Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to Handle Rejection

Bottom of the 9th, down by 3, 2 outs, bases loaded, 2 strikes . . . you can still make a one-hit winning comeback.

Monkey here:

If you've ever experienced rejection for your art, you know how much it can suck. As an artist, you put so much of yourself into your work that, especially in a subjective field, rejection can really sting. Whether it's not getting called back after an audition, or getting a negative portfolio review, or being rejected from an illustration annual, rejection is never fun.

So how do you bounce back? How do you get over the fact that the person judging your art deems it wasn't right for whatever opportunity you're looking for? Well for starters, realize that rejection is just an opportunity to try again. But I realize that's easier said than done, and I hate to answer a question with another question, but most of the good answers in life are like this, so I'm doing it anyway. To figure out how to move on, you have to ask yourself "Why do I want this in the first place?"

Why do you want that gallery show? Why do you want that part? Is the answer recognition? Fame? Money? Or something more intangible? If you really just wanted recognition, you could always go back to school and try really hard in your classes and study and get A's and then show off your 4.0 GPA - it's a tangible, objective achievement that people can be proud of. If it's fame, you can always be a serial killer - no one really forgets them. If it's money, there's always thievery or prostitution, or simply some 9-5 job that you can take.

Yes, I know these are all extreme examples of ways to get recognition or fame or money, but really I bet your answer is a bit more nuanced than any of these. I bet that you're actually looking for recognition as an artist and to be able to live off your art. After all, that's the dream, right? To be able to do what you love and get paid for it.

So then, if you're chasing the dream to do what you love and get paid for it, isn't it painful when you face setbacks and rejection? Oh most definitely. So how do you get over it?

The answer to that should be really obvious at this point.

What are you going to do, are you going to stop doing what you love? So life has pushed you around a bit. You haven't heard from the galleries you sent your portfolio to. Your photos aren't selling. You lost money on the last few craft shows. What are you going to do, just stop?

Really, life can be painful sometimes. But is it going to be more painful doing what you love and not getting outside approval of your work, or is it going to be more painful not doing what you love and losing part of your soul? Honestly, if you're willing to just give up on your dream, then you have to ask yourself is that all your dream ever amounted to? Was it really your true passion to begin with?

I used to always think that my dream was to get into a huge gallery and sell my paintings for thousands of dollars. That's still my goal, but I've realized that if that never happens, it won't be the end of the world because I realize that in a way, I'm currently living the dream. I get to paint - and the act of creating art is what is really enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, I love getting into gallery shows and selling art and figuring out how to make money off my art, but when I don't hear back from a gallery I've sent my portfolio to, I keep asking myself "what are you going to do, quit? Am I going to stop doing what I love just because a gallery doesn't drop everything to curate me into the next available show?"

You never know why you didn't get into a show, or an annual, or get that lead role, or whatever. Things like that aren't a reflection of your worth as an artist. Maybe your price point was too low, or too high. Maybe the gatekeeper (forget about them and rush the gates already!) already had someone else in mind. Maybe you're a really fucking amazing artist, but they just liked someone else's submission a little bit better. Maybe your style just wasn't their thing, or they only like paintings with ducks and flowers (or alternatively, demons and skulls). Who knows?

The point is that you can't give up. Don't let the thing that you love to do slip away. No matter how many years it takes, or to what level of commercial success you'll ever make it to, you can't stop doing what you love. Don't let external forces tell you how to live your life. In the end, all those people don't matter -you're the final arbiter of how successful your life is.

I honestly hope that art comes easy for you and that people compliment your work as soon as they see it, and all your magical dreams of being a world-renowned artist comes true (or whatever your dreams are). Do what you love, and if you chase that dream wholeheartedly, the other stuff (commercial success, external acclaim, etc. etc.) will come along (if you so desire). Now get out there and do your thing. After all, are you just going to quit, or are you going to keep on keeping on?