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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Understanding and Dealing with Rejection: The Key to Creative Success


A man sits isolated after he receives a rejection notice
Rejection can crush an artist

It can leave whelps. Your tender skin will show the marks. It eats at your brain. It drains your confidence. It can leave you on the bridge rail thinking the dark waters below look mighty inviting.


Rejection.


The core of our success as writers, composers, entrepreneurs is how we deal with rejection and failure.


Embracing Rejection: Transforming Failure into a Badge of Honor


Tiger Woods said they taught him to rail against the fates for ten seconds, then let go and focus on the next shot. A friend said after every rejection letter he threw a pencil up into the hanging ceiling of his basement office. When the pencils up there mounted into the hundreds, he said rejection became a badge of honor. He wrote a book praised by no less than Stephen King and found outstanding success.


To me maybe one of the greatest tools for training to deal with rejection are $2 lottery tickets. You buy them; you walk around with dreams in your head for a couple of days and then you check the numbers. You learn to wait for success but expect failure until neither has any meaning anymore. Meaning lives in taking the shot, not hitting the target.


Another friend of mine wrote a line for NY Lotto–Hey, you never know–one of the great ad lines and the essential truth behind every creative endeavor. You never know. You do the work and move on because you never know. It’s the effort that counts, the process, the work, the hours, the inner satisfaction of seeing a final draft emerge. After that, you never know, it’s up to the gods, the cruel gods, yes, but it’s fate in the wind, a fickle thing.


I’m convinced the history of the world is filled with unknown masterpieces lost to time. At any one moment, there are millions of geniuses at work. Some become Mozart, and some become dust.



The Power of Belief and Persistence in the Face of Rejection


In any creative endeavor, the difference between success and failure comes down to belief that leads to persistence. You need to believe in this piece of art before you. You need to hold to that belief until you, the artist, decides it is done. Then toss it into the wind. Let it find its own destiny, be it the pedestal or the trash heap. The success of your work is the judgment of others, whatever that judgment might be, but if you believe you have created the best piece of art you could, what else matters?


A genuine artist has little time for praise or condemnation, because they are already focusing on the next piece.


Tossing Your Art into the Wind: Unleashing the Power of Public Airings and Performances


The key is tossing it into the wind. No art finds success in the back of a dusty studio or on a rack of forgotten tapes. I’ve written hundreds of songs, most imminently forgettable, but I’ve always believed every song needs an airing to become a song. I can never truly feel a song, the emotional core of a song, until I perform it live. The answers I seek as a writer are so clear when someone reads a piece of mine, or sips coffee to one of my melodies. I can feel their judgment and it tells me everything.


What I’m suggesting is you seek to feel rejection upfront and personal. Don’t play hide and seek with your failures. Every major work I have been involved with we have done extensive focus groups to understand what’s working and what’s not working. It took me a long time to like this process. But in the end, it’s incredibly valuable.


Is your work communicating or not? And what is the value of your work if it is NOT communicating.


Commercial projects need serious focus group work. The investments are high. But all your creative needs an audience to test the bridge between your imagination and the big, wide world. Audiences don’t have to big and organized, Ten people in a cafe will do,


Overcome Your Fear of Rejection: Don’t Be a People Pleaser


The fear of rejection is a common and powerful emotion experienced by creative workers. It stems from the vulnerability of putting one's creative work out into the world, knowing that it will be subject to judgment and critique.


So what?



Creative workers are not in the people pleasing business. You simply can't afford to be if you want a career as creative.


You need to feel the center of your work first. You need to please only one person–yourself. Once you’ve done that, once you’ve truly put in the work and turned out what you believe to be your absolute best, then you release it to the wolves.


The wolves are always there outside your door when you do this work. But you need to turn their howls into a lullaby. You don’t need to engage the wolves. Let them be. Let them feed. Take their criticism as an opportunity to be better next time.


Creatives often invest significant time, effort, and emotions into their work, making rejection feel deeply personal. I get it. But the fear of rejection can hinder creativity, leading to self-doubt, procrastination, and even avoidance of submitting work for publication.


Basically, bottom line, rejection is part of the deal, and avoiding rejection only serves failure. It's useless. Show fear of rejection at the door or find another job.


Rejection is an inevitable part of the creative process. But here’s the key: Rejection can develop resilience, hone your craft, and help navigate your path towards a sustainable career..


Embracing Rejection: 3 Positive Takeaways for Creatives


Rejection is opportunity.


The world is littered with abandoned projects because critics tore them apart. Worse, entire careers are abandoned because of the fear of rejection. So what are some positive reactions to nurture when you get rejected? Here’s three,


  1. Growth and Resilience: Rejection provides an opportunity for creatives to grow and develop resilience. It pushes them to reassess their work, seek improvement, and refine their craft. Each rejection becomes a valuable learning experience that contributes to their growth as artists.

  2. Motivation and