Dealing with rejection

I have a very good songwriting friend from the States. Whenever he’s angry because one of his tracks was turned down… I sympathize with him. Of course. As he sympathizes with me. We all know how it feels. But sometimes I’ll remind him that, in the grand scheme of things, having a track rejected isn’t the end of the world. I’ll remind him of his wife and kids, of what he has that’s good, the things that really matter.

Not that our creations aren’t important. But one rejection really doesn’t add up to a tragedy. It’s one blimp on the road to getting better, or submitting more effectively, or understanding what it is that we are pitching ('that sounds more country than rock'). It’s one more hearing from someone with a discerning ear who felt it wasn’t a fit in some way.

Hard to take, but part of the reality of life. We send out resumes, we never get a call. We go for an interview, they don’t call us back. We audition the very best we can, we don’t get the part. We enter our visual art in a juried show and we don’t make it. We send our query letters to magazines and get rejection letters. We submit our book proposals and manuscripts, and wait for the letter that says we’ve been turned down.

No one said it would be easy to be an artist, eh? The key is, I think, to separate your ‘product’ from yourself. If your work needs work, then it needs work. That doesn’t take any value away from the Self. It just means your art is, at present, or in this instance, not what was required. Perhaps another gatekeeper will feel a different way. Perhaps you need to target a different market. Perhaps you have something you need to learn.

The problem comes when we take all those rejections and put them in a pile. We keep building up our resentment, we keep fanning the flames of our anger. We feel hard done by. We get bitter. Our reaction to one rejection is then accompanied by all the baggage. Our negative attitude shuts us down, or shuts us out. We stop being willing to listen or to admit that we might need to move on from where we are. Not that it isn’t hard, when we have years of experience, to feel that our work isn’t being given the recognition we would wish.

Really, we are all on a journey. Not one of us, even if we have gold records or published books or signed deals or pictures that have sold – not one of us has “arrived”. We are simply one step further down the path of artistry and human development. Our art reflects our current stage of evolution. In that respect, it has to be done for art’s sake first.

I don’t write to make money. I write to express. I write to illustrate a story with sound or with words, or both. I write to communicate something within me to others, hoping they might understand my language. Even when I am specifically writing for a particular opportunity that has guidelines and ‘something that sounds like blank’ – I’m always interpreting that as Vikki Flawith. I submit what I have created, and, in a way, it’s saying, to whoever listens to it, ‘here’s where I am right now’.

I’m trusting that if I listen to what I’m being told, if I’m willing to learn, if I acquire new skills, if I am constantly practicing, then every piece of music I create is founded upon the past experiences I have built to support it. Every performance I sing has a foundation in past practice, rehearsal and lessons. Therefore, the track I create today should be superior to the track I created 6 months ago. If it isn’t, I haven’t been moving forward.

If we work, day by day, with deliberation, then success is knowing that we are better today than we were yesterday. If we continue to work in this way, I believe that recognition, and money, will come to us.

Perhaps not the way we have envisioned though. Perhaps we won’t have a hit song recorded by a major artist. But perhaps we will have credits on local artists’ CDs. Perhaps we won’t have a song in a major movie, but we will have underscore in an indie film. There are a myriad of ways the universe can lead us if we are willing to be open.

I never expected, it never occurred to me, I never even dreamed that I would one day be teaching shy singers how to find their voice, and I certainly never dreamed that I would be composing music for film/tv, or gigging regularly at local restaurants. Or writing & producing my own CD. I just followed the path… wanting to be in the music… and here I am, doing my thing. So, yeah, I get tracks turned down. I get songs rejected. I audition and don’t make the cut. But it is all grist for the mill.

“The essence of life is finding something you really love and then making the daily experience worthwhile.” - Denis Waitley


SongNote said...

I love this post Vikki. I find it's so easy to get over-focussed on the end goals of art, but creating art for art's sake was what I did instinctively before I ever imagined uses for it! Thanks for this sage reminder of what really matters.

Vikki said...

Thanks for reading & commenting, SongNote. I read your blog and think we have much in common. We vibrate on the same frequency :)