Saturday, February 9, 2013

Don't Give Up!

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

I was going to review four fantastic books this weekend. I was really excited about it, too -- because these books are serious awesomesauce. I've decided to push that post back another week, though, because something important came up.

That something? More rejections -- some rejections that broke my heart just a little. So I'm going to put a Barbie band-aid on the injury and write something I really need to read. And if you're a creative person who's faced disappointment, it's something you need to read, too.


When I found out I'd been passed over for two awesome opportunities, the first thing I felt was disappointment. I was really hoping I'd make it. That I'd get the big break I'd been looking for.

My next feeling? I felt like a loser. I started to wonder...  did I have any business trying to make it as a jewelry artist? I have had an awful lot of rejections lately. It was the kind of attitude I'd been trying to avoid since I started trying to make a name for myself in the beading world, and there it was -- staring me stubbornly in the face.

Still, I knew there had to be something I could do, some insight I could find, that would make me feel better. So I did what I usually do when I have a problem... I started brainstorming. Here's what I came up with.

Feelings aren't always reality.

I'm all about accepting feelings. Disappointment is natural, and I absolutely don't believe in censoring my thoughts and feelings just because they're unpleasant. However. When it comes to feeling like a loser, it's vital to remember this:

Just because you feel it doesn't mean it's real.

Do you need to read that again? I sure do. In pink.

Just because you feel it doesn't mean it's real.

I could feel like a flamingo, but it wouldn't make me one. The same is true for being a failure, a loser, and all those other nasty words we call ourselves when our confidence starts to flounder.

It's not personal.

If you feel like a loser, if you feel like giving up, another thing to realize is that rejection isn't personal. 

I don't just mean that it's something you created, and not your actual self, being turned down -- although that's true. I don't just mean that people's tastes as individuals are incredibly, and ridiculously, subjective -- even though that's true, too.

(I mean, some people actually eat raisins. Yuckballs!!!)

Work can be rejected for a million reasons, none of which has anything to do with how good it is. Maybe the piece is too big or too small. Maybe it doesn't fit the overall theme of the show/contest/exhibit. Maybe, just maybe, your work didn't make it because it's really, really creative and crazy, and humans are biased against creative ideas. 

You'll never know for sure. It won't help to speculate. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that:

You probably weren't rejected because your work sucked.

And you definitely weren't rejected because you suck! 

It happens to everyone.

You know who's faced rejection? 

Lady Gaga. Madonna. Monet. Stephen King. Oh, and everyone.

Rejection is a rite of passage. It doesn't make you mediocre or a loser. It just makes you human!

In fact, one of the major differences between people who succeed and people who fail isn't talent! It's this:

The people who succeed keep going, even when they feel like quitting.

The people who succeed keep going while other people quit.

It's just statistics. The more you put yourself out there, and the longer you stick around, the better your chances of getting noticed. But if you sulk on your couch and never show what you make to another person ever again? Your chances are zero. Zilch. Goose egg!

Sure, it's a little more complicated than that, but not much. Persistence -- or grit -- is the most important tool you have as an artist! Even more than natural talent. And the cool thing is that it can be developed. So even if you're not feeling gritty right now, that's OK -- think of it as a muscle you can build over time.

Work smarter.

Here's the other part of the persistence equation. You already know that to keep going, you keep doing. Right? But something to keep in mind is that working hard is good, but...

Working smart is better than working hard.

Don't just keep making your art. Find ways to raise it to a new level.

Refine your technique. Practice doing the things you struggle with the most. Keep looking for ways to distinguish yourself from others in your field, whether it's through presentation or becoming more innovative or heading in a slightly different direction with the things you make or offering amazing, over the top customer service. 

You already make awesome things. I'm taking that as a given. And of course, as I mentioned before, rejection often has nothing to do with the quality of your work. But there's satisfaction in continually improving. It gives you something to work towards, it maintains your confidence even when your career is uncertain, and it helps you develop grit.  

The only catch? This one's the hardest because it's different for everyone, and the only person who can make the important choices is you. My only advice is to work smarter in ways that make you happier and more passionate about what you do and to... 

Never, ever, ever, change your work into what other people think it should be. 

Toning your work down deprives the world of the things you, and only you, have to offer. And this is because...

You're a misunderstood genius.

(For now.)

Remember, even Stephen King faced a ton of rejection before he got where he is now. If people aren't acknowledging your work just yet, they might need some time to come around to your brilliance. But they will come around. Someday, once you've made it big, you'll be an inspiration to beginners who will look at you and whisper... I can't believe she was ever rejected! In fact?

