Image by Rebecca
One of the hardest things about what we do as creative entrepreneurs is that we don’t produce widgets. I’m sure there are some widget makers who care very deeply about their widgets, who put loads of effort into making the best widgets they can, who invest deeply of themselves into their widgets. But I think there are also a lot of widget makers who set up the machine, walk away and let the machine punch out the widgets.
We don’t really have that option. What we create comes from us. It comes from our deepest resources of love, skill, effort and craft. Everything we make or do is stamped with our DNA. Our blood. Our sweat. Our tears go into creating something new.
And when it’s rejected it’s hard not to take it personally.
If your widget doesn’t fit the client’s machine, it’s possible to be fairly detached about this.
If our creative product doesn’t fit what the client is after – especially if all we’re told is ‘thank you, that’s all we need for today’ and then never hear from them again – we are left with a whole lot of questions.
Why wasn’t I what they were looking for?
Did I do something wrong?
Do I suck?
What were they actually after? I did exactly what their brief requested…?
These questions, which usually never get answered, play in a loop over and over in our mind. It’s easy to start to doubt yourself. It’s easy for it to hurt – a little or a lot.
As creative entrepreneurs, the currency we trade in is the heart. We package a bit of our heart and we put it out there for someone to buy. And when they do, we’re elated. And when they don’t, it can really suck.
If you’re trying to pay your bills through creative work, it can hit you with a double whammy. Your heart has been rejected AND you’re left wondering how you’ll pay your rent. Ouch.
To expect ourselves to just bounce back from this every single time, denies the fact that we are human. And sensitive. And feel vulnerable a lot of the time because we can’t hide behind our widget machine.
All this is to say that when you get rejected, it’s okay to have a little ‘pity party.’ In fact, having a good old ‘why me’ moan fest might just help you get over the pain, process it and move on.
I had this happen to me this week. I found out on Saturday I had an audition on Wednesday of this week. I needed to learn two new pieces for this audition. So much of Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday morning was taken up with learning material, rehearsing it, psyching myself up, researching what I could about the people and the project.
I was told the audition was at 12:55 and be prepared to stay all afternoon as there would be recalls the same day. So I kept the whole of Wednesday open and blocked out time for it.
When I arrived, there were 6 other guys, who all seemed to know each other. There was lots of manly hugs and backslapping going around, leaving me to feel already ‘out of the loop.’ What was odder is that a very famous actor, who recently did a film with Spielberg, or someone who looked just like him, seemed to be the audition gopher retrieving people from the corridor and bringing them into the room. This was disarming to say the least.
The three people ahead of me went in, sang, then came out and waited. After a few minutes, the maybe-famous actor came out and told them to come back at 2:45.
My turn came, I went in, I did my business. It seemed to go well. The panel was all smiles. I went out in the corridor. The maybe-famous actor came out. This time his fiercely blue eyes avoided making eye contact and he told me ‘thank you, that’s all we need today.’ And I walked out.
I’m usually good at letting these things roll off my back but this time it really got to me.
I had invested 5 days, working ON SPEC, preparing for this audition, with the possibility of the payoff of a job. 5 days of my own time, when I could have been doing other, productive things towards my business, went towards learning material so I could meet the brief of their audition.
My reward was a thank you.
No explanation of WHY I wasn’t right. Or WHAT I might have done differently. Or even knowledge of WHO got the job.
Nothing. Nadda. Niente. Not a crumb of info.
This happens a lot. It happens for actors. It happens for writers. It happens for painters. It happens for artists of all shapes and sizes.
And it hurts.
It makes us angry. We feel cheated. We might curse the unfairness of a process where the odds are so stacked against us.
Eric Maisel in his book Affirmations for Artists writes:
From the point of the view of the marketplace, there are innumerable reasons to reject an artist’s work. It may be unpleasant, average, flawed, or difficult; the need for it may be slight or nonexistent; the artist may present his wares too anxiously or fail at the games the marketplace has invented. This is the short list: and everywhere artists’ hearts are breaking. Even if he does a heroic job of recovering rejection letter after rejection letter, an artist can’t live on a steady diet of rejection: he must get his work wanted sometimes.
So what to do?
3 Things to Do to Process Rejection
1) Feel sorry for yourself.
Make it really good. Allow yourself to mourn. I went home, stuffed my face with everything I could get my hands on, sat on the sofa all afternoon and watched really crap movies. I then fell asleep. The next day I felt better.
2) Once you’ve had a little pity party, ask yourself what, if anything, can you learn from the experience?
Is there anything you could have done differently? In my case, I didn’t make enough eye contact with the panel. So next time I can make more of an effort to connect with them. That’s one tangible thing I can do. Now I’ve got a goal out of the experience to take into my next situation. This shifts my thinking from the difficult current place to a more hopeful future place.
3) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
One of the ways we can reduce the impact on a creative’s life by these kind of situations is to reuse and recycle the material as much as possible.
In my case I had to learn two new songs – both of which are going to go into a cabaret concert I am planning for August. I invested time learning them so I am going to use them again.
Recycle and repurpose them for something else. If you’ve created art work on spec, or written a brilliant proposal, can you recycle or repurpose the materials for something else?
Try as hard as you can to reduce the impact of the preparation time by reusing as much of the material as possible. It’s yours and you owe it to yourself to respect your time by leveraging it to get the most bang for its investment.
For another point of view on the topic of rejection, I invite you to visit Career Avoidance 101 for their excellent 3-Part series The Upside of Rejection
Tired of feeling beaten and bruised by the path of the creative entrepreneur? Would you like a clearer map about where you’re going and how to get there?
Look out because come July we are going to launch the July Challenge: 31 Days to Kick Start Your Creative Business.
I pledge to blog every day for 31 days laying out a four part sequence of how to kick start your creative business.
Week One: we’ll look at your product. How to get clearer on what it exactly is that you’re offering and how your product fits into the market place
Week Two: your customers. We’ll spend a week exploring who your target customers really are.
Week Three: we’ll look at selling. How to put your product in front of your customers and get them to buy.
Week Four: Managing a creative career. Some of the nuts and bolts of how to actually make this business stuff work for you.
Bite Size Pledge. I also pledge to keep each post short. I know we all struggle to come up with time to read, watch or listen to everything we’d like to. We need short, concise, actionable material. So I pledge to keep these posts to under 500 words or under 5 minutes if video/audio.
Action Pledge. Ideas and information are great. But we need actionable steps. That’s what gets you moving forward. So I also pledge that each post will have at least one action item.
Are you ready?
This is going to be good stuff. You don’t want to miss any of it.
Now is the time to sign up to receive email notifications so these blog posts come right to your inbox. The sign up is on the right hand side. While you’re at it, why not sign up to my monthly newsletter? My newsletter readers get special material which never makes it onto the blog… you don’t want to miss.