Monday, 1 November 2010

Is Rejection Always a Bad Thing?

“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” Sylvester Stallone.

How do you respond to rejection of your work? Does it send you into a Slough of Despond that inhibits your creativity? Or do you take it as a wake-up call as Sylvester Stallone does?

Last year I read a lot of articles full of excellent advice about designing greeting cards but the one piece of advice that stuck in my memory was that to be successful in this field required two things: the first, that you are prolific and the second, that you have to be able to deal with rejection.

The first is absolutely no problem for me – in some ways, it might even solve my printing problems if I only had  a few designs to offer. But the ‘dealing with rejection’ bit is a great deal harder! I’ve found that it did get easier to handle once I had some ‘acceptances’ in the form of sales under my belt and that has led me to become somewhat more philosophical about the rejections, because, for me, it has been a very useful eye-opener to see how varied people’s tastes are. So nowadays, if someone doesn’t like my work, I can usually shrug it off by reminding myself that what is of no interest to one person, many others may think is the bees knees!

But it is obviously a huge factor in the life of an artist or anyone who has the courage to raise their head above the parapet and offer their creative work to the world at large - I would even include those of us who blog! So much so that I seem to frequently come across articles and blogposts on the subject.

I think the main reason that rejection of one’s creative work hurts so much is summed up very well in this quote from Henry Ward Beecher -

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his picture."

So it seems that it can be, not just one’s technical abilities that are found wanting, but one’s very nature! No wonder rejection can be so painful!

My ‘philosophical’ attitude works well when offering my designs to the general public but might be less successful if I were trying to find acceptance from publishers – and failing! But what I have learned through reading articles on the subject of rejection is that there are numerous, sometimes quite complicated, industry-specific, reasons why a publisher may reject one’s work and that these reasons may have nothing at all to do with the quality of one’s offerings!

I have found it fascinating to learn of these reasons and as they may not generally be known to the artists, writers or other creative people who are on the receiving end of rejection, I have picked out three articles on the subject of 'rejection' that I thought were particularly helpful. Here are the links to them:

The Illusion of Rejection and How to Deal with it, from Maria Brophy’s website.
I just love the photo at the top of the article!

Rejection – get over it, from Joanne Mattera’s Art Blog
Some lovely stories in the comments!

Rejection – a few antidotes from illustrator, Diana Ting Delosh’s blog

I have a little ‘story’ that might come under the heading of ‘rejection’ It’s more of a ‘criticism’ story really but rejection almost always implies criticism and vice versa. 

When I had my very first solo exhibition of my pastel paintings, someone wrote in the visitors’ book, ‘Rather heavy-handed – should try oil pastels’. Fortunately it had been a very successful exhibition so I was able to laugh about what I think was a ‘rather heavy-handed’ comment!

Do you have any ‘rejection’ stories or tips for handling rejection?


Mary Anne Cary said...

Great insight and inspiration, too! If I was to think too much about what I paint, and the results and LACK of response, I would give up! So much is in the eye of the beholder. The other thing is, there are more and more artists posting and showing up everyday, so if one's sole purpose is to get noticed, they may be in for a disappointment! A lot is about attitude, outlook and expectations. The expectations are the hard ones to try to ignore!!!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Mary Anne - thank you for your comments! I absolutely agree that the sheer amount of wonderful art on the internet can sometimes seem quite daunting if we think about it too much! But at the same time it can be inspiring - your lovely work, for instance, always makes me want to get my pastels out, or even try oils - if only I had the time!

Country Mouse Studio said...

wonderful article, I just recently went through the same thing at a job interview right from the moment I met the guy I knew he had already chosen someone else and was just putting in the time. It was my first 5 min interview.

Ulla Hennig said...

Your article made me think of another kind of "rejection" - I have a Zazzle shop where I am trying to sell photos and drawings/paintings on different kinds of items. The sales are very low, and sometimes I am feeling kind of rejected also. But your article made it clear to me that 1. I am not alone, 2. it is no personal thing, 3. the only way is to keep on producing and offering new products. Actually this morning I got an e-mail telling me that one of my cards with a photo on it has been sold! Which brings back a lot of energy and motivation.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Carole - that sort of thing can be so frustrating! I think the only positive way of looking at it is that it gave you practice in being interviewed - for what that's worth! I hate interviews!

Hi Ulla - I hadn't really thought about 'lack of sales' as rejection but of course it is, even though nobody is actually saying 'no, thank you'. But of course there are any number of other factors involved - it may be simply that your work isn't getting seen by enough people! Once again it comes back to the point that there can be all sorts of reasons that are nothing to do with your work! And many congrats on your sale. May it be one of many to come!

Jean said...

The "fear" of being rejected has held me back in many ways.
Thanks for the great subject and the links. I really like Maria's take on rejection...that it is just an illusion.

Michele said...

Fascinating blog post. 10 years I dealt with rejection by hours of soul searching and depression. Now it fills me with fury and a determination to prove 'them' wrong. Its just a matter of statistics. For any opportunity there will be dozens if not hundreds of others trying to fill the gap. It is statistically probable therefore that you will be rejected. It is not a personal thing, just keep going and (statistically) you will have success in the end.

My top tip is to make a file. Rejection letters. Then when you get one its just a filing job. When I am rich and famous I will look through the file and think... ha ha ha fools... (!!)

Judy Adamson said...

Glad you managed to turn it around, Michele!

A friend who had several non-fiction books published confided in me that she had a whole file full of 'rejection' letters before someone finally took her work on. I think it's so often a question of being in the right place at the right time and we can't always know where and when that 'right place and right time' are!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Jean - I do hope that some of the links - and also the comments - will help you to see 'rejection' for what it really is!

Betsy Grant said...

I have heard this before from other artists, and find it to be true that what sells isn't always quality. Emotional detachment is necessary after the work is completed, then just create some more!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Betsy - thank you for stopping by. It's not easy but 'emotional detachment'seems to be a good thing to aim for in 'rejection' situations. Knowing that there may be all sorts of reasons involved, other than the quality of our work, certainly makes it easier. I've just experienced an example of 'timing' being the deciding factor as some designs I submitted a year ago that were rejected outright, have just been accepted.

Di said...

HI Judy, Good article And congratz on your recently accepted designs! Yes there all types of rejections and many different shades and reasons for it. Just everyone persevere.
Big Thanks for the link to my blog post.

Judy Adamson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Di - I know you're very busy at the moment. Best of luck with your review!

I loved the suggestions in your post, especially the one about 'wallowing'!