If you are a creative type and have ever submitted your work to a contest or a juried show or event, you probably have experienced rejection at some point or another. It is part of the game, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. And if you have never experienced rejection as an artist, well, you are probably the exception to the rule…
Needless to say, rejection can be painful, but it shouldn’t crush you enough to make you quit your chosen form of expression. You may fall, but you have to get up and keep playing the game, especially if you want to achieve some recognition. Yes, the creative process should be rewarding enough in and of itself, and it sure is, but if you want to put your art/craft out there for other people to appreciate and enjoy (that is, beyond your family and friends), then you have to learn and accept the game as it is, and play it as best as you can.
As they say, you win some and you lose some. But you shouldn’t lose yourself in the process, nor the joy of doing what you love to do. After all, jurors are human beings, with a particular taste, and color their judgments with their own perception of the world. What if they had a fight with their spouse and see everything with suppressed anger on the day they are looking at your photos, slides, or artwork? I’m just saying… And of course, your particular style may not fit in all the art and/or craft shows out there, but that is probably too obvious to discuss here.
I was told once that my jewelry “wasn’t creative enough.” Ouch. I somehow think that the person talking to me on the phone didn’t quite realize that there was a real person on the other side, not just a ”voice.“ Not that she needed to baby my feelings, but obviously that comment was insensitive and, quite frankly, a bit arrogant. This was not a contest submission, but just an application for a local studio stroll, so I wonder why wouldn’t they simply let the public choose which studio to visit and decide for themselves…
Anyway, I had to ask myself, did I feel that my jewelry was not creative or good enough? And then, of course, creative enough for whom? And more importantly, was I making jewelry (or writing, for that matter) to express myself, or just for others to approve of it? In a lot of ways that rejection made me want to be clearer about my purpose, my style, and my choices when doing what I love to do. After all, at least for me, any creative process should be a means to a higher purpose, that is, to truly express and know myself.
Which brings me to another aspect of all this: the fear of failure. I have read and heard about this for years now: Artists expressing how they feel like impostors, not worthy of recognition, afraid that someone will find out that “they are not really artists.” Not that I can’t relate with the sense of fear that taking a leap of faith and expressing yourself entails, but I am driven toward a different and opposite perspective on this issue.
Fear of failure seems too easy of an explanation for the artistic blocks and struggles we all experience at some point or another, or the desire to quit doing what we love. Maybe I just have the tendency to look beyond the obvious, into the hidden motives of our psychological structure, but isn’t the opposite—fear of success—more likely to motivate any self-defeating attitude, simply because it is an unconscious and therefore more powerful enemy? Fear of success is nothing other than that internal censoring voice that whispers, ”You are not good enough…“ and then may get crystallized in the voice of some art juror or show manager rejecting your work.
So maybe each rejection is a good opportunity for us to take a closer look at this hidden enemy and discover how we are projecting that fear into the world (hey, maybe your parents didn’t approve of you being an artist, or didn’t allow you to express yourself, or simply didn’t support anything you dreamed of doing). It may also be a great opportunity to look at our work and make it stronger, bolder, and more expressive, no matter what our individual medium.
I am not saying that you won’t experience rejection again, no matter how closely you look at the complexities of your psyche, because it is part of the game of life, but letting it bring you down, making you feel that you ”failed,” will simply reinforce the negative experience and the energy it brings with it—more rejection. Instead of letting the world crush you when you experience rejection, and letting the fear of success quietly creep in, feel and acknowledge the anger and sadness that comes with it, and use that powerful energy to drive you to create more. Go in your studio and dive into your work. You will feel a million times better, not to mention a lot stronger, I can guarantee it. And you never know, you might come up with your best work yet!