The more obstacles you face, the more interesting your success story will be. 

I don't care how pretentious it sounds. I don't care if the rest of the world judges you for using the label or me for encouraging you to use it. If calling yourself a misunderstood genius makes you feel better, do it!

I'll be honest. It's working for me. Mostly because it makes me laugh and think of Brian from Spaced, but also because that's so much better than calling myself a failure or a loser. It makes me feel heroic instead of defeated. It reminds me that my story isn't over -- it's just getting started.

Pick yourself.

Gatekeepers aren't villains (unlike squirrels) who want you to fail. Most of them are awesome people who have a really tough job to do. That said, every now and then you have to pat them on the head and send them lovingly on their way while you take matters into your own hands.

If nobody's taking a chance on you right now, you can take that chance, instead! 

My favorite example is writers and self publishing. Some writers don't want to deal with agents, publishers, and all the other people who usually have the power. So they find their own audience. They write what they want to write. And they put it out into the world with nothing but their own permission! Luckily...

Your own permission is the most important thing.

OK, I think we need to read that again. This time, in purple.

Your own permission is the most important thing.

You only need your permission to sell your work to people who love it. To show it to everyone you know... and all their friends. To wear your favorite necklace to the grocery store so you'll be showered with compliments. To set up a blog or website and share your work with the online world. To write an awesome book. 

Is it hard work? It sure is! In some ways, it's harder than if you'd gone with the gatekeepers. But it's also exhilarating to feel so sure about what you have to offer the world that you're willing to give yourself that big break you've been looking for. And if you're not so sure? Get sure by working smarter and refining what you do.

You're not alone.

That said, never underestimate the importance and impact of a strong support group. Because failure and rejection and annoying setbacks happen to everyone, especially creative people, other artists will know what you're going through, and they'll be able to help you through your rough patch.

Maybe they'll give you some much-needed perspective on how rejection isn't personal. Maybe they'll tell you how awesome you are. Maybe they'll help you form a new plan of attack. Or maybe they'll feed you cookies and hot chocolate and wrap you up in a fuzzy blanket.

Whatever they do, your creative friends will show you that they don't think you're a loser. Your best friends, your creative spouse, your blog readers, your customers, pick you every day. That's worth a million acceptances by strangers.

Also, don't forget to include cuddly animals in your support group. I spent Wednesday afternoon with a friend's lab puppy in my lap, and he absorbed my angst like an adorable sponge. He doesn't care how famous I am. He thinks I'm cool because I play catch with him and his slobbery chew toys and let him body slam me as he brings them back.

Never underestimate the importance of a dog who loves you.

Perspective, perspective, perspective!

Here's the final piece of the puzzle. If you feel like giving up, you might need a healthy dose of perspective. 

There's nothing wrong with dreaming big and wanting to achieve amazing things in life. Our plans, our dreams, our schemes, are a big part of who we are as creative people, or as people, period. They give our lives a deeper meaning. They give us direction and purpose in a world that can be chaotic. 

There's nothing wrong with trying for big things and feeling disappointed when we fail to reach them. Feelings aren't good or bad -- they just are, even if they're not always reality. 

But if you have perspective, you know that failure to achieve something you want isn't the end of the world, and it certainly isn't the end of your life as a creative person. It isn't a reflection of who you are, and it isn't a sign from some mysterious force (like an evil squirrel in a top hat) that you're not meant to succeed. It's just a failure. It's just a rejection. It's just time to move on to the next thing.

And also? In the end, what really matters isn't that we succeed beyond our wildest dreams and become respected and adored, even though that's an amazing thing. What matters is that we're able to create, to make things with our capable brains and fingers and hands and, in doing so, to feel really and truly alive.

Because our physical bodies are finite. They don't last forever. Health comes and goes, and so does life.

You never know how much creative time you have. So bask in it!

When people say things like this to me, I sometimes think it's a guilt trip. I'm not cool with the idea that if you feel anything other than gratitude, you're a miserable person. Or that you have no right to react to a disappointing situation because other people have it worse -- why does it have to be a contest? So believe me when I say, my intention isn't to shame myself, or yourself. It's just to remind you that you're amazing! And that:

You are so much more than a few rejections.

You are so much more than a few rejections!

Remember, rejection doesn't mean you suck! Because no matter what, you're a creative, lively, talented, hardworking, brave person who is loved by dogs. And so am I. I'm also a petite pie princess, a bat benefactor, the owner of a wonderful, inappropriate sense of humor, a hula hooping fiend, and a fantastic problem solver. I bet you're a million things, too. The one thing you are NOT is a loser.

