Day 36: Handling Rejection As An Artist

Rejection hurts. It stings in emotional places you didn’t even know you had. When you’re an artist, rejection feels incredibly personal as if the whole world is telling you they don’t want to be friends with you.

I want to start by asking you a series of questions… and I’ll share my answers here too.

Do you like walnuts in your brownies? I do for sure.

Do you eat pizza with a knife and fork? I do… I know I’m in the minority on that one.

What’s your favorite season? Mine is Winter. But only because I live in Arizona and the other options are summer.

Do you like scary movies? I do not. Not even a little. Count me out.

Are you into country music? I’m not. Unless it’s old school Taylor Swift.

Speaking of, what do you think about Taylor Swift? She’s my favorite musician, I love her.

Okay. What did you think of answering those questions? Did they have anything to do with anything other than what you like? No, right?  Your answers weren’t meant to hurt anyone, they were just your personal preference. You not liking walnuts in your brownies isn’t anything against a walnut, it’s just what you prefer. What if I told you that because of that statement, that poor walnut is crying and questioning his self value. You’d be a little concerned and maybe say something like “Oh… no, what? Why? It’s nothing against you, like, at all!”

When people decide to go in a different direction, it’s not against us, it’s all about them. Which is what it should be, right? I mean, when we are shopping for ANYTHING: a car, a sweater, or a movie to watch, we want that car to fit our needs and style, we want that sweater to look good on us, and we want that movie to be our type of movie. Someone shopping for a service has nothing to do with us and everything to do with them. So we are doing us and them a disservice by trying to make it about us.

While reading up on this topic I found a great line that stuck with me off the site that said:

“If you let doubt and fear creep in because of rejection, it will stifle your creativity. Let rejection teach you more about who your best clients and audience actually are.”

This also led me to think of another story about a friend of mine. We were having lunch a few years ago and he had started a summer camp for Jr High and High School musicians in the Valley. This friend is an amazing musician. He’s toured the world for years and played for millions. He’s also one of the most likable people I know. You can’t meet him and not love him. So he told me he wrote to a few summer camps the year before asking to be a teacher for their camp and they all said no. “Wait, WHAT?” I thought. I mean, on top of being incredibly impressive on paper, he was all that and a bag of chips in person, and on top of THAT he was incredibly well connected all over the country. Who would say no to him?! But here’s the thing, he wasn’t indignant. He wasn’t offended. He knew that sometimes it wasn’t in the budget, or their roster was full, or they weren’t focusing on the type of music he taught. Any number of reasons could have led to the several rejection notices that popped up in his inbox.

So he started his own music camp.

That was his response! “hmm… okay… what if I can do my OWN music camp?”

What a positive and wonderful plan to keep him busy over the summer. He didn’t have to sit around playing the blame game. Or reviewing his resume for “that one shortcoming or typo.” He didn’t sit in bed all afternoon thinking “What’s WRONG with me?!” He simply created something new.

As you might have guessed, his camp was a hit. What you might not have guessed is that the following summer, he went to teach at every summer camp that he had applied to the year before, and even had some guests come teach at the second year of HIS summer camp.

Can we get an amen for staying positive, keeping it creative and reaching back out for round two?

No doesn’t always mean no. It might mean “Not right now” in which case, seeds are being planted, my friend. They might not have an immediate return, but they will show up around the next corner.

When you feel rejection, let it hurt for a moment. Then realize two things:

  1. You’re trying and that’s the best thing you can do. If you’re not getting rejections, you’re not trying. You’re doing nothing. So keep trying. This is the most important part of like, anything.
  2. You can use this to get better. It’s okay to ask for feedback if you feel it will help you improve. Most people appreciate someone who values their opinion and who is humble enough to try to improve.

I once asked a guy I went on a date with if I did something wrong. It was so embarrassing that I can’t believe I’m sharing it here. We had dinner, I thought everything went well, then he never texted me again. This happened three more times that month with other people and I started wondering if there was something I was doing. No one wants to be “That girl” who sends a “BUT WHY” text, but I can keep it classy when I need to. So I asked that first guy. And he replied with “Wow. It’s incredibly attractive that you would put yourself in a vulnerable position in an effort to become a better person.” People don’t get judgy when you’re being genuine. He then explained he just got distracted with some family stuff and dropped out of the dating scene. He asked me out again and now we are married. No, just kidding. But we did go out a few more times.

Rejection is rarely so black and white, and that’s a good thing, friends. Let me know of a time you felt rejection as an artist and how you handled it. I’d love to know in the comments below and I’ll see you tomorrow for day 37: Three lies you tell yourself that you know are lies!

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris