Monday, April 9, 2012

On failure and rejection (part II).

Rejection sucks!

In March I submitted two of my favorite necklaces to the Bead Dreams contest. On Friday I got my letter, politely telling me that they couldn't accept either piece.

Was I disappointed? I sure was. When I submitted my proposals to teach at Bead and Button last summer and was turned down, I was almost relieved because they didn't represent my best work. But these two necklaces are the coolest things I've done so far. I had high hopes for them.

I wanted to see them behind that glass display case in Milwaukee, next to all the other incredible designs. But most of all, I wanted (or craved) some excitement. That's the nature of my sparkly noggin -- it always wants to experience something new and gets cranky when that doesn't happen.


Moving on.

Honestly, there was some moping. And pouting. There was something else too, though -- a feeling that I could NOT dwell on this rejection the way I would have when I was younger. No telling myself that this was a sign that I wasn't meant to be an artist, and no giving up in a huff. I revisited this post, and I still agree with what I wrote.

Today I'd like to expand on it by going a little further. I want to explore how to move past rejection besides learning from the experience. Not just to help me, but to help you, too. As much as it sucks, rejection is an inevitable part of being an artist -- and I don't want it to bother either of us more than it has to!


The super awesome sparkly secret to moving on.


I've been thinking long and hard about the secret to moving on. Yes, it's in the lessons we learn, and it's in the acceptance of our feelings about the rejection, whatever they may be. And it most certainly is in realizing that rejection is subjective, and never as personal as we think it is.

There's another, bigger secret, though. One that keeps us from giving in to the temptation to give up and spend our days on the couch sobbing. Want to know what it is?

The secret to overcoming rejection is to start on the next thing.

In other words? To keep going, keep doing.
I didn't get into Bead Dreams this year. I've moped, I've pouted, and now it's time to...

  • Submit my pieces to other contests.
  • Create other pieces -- I have two awesome ideas already.
  • Prepare for the craft show I'm doing this month.
  • Prepare for my birthday, which involves making tons of cookies.
  • Work on some fun new blog posts.
  • Save money for Bead and Button this summer.
  • See if I can take a tambour class this year.
  • Play around with painting fabric.
  • Revisit some other things I love, like hula hooping in the park.

These are just the things I know about right now! The great thing about life and art is, new opportunities are always popping up. We just have to be on the lookout for them, and to be in the best place to discover them -- which is not sobbing on the couch.

(If the couch is your workspace the way it is mine, though, it's acceptable to hang out there -- as long as you're working!)


When it happens to you...

So the next time you're rejected, I give you my permission to be upset. And to sigh dramatically, and to stick that bottom lip out as far as you can get it. Do this for a day or so. But once that time is up, it's up -- so put on your problem solving hat and start thinking of the next exciting step.

Your turn: Have you encountered rejection lately? If so, what steps are you going to take to move past it? Thanks for sharing, thanks for reading, and have a sequintastic day!

Update: Oh, wow! Check out this article on Expert Enough on how to fail successfully.  It's everything I've been saying about failure and rejection, but in a concise list form. Super duper valuable.

32 comments:

  1. You're right, Sarah. It does suck to have your things rejected. I've been there. I used to make art jackets and enter them in shows. I even won some ribbons, which was thrilling. But, one show the critique was really out there. And, I was really upset because the one area the judges critized was a part of the jacket that was really cool and well executed. After I thought about it, I began to realize that judging is so subjective. What one judge loves another hates. So, I kept entering, I even entered Bead Dreams with a bead embroidered cuff that was then accepted for a local show. It was rejected it was rejected by Bead Dreams! I felt crummy! But, again, I made myself remember that it's subjective and I shouldn't be down on myself, which I tend to do. I have other stories, but they're all the variations on the same theme! I keep making things I love and enter shows and contests and magazines when I feel like it. It's not easy to see something that you've put your heart and soul into turned down by someone. But, it's subjective and I keep repeating that like a mantra! Keep working, your things are beautiful. I think you've got a great attitude about it and that's really important. Good luck next time you decide to enter.

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    1. Maryanne,

      I really want to see photos of the art jackets and cuff, if you have any! I am in awe of anyone who can make clothing, and I bet your stuff is terrific.

