Rejection sucks. It is actually terrible. I’d rather have to sit through “The Room” 10 times than to not be cast in a play. I’d rather have my mom question me for three hours about my plans for the future than have my resume put in the “no” pile. I’d rather have to listen to Donald Trump’s voice playing through headphones on repeat than have one of my poems not be selected for a zine. OK, maybe I wouldn’t rather have that, but rejection still isn’t preferable to terrible movies and nagging mothers.
Unfortunately, for many in the art field, rejection is most of the job. Throughout my time at theatre school, my professors have ingrained into my head that I need to learn to hear the word “no” more often than the word “yes.” And when you’re sharing a piece of art that you’ve put your passion and heart into — a vulnerable act for most people — being rejected can seem like a personal attack. However, most of the time (almost all of the time), this is not the case.
Even though rejection stings, we cannot let it stop us from doing what we love. If we allow the fear of rejection to dictate whether or not something is worth attempting, we have already been rejected. And this rejection is the worst kind because it is a rejection that comes from ourselves.
So, in an effort to admit that “Hey, I’ve been there too,” I’ve compiled a short list of ways to deal with rejection. Some of these are methods I’ve personally used. Some I’ve seen my friends use. All have helped an artist deal with rejection in one way or another. I hope this helps. Even if you’re not an artist, feel free to reference this the next time you’re subjected to the crushing weight of “not being good enough.”
1. Scream profanities into a pillow.
2. Make a list of everything you haven’t been rejected from. And if you’ve been rejected from everything you’ve ever attempted, make a list of everything you like about your artwork. Because, in these types of situations, it is truly your own opinion that matters most.
3. Buy yourself a donut or a coffee. “Treat yo’ self,” as they say. At least you put yourself out there and tried! That’s more than a lot of people do. You should be proud.
4. Call someone you love and cry to them about your life, but stop after half-an-hour. It’s a good feeling to have someone you love be there for you. It’s also good to let out all of the frustrations being rejected brings. But more importantly, it’s good to not wallow in self-pity. After the 30 minutes have passed, take a deep breath and look at the situation in a new light.
5. Sleep. Sometimes, you just need to not think about it for at least six hours. In the morning, everything is usually better.
6. Don’t create anything for a few days. If it really stings, sometimes giving yourself a break is nice.
7. Create a ton of shit. Despite number six, a lot of times when rejection really stings, it gives you more fuel to create some of your best work yet.
8. Binge watch “Always Sunny” on Netflix. Danny Devito’s face brings most people joy.
9. Take a ton of mindless Buzzfeed quizzes.
10. Remind yourself that even Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
11. Read the book, watch the movie or listen to the song that inspired you to start creating in the first place. Often, looking back at your roots and seeing how far you’ve grown from there can help you put your journey as an artist in perspective.
12. Know that every artist has faced rejection at some point in their lives and, whether you like it or not, you’ll probably face rejection like this again in the future. But, when you do land that dream role or publish that novel you’ve sent to hundreds of editors, all the rejection you’ve faced will be worth it. If “making it” were easy, there would be no sense of reward in it.
13. Remember that art is very subjective. Some people will think your work sucks and others will think you’re the Mozart of your time.
14. Don’t let go of your dream. There’s a reason you love doing this. There’s a reason you went into a field riddled with people in power telling you “no.” Because there is absolutely nothing like the feeling you get when you’re expressing yourself through art.
15. Trust yourself and your abilities. Become your own biggest fan. Be an “advocate of your work,” as my playwriting professor Jose Casas would say. Stop caring about whether or not other people like it. As long as you like what you’ve done, you’ve already succeeded.
16. Write an article about rejection for The Daily.