Using Rejection As A Launch Pad For Success
By Christine Brondyke
There’s nothing more soul crushing than working for weeks, months, or even . . . gulp . . . years, on a project, only to hear a polite, “No, thank you” after submission. Whether it’s a screenplay, song, or audition that you’ve lovingly prepared, all entertainers crave recognition for their work, and when it doesn’t come, it can be devastating.
Of course, most artists learn to develop a thick skin over time . . . or at least find a story they tell themselves that eases the disappointment. (“They wouldn’t know good art if it bit them in the ass!”) But there are times when rejection of your work begins to get in the way of self-confidence or makes you question your purpose for creating art in the first place. When that happens, it’s important to know there are things you can do to ease the pain and endless thoughts of “I’m not good enough.”
Remedy #1 - State the Facts
Facts don’t hurt nearly as much as a excuse, so stick with the facts when you get a rejection. Facts are unarguable pieces of information that simply describe a situation. They are not personal.
“They said ‘no’.” “They want someone taller.” “They aren’t taking submissions right now.”
Notice when stating the facts, there’s no derogatory personal attack. It is what it is. And while it may be true, it’s not a predictor of any future possibility of success.
If, however, you begin to tell a story about WHY you got rejected, it will hurt a lot more, and it can influence your belief in your ability to be successful in the future. (This is often the place where artists use their creativity to crucify themselves, based on a rejection from others—not the best use of your talent!)
It might sounds like this—“Maybe I’m not talented enough!” or “There must be something wrong with me!” or “I’m never going to be able to . . . ” Those kinds of stories keep people you afraid of rejection, and can drain you of your creativity if you allow it.
Remedy #2 - Learn From Rejection
I know it sounds awfully cliché, but those who succeed in life have learned to be fearless by learning from any feedback they get, even rejection. If you consistently hear the same suggestions, make sure to listen and consider implementing them! All too often, artists can become resistant to improving because they don’t want to change. Maybe they believe that their art is already fabulous, or maybe because art is personal, and changing it feels like being asked to change themselves.
Great artists learn to be fluid in their work and know that willingness to grow is more important than the attachment to their craft. This doesn’t mean you sell yourself out to the highest bidder or sacrifice those things that are important to you creatively. It means that you are willing to become an artist in life, as well as acting, writing, or singing.
Using any rejection feedback to improve yourself and your craft is just good practice. You open infinite creative possibilities when you really listen to someone who takes the time to say, “I saw your work, and here’s how you might make it even better.” In order to learn the most from rejection:
Ask great questions.
Give up any defensiveness.
Be willing to learn from someone you respect and admire.
You can always go back to offering your creativity the way you were before if you don’t like the changes that you make. If you can offer your gifts and talents while also listening to others offer theirs, you foster a meaningful experience and bring forth a successful artistic expression.
Remedy #3 – Cultivate Your Intention
Nothing prompts a legitimate gut check better than thinking people don’t like your work. When you receive a rejection from others, that can be the best time to ask, “WHY am I doing this?” Getting clear about what’s important to you as an artist will make you impervious to rejection and can actually make your projects more attractive. When you approach an opportunity to share your work, you’ll do so with a clear recognition of why it matters, what makes it meaningful, and why someone should want to pay attention to it.
Maybe your work brings laughter or insight. Perhaps it exists to evoke an emotional response, share a metaphor for life, or offer inspiration. It’s not enough to simply say that it’s entertainment . . . even if that’s the case. The more detail and specificity you can source, the better you’ll be able to connect others with your work. When you have fully claimed and loved your creative expression, it won’t matter as much if it doesn’t appeal to others. (Often it appeals more!)
It’s also important to be honest about any places where getting work in the entertainment industry is actually a desire for attention, accolades, excitement, notoriety, and money. There’s nothing wrong with wanting these things, but they don’t come from the outside unless they already exist on the inside. If it’s attention you want, then spend some time giving yourself some attention! Remind yourself of how hard you’ve worked cultivating your craft. Appreciate how much you’ve learned. If you are looking for validation from outside sources, you’ll always be dependent on someone else’s opinion. But if you validate where you are coming from yourself and value what you’re offering, then others can’t help but value your creative expression.
And so begins the journey of asking yourself, “Why?” “What moves me?” “What about this project of mine excites me?” “What’s meaningful about my work?” It is the deeper experience that touches people, and bringing those experiences to your work makes it attractive—which is, well, the opposite of rejection.