So that's my take on giving up -- and why you don't have to do it, no matter how loserly you feel right now. If you're not convinced, bookmark this post, save it on Pinterest, email it to yourself, give the link to all your friends for safe keeping, and come back to it once you've taken a day or two to think. I'll be here, waiting to help you in any way I can.

Now it's your turn: what do you do when you feel like giving up?

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing! And of course, have a sequintastic day.

Edit: This video on dealing with criticism and rejection is awesome. Thanks, Joanna Penn and Mark McGuinness!

Also, special thanks to Michelle Mach, who mentioned my post, and my flamingo quote, in her awesome giveaway.

Also, special thanks to Mandi Ainsworth, who mentioned my post in an amazing post of her own, all about beading with anxiety.

Also, thanks to Srini, Johnny, Jeff, Karen, Joel, and for your awesome content. Your links made this post awesome. <3


  1. This is a great post, and well timed for me! I recently was passed up on opportunities I was contacted for and thought were in the bag, and was full of self doubt. Thanks so much for never giving up, your perseverance is contagious! xo

    1. Erin, I'm so glad I could help you! Maybe I'm a sap, but going through a tough experience is worth it when it means I can pass on what I've learned to awesome people.

      And you're totally awesome! I'm sorry you were passed up, but I know that you'll find an even better opportunity. It's amazing how often it works out like that. <3

  2. Hey Kiddo you are right we all get rejected in so many venues of life. We can quit or we can follow our hearts and passions. This statement is VERY true
    "Maybe, just maybe, your work didn't make it because it's really, really creative and crazy, and humans are biased against creative ideas." Remember the beading/art powers that be want to make money and if your idea is too far out of what is popular right now, well then you get pushed out.
    Keep doing what you are doing and MAKE it popular.

    Positive energies your way.

    1. Nicole, thank you so much!

      I love, love, love your insight about taking what we're doing and making it popular. I've seen that happen with chain maille and with polymer clay -- two art forms that were dismissed for a number of years, but are now things the jewelry world can't get enough of.

      I'm going to make sequins and crazy color combinations popular. <3

  3. Awesome post! Everyone experiences rejection, but not everyone shares their experience. So we have a lopsided view of what "success" looks like. And thank you for having mercy on the gatekeepers. I once had a freelance editor job where I didn't make *any* of the decisions and just had to send the rejection letters with my name signed on them. Yeah, that's about as fun as it sounds!

    1. Thanks, Michelle!

      I was a little nervous publishing this entry, but I think it's important to document the downs as well as the ups. Because you're right -- there really is a lopsided view of success, and there's also the myth that success can happen overnight. It's more like 4,000 nights!

      I have compassion for gatekeepers because it's a job I couldn't do. Such a hard one! If I had to be a judge for Battle of the Beadsmith, I think I'd cry. That freelance job sounds horrible -- but I'm glad you shared your experience because it really hits the "it's not personal" point home.

  4. This was such an inspiring and uplifting post! I am definitely bookmarking this and will refer to it often. Thanks for pouring your heart and soul into this timeless advice. We all face adversity and it really is about keeping things in perspective and not giving up.

    1. Thank you so much!

      I'm more than happy to help other people through my experiences, even if it means being painfully honest/candid. That's the beauty of learning things the hard way -- it means that other people don't necessarily have to.

      I'm glad you stopped by! Welcome to the blog. <3

  5. This is such a fantastic post, and one that I'm sure we all need to read and remember from time to time. I recall something someone once told have to hear 100 no's before you get that one yes. So if you get rejected just look at it that you're that much closer to getting a yes!

    1. Thanks, Janet!

      I think I've heard the same thing before. I like the idea of each rejection being another step closer to success. I also think that every no makes the yes even more meaningful. :)

  6. Great post and very inspiring! What I do is take a break and try again. Remember the story about Robert the Bruce and the spider?

    1. Thanks, Pearl!

      I had to look up the Robert the Bruce story. Wow, that was encouraging! I think the mark of a smart person is being able to learn from everything and everyone -- even spiders. :)

      This actually reminds me of one of my favorite dog stories. My golden retriever, Henry, would get so excited when my mom put his leash on him. He thought he was going for walkies, but when it turned out that it was puppy training time, he'd sit right there in he driveway and turn his head away from my mom. It didn't matter how much she screamed and pleased and tugged the leash -- he was an immovable object.