      Judging really is subjective because everyone has different taste. Thanks for the encouragement! And best of luck to you, too. <3

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  2. Oh, boy, have I ever been there! Love your attitude, though -- give yourself permission to wallow in a little self-pity and disappointment, because it's only human to feel let down. But then you have to pick yourself up and see what you can learn from the rejection. Sometimes you can incorporate the comments to make your work (or yourself) stronger. Sometimes you can use the knockdown to fire yourself up for the next challenge. And sometimes you learn that the person who rejected you is a jerk - but that's also a lesson learned! It's like I've told my students and my children (and myself), when you go in for an audition or an interview or whatever, if you don't get the gig/job/art show spot, it's not necessarily because you messed up or your work is bad. It may be that the casting committee had envisioned a tall brunette, and no matter how spectacularly you performed that scene, they just couldn't wrap their heads around casting a short blonde. Or one jury member had their fill of cubic right angle weave pieces and thought their head would explode if they saw even one more, no matter how fabulous and innovative it might be.

    I can't wait to see the pieces you submitted to Bead Dreams, because I know your work is terrific!

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    1. Bobbie,

      Here are the pieces I entered:

      http://www.saturdaysequins.com/2012/03/bead-dreams.html

      There really are all kinds of factors that go into a rejection, it's true. It seems like auditions are especially tough -- an opera singer friend said that once, someone said to her: "You sang the piece beautifully, but we're looking for a tall redhead!"

      It's hard to get rejected for something you have no control over, but at least it's easier not to take it personally.

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    2. Oh, of course! I remember being so impressed when you showed these after submitting them. Ah, well, their loss for not including them in Bead Dreams -- and bravo to you for hitting new highs in your beaded works!

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  3. I never, ever enter anything anymore. I gave up a long time ago. I was a painter for many years and used to enter my work in juried shows all the time. After so many rejections i did give up. Now I make things, sell things, whatever. And I don't have to worry about the "judges".

    Don't fret or worry. Your work is lovely. Keep loving what you do and don't give rejection another thought.

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    1. I'd love to see some of your paintings!

      Contests definitely aren't the only way to get your work out there, especially if they don't make you happy. In the end, it's all about loving what we do. Exactly.

      (That, and making enough money to buy more supplies. ;))

      Thanks, Roberta!

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  4. You have the perfect mindset about this! Did you know that confidence isn't relient on success, but actually stems from the trust you have in yourself to set out and try something challenging? You are a confident artist, and I know that you will go far with your art, because you love what you do!

    Have fun making cookies, friend!

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    1. Annie, that's an awesome insight about confidence!

      Thanks. I know you will, too. <3

      (And there will be so, so many cookies.)

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  5. Thanks so much for your note on my blog :) Keep trying and new doors will open. Good luck!

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    1. You're welcome, and thanks for stopping by mine!

      I'll keep at it. :)

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  6. Love love love this post. That's it, keep going, keep doing, and what you need to make YOU happy will show up!!!!! xox

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  7. I would recommend going straight for the cookie option! But the hula hooping sounds like a great idea as well.

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    1. The hula hooping will balance out all those cookies. Or at least, I hope it will! ;)

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  8. Rejection hurts and stinks but makes us stronger!!! Great inventors have many failures before they succeeded. If teaching is what you want to do why don't you start at a local level and don't stop enjoying and creating!!!! Come to Mass and take a tambour class!!

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    1. It's true, it does make us stronger. That's an important thing to remember!

      I'd like to teach locally. I just have to find a place to teach because having students at my house would mean having to clean a lot. ;)

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  9. Sarah, all of the commenters so far are so very right. I just want to add I'm sorry to hear about Bead Dreams. Your work is beautiful, so maybe the judges were looking for something different. Just know we appreciate your talent and your designs very much!

    {Hugs!}

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    1. Thanks, Dawn! Rejection doesn't hurt as much when I have great friends like you to cheer me on. *Hugs.*

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  10. I'm sorry your work wasn't accepted for Bead Dreams but I love how you're dealing with it all. I'm sure your work will be accepted at many future sites. So many great artists weren't accepted at first. Never give up. It will happen.

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    1. Thank you, Janet!

      You're right that so many great artists weren't accepted at first. Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, and so many writers earn about 200 rejection slips before they get published. Including Stephen King!

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  11. Rejection is no fun, but I think it says more about the rejector than you or your work.

    I have to be really clear on what my intention is when I enter a contest/apply for anything that depends on someone else's opinion. I find if my intention is clear and I'm honest about what my motivation is, than any rejection can't be taken personally.

    I can't wait to see the pieces you created! I'm trying to decide whether or not to go to B&B. I'd love to go for the experience (and the shopping!) but find I don't always agree with the intent of this show. Would love to hear your feedback... since it sounds like you've been to the show.

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    1. This is a good point, Skylar -- it's more about what the judges like, what they've seen a lot of, and what they're looking for than about the artists they reject.

