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How to be a happy little Rejection Collector. (OR How to cope with serial artistic rejection)

September 4, 2013 by Melissa Main

I’m collecting rejections like my Grannie collected shiny 20 cent pieces.

Sometimes I put my rejections in a drawer, sometimes I tape them to the wall, sometimes I don’t even open them because I know what they’ll say and I just can’t be bothered today. I should also admit some of my rejections get collected by the recycled waste truck (or the junk mailbox) on my behalf.

My Grannie would save her coins in a tin labeled “Shinies” in her careful, wobbly writing and give us glimmering silver towers at Easter, which we somehow managed to feel simultaneously touched and disappointed about ($1.20 doesn’t buy that much Easter chocolate: the currency of the season).

Some of the rejections I receive are kind, some are apologetic, some are wordy and some are perfunctory. Most are via email, some are on paper, occasionally they are on the phone and even more rarely they are in person. Some are even in the form of the silent no reply(my favorite). Despite their variation, they all say approximately the same thing. Depending on my mood.

On a good day, they say: “Even though what you do is amazing, there are a lot of other amazing people doing amazing things and right now, their kind of amazing is a better fit for what we’re looking for at the moment. This doesn’t mean your stuff isn’t amazing. It is. Amazing, that is. Please keep offering us your kind of amazing by reapplying next year because one day, your amazing just might be what we’re looking for that day, time and moonphase”.

On a bad day, it’s more like: “Your stuff sucks. Your application shows rootless optimism and enthusiasm for receiving rejections. Please apply again because we need your entry fee to continue to smash wanabee’s hopes and dreams.”

Good day/bad day rejections are not usually worded any differently. It’s amazing what my head can do, all by itself. When I am feeling more than a little under the weather, I can feel disappointed, jealous or even angry at the “unfairness” of a rejection (because clearly and logically, if it was fair, I would be successful in every application I undertook. Everyone else would get the rejections. That would be fair.Hurumph). At the very least I can feel a deep tiredness of consistently putting myself up for all these things that don’t eventuate.

Inversely, when I am feeling good about what I do, I consider these things I put myself up for to be more like a lottery: you have to be in it to win it, but the chances of actually winning are small. I can take a step back and have a look at the benefits in getting my shit together to apply for these things in the first place. Each time I apply for something I have to get organized, I have to follow through and I have to create something that is in a state of clarity enough to be shared with the outside world.

Deadlines are amazing for actually getting something finished, and for someone like me who has 20 ideas before breakfast, getting something finished enough to be shared is an achievement in itself. Even grant proposals (as time-consuming and irritating as they are) effectively push you to write an in-depth business plan for a project (hands up if you’ve been tempted to skip this step before and ended up spending way more money than you vaguely surmised was possible).

Each time I apply for something, I am refining what I do and what my music is about. I am developing relationships with the people I connect with and giving myself an education about the lie of the land in the music industry. Whatever else I am achieving I am moving: I am not staying still, stagnant or rotting away in a hole of doing nothing.  A rejection isn’t a sign that I am doing something wrong. It is a pride-flag of my commitment to keep trying, do something different and keep moving.

How to cope with rejections 101:

  1. Acknowledge any feelings of disappointment, anger etc that you didn’t get what you were hoping from the situation. It is Ok to feel that way.
  2. Instead of adding your own subtext to the rejection, read it again slowly, making note of all the positive things it is saying and how that must apply to your work “Wow, they got 1600 applicants of a high standard: let’s presume I’m one of those!”
  3. Look at what you achieved in order to put yourself out there to be rejected in the first place: you got yourself organized to apply in time, you may have connected with some new people, you finished (or created a plan to finish) a body of work or you developed more definition of yourself as an artist.
  4. Get some feedback on your application. Use that feedback to improve your applications in the future.
  5. Have a back-up-plan: if something is important to you, find another way to do it: work a day job to back yourself financially, look into crowd-funding, modify your projects to fit in with your resources etc.
  6. Along with your rejections, start collecting nice, meaningful, helpful or confidence-boosting things that people say to you about your projects. Keep them in a box or stick them on the wall. When you’re feeling a little blah about it all, remember the things you already have achieved. When you get a win (and you will get them) include these, no matter how small, in your collection of non-rejections.
  7. Have a break from applying for things. Don’t even think about it for a while.
  8. Take a deep breath and keep on going. Have dreams and apply for stuff. Make sure you keep a balance between throwing a lot of energy into applying for something that may or may not take off and some easy wins that don’t require any input from external sources (who may not really understand what you are doing). That way, you’ll win your own lottery, every time.

Or at least a small, beloved tower of shiny 20 cent pieces.

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.

Author Details

Melissa Main

Where cabaret sidles up to folk, acoustic sneaks a kiss from plugged-in sounds and clever lyrics dance over a landscape of solidly tasty melody lives Melissa Main and her original music. Also in trio or with her band, her songs are witty, interesting, touching and funny.

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