do you want from me????
Back to reality-
Rejection is normal. We just don’t hear about it or even see it. How many artist websites list all the places they have been rejected? It’s misleading. The rejection list would probably shock you and may even make you feel better yourself. You simply are not going to find a rejection list, no one wants to embrace their loss.
DO NOT get in the habit of checking to see who won. It will make you crazy and you will start re-thinking your own art or develop negative opinions about art in general (the “a 2 year old could have done that…” thinking). An artist should never bend their style to please others. If you surrender to that, it no longer becomes art. All of this negativity becomes a straw and literally sucks all of the pleasure creating art gives to your soul.
INSTEAD- do your research. Apply to places that are a good fit or close to a good fit. Spend some time on your proposal and know your audience. I learned this very quickly. One of my first heartbreaking rejections was an art gallery near my work. The location was perfect and I knew that it would get a lot of traffic. I emailed the art director and even scheduled a time to meet. The location was even better than I imagined. Hundreds of faculty, staff, and students walked past this building every day. I was so excited, it was my opportunity to get my name out there. I WILL BE FAMOUS!!! The meeting went so well and I just knew this was MY open door. I submitted the proposal and it was rejected. It didn’t meet the social justice/environmental goals. I was devastated. I was angry. I quit making art. I didn’t take the time to see WHO I was submitting the proposal to. I set myself up for rejection.
DO NOT focus on the rejection; INSTEAD come to terms that it is a part of life. It simply doesn’t sound feasible to think you are always going to get what you want. Look at this as if it were a job. How can this exhibit benefit you? What are your goals? This is the nuts and bolts of success. Is your goal for people to see your work, to feel something and gain insight into something new? Is the sole purpose to sell? Rejection has forced me to look at other venues to exhibit my work: Coffee shops, law offices, retirement communities, home shows, magazines, social media. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Do NOT rely on getting accepted for juried shows for your open door. If you continue to apply in addition to seeking other venues to display your work, then any acceptance will come as wonderful extraordinary news worthy of being added to your website.
DO NOT take it personal (easier said than done, right??). This piece of advice is constant struggle for me to grasp. Ever since I can remember, I have a habit of holding in hurt and I take it personally. At one time I kept all of the rejection letters I received through the mail when I desperately needed income. I went back to them every time I was feeling down; it was a physical reminder that I failed. You could imagine the relief I felt when I put them in the bonfire. Looking back now, I realize, it was for the best. I proved to myself I never gave up and it opened my eyes to a bigger world. INSTEAD,make rejection a learning experience not only for your career but a learning experience about yourself.
Bottom line is this: a loss is a loss. A rejection is a rejection. It is what it is. We must look at this through a positive lens; Every time I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better. It is true. Rejection is the fuel that some of us need to be successful. We simply cannot let a harsh part of reality get in the way of something that makes our heart and soul happy. It forces us to be stronger and in some ways, it makes our art even better.