      The pieces are here: http://www.saturdaysequins.com/2012/03/bead-dreams.html

      Also, I highly recommend Bead and Button. A lot of the classes have filled up, but I've had some great experiences taking classes from Leslee Frumin and Joan Babcock. They're really amazing. I'd say stay away from any of the metalsmithing classes, though -- safety is not the number one priority.

      Another great thing is the feeling of community there. If you're working on a piece or wearing something unusual, everyone wants to see it, and the vendors are so nice. There are so many great things to buy, too.

      Food can be problematic if you're a healthy eater. The motto in Milwaukee is dairy, dairy, dairy! However, there food is generally good, especially in the Italian restaurant across the street.

      The Bead Social is kind of boring, in my opinion, but supports a good cause. The Meet The Teachers event is something I'm trying for the first time, and I'm really looking forward to it.

      All in all, Bead and Button is a great place to make friends, buy way more than you intended, and give your arteries a run for their money. ;)

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  12. I don't bother about rejection as much as I used to as long as I like what I made and it makes me happy. I have one of my dolls in an online challenge at the moment and I have 11 votes and the leader has 63...ah well:) Life goes on and I'm already making another doll for another challenge.

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    1. Mary Ann,

      Making what makes you happy is definitely the most important things, and feels better than all the awards in the world!

      I'd love to see the doll for the challenge! I admire that you're already making another one, too. :)

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  13. I got rejected too recently - not craft-related (I wouldn't dare enter anything, I'm too new at it!) but day-job-related. I was Not Happy. I had really hoped to get accepted to this conferencey thing in a really cool place but they sent back a standard rejection email and they couldn't even be bothered to get my details right. Then they sent another one, just in case I hadn't got the message the first time. Huh. Just huh.

    But then I thought, well you know what? I have got so many things to do this summer already that I just don't have time to go away, plus it means I don't have the headache of arranging childcare for my beautiful son but can spend the time with him instead, so all in all it was for the best really.

    I definitely agree with your strategy for overcoming rejection! Also I spoke to my boss and she was like, well I thought you should have got in. And I respect her opinion way more than some faceless man in a far-away country. So my strategy is also, Remember whose opinion it is that really matters.

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    1. What an awesome point about remembering whose opinion really matters! This is so, so true.

      And sometimes a rejection really can be for the best. Staying home sounds better than traveling (airports, yuck!). Also, it makes me think about Mondo Guerra not winning Project Runway, but then winning the bigger Project Runway Allstars competition. In the end, it was for the best for him, too. :)

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  14. Really great and inspirational post! I tend to sulk massively when something goes wrong and feel so sorry for myself, acting like the whole universe is against me. It's time to find a more positive way of coping with failure! Will try this next time :)

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    1. Thanks!

      I've been known to do my share of sulking, too. I hope this post helps the next time something goes wrong! And if it doesn't, let me know, and I'll see if I can think of something better. :)

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  15. I want to say that this rejection you are feeling is only temporary~ these feelings are worthwhile and you can't not feel them! When one or several of your pieces get accepted into a contest or contests - it will make your happiness feel "all the stronger"!

    Rejection and all those feelings come from the same well as happiness... I repeat this daily (numerous times) so if things felt the same all the time - no ups and downs, hills and valleys, mountains and peaks - we would never feel the glory of the peaks!!!!! I looked at your pieces - I am a great "admirer" of both!

    My grief is daily with the "systems" that I have to fight for my son (who has a dual diagnosis - he has severe autism and profound mental retardation). One diagnosis fights the other... I have unconditional love for my son - I always think of the things that he "can do" vs what he "cannot" and we go from there! He loves to string beads - and he is 18. It is a calming and soothing experience for him. The systems (school district, mental health/mental retardation state and local depts, health insurance (via from the state is in the Dept of Welfare system) - all fight me for things that should be his right as a human being. I could go on and on - but for 18 years - I've picked myself up after a huge denial, or a court loss, or a due process claim lost and had to start over! My inspiration is him - when I am with him (24/7 - and I see how he suffers with pain and yet he tries so hard and continues to work on things because he loves to be challenged! If I get one smile - or when his eyes meet mine for an instant (rare occasion) - those are the things that get me back up on my feet~ and keep me up!

    Your work is stunning - you have a right to feel "yuck" - but I love how you wrote to start more pieces and take a class - it never hurts to learn new things.... Keep your creative doors open - it just wasn't your time for a mountain top yet....

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    1. Sue, that's a very, very good point -- failure and success are two sides of the same coin, and you can't have one without the other. And it's true, failure does make success feel all the better. :)

      I'm sorry you're struggling so much with the system and trying to get your son's needs met! It really isn't fair that you have to fight like that. I do admire your attitude, though -- I can tell that you're a strong person and a great mom.

      *Hugs.*

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