      I guess we all have to be the spider -- or the dog in the driveway. :)

    2. Oops! That was supposed to be *pleaded.* It's amazing the difference one letter can make. ;)

  7. Given that my depression has reared its ugly head over the last month, some of those affirmations were exactly what I needed to hear, especially that feelings are not necessarily representative of reality. I'm normally okay with rejection as a part of the creative process, but I'm at a point where it's harder to take and most of the rejection comes internally, and it's just a matter of remembering that no matter how crappy I feel for no reason, that doesn't make me all the terrible things I say I am.

    And I don't need anyone's permission to write the things I like. As long as I'm not hurting anyone, it's no one's business, and if I have to, I'll make my own way. I'd rather go through the usual channels, but if those channels are closed to me or if there aren't any channels, then damn it, I'll do it myself.

  8. By the way, I'm theothermagdalene/Luna. Just saying that you know me. :)

    1. Yay!!! Hi, you! I'm so happy I have your writing blog to stalk now. ;)

  9. Thank you for this encouraging and inspiring post. I am always failing at stuff (both little and big) so I really needed to hear those words! It is very liberating to be able to say out loud (as I frequently do): Yes I failed at that, but hey I learnt a lot along the way and I'm still a work in progress.

    Obviously, it's brilliant to succeed at things, but you don't get sunshine without shadows. Who wants to stay in the twilight all their lives?

    1. You're so welcome, Sarah! I'm happy I could help.

      It really is freeing to embrace failures and accept them as learning experiences. I started reading a book called The Talent Code last night, and it sounds like failing and learning are the best way to get better at things. And also the fastest.

      You're on the right track! Keep going. :)

  10. You are a sparkly, witty, goddess of inspiration. This was one of the best posts I've seen in a long time, and it's completely spot on. Yep, I've had some rejections recently (one that nearly killed my self-confidence completely), but friends, family, and my creative outlets saved my sanity (such as it is...) Big cyber hugs to you, my friend!

    1. Bobbie, what an awesome compliment. Thank you so much! <3

      I'm so glad you have a support group to help you when your confidence takes a hit. Because you're awesome, and so is your work! Cyber hugs back!

  11. Thanks for the great post! It's true, most of the top people in their respective fields face tons of rejection before making it big. You and I are not the only designers who faced rejection this week, so don't take it personally!

    1. Cindy, you're so welcome!

      I'm sorry you faced some rejection. Regardless of that, your work is awesome!

  12. Awesome post Sarah Inspiration....maybe I should get over the fear of rejection and put something out there. It's a scary world but your words have given me confidence. I am so glad you are in my life.

    1. Thanks, Kepi! <3

      Oh, you should definitely put yourself and your work out there. You're so talented! Just look at the fantastic necklace you made for Sequintastic September.

      The more you put yourself out there, the less intimidating it is. I know you can do it!

  13. wow! I love it when you run forth like this... and I love you repeated it in pink. I think I will repeat to myself when needed, but in cobalt. I'm sharing this on my facebook page, it's good to remember when you are an artist because we all have low moments.. again the human factor.

    1. Kat, I'm so glad you stopped by!

      Thanks so much. I'm glad you found this post helpful, and I'm so happy you're sharing it. The more people I can help, the better. <3

  14. Beautifully written post! Love the break out affirmations. I'm working on a post about fear and thinking so little of yourself that you don't even enter/submit. I feel like this is an important part of the conversation, and I will definitely be linking to it. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks, Mandi! I can't wait to read your post on fear -- it's such a tough thing to get past! Most people don't realize that you can do things in spite of fear, and not just in the absence of it. <3

  15. Sarah, you rock. I often have to remind myself about your first quote...feelings do not always equal reality.

  16. I have been following your blog for a while now. I enjoy your style of writing very much and I love your creative work. I have read this post twice now. I tend to give up easily when I get discouraged. Thank you for putting it out there.

  17. I'm a little late to this party but I just wanted to say I love this post. I grapple with being "good enough" constantly...and many times I am my own worse critic.

    Last October I submited artwork for a book that was to be published--the writer was requesting artwork from her readers, not a paid gig but it would have at least gotten me "out there." Well, my work wasn't chosen. I know the letdown you feel after waiting for weeks or months to hear back...

    You bring up an important point that I think we all need to remember, "rejection" isn't usually because we are not good enough, it is usually because we don't fit what "they" are looking for at this moment.

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts and projects; I look forward to Saturdays!!

  18. This post could not have come at a better time....I've only just 'found' you via another blog (love when that happens - like finding hidden treasure!) and I think it's brilliant, as is your writing.

    You've cheered me up and cheered me on - thank you so much!


Comments are like chocolate chip cookies for my blog! They're always appreciated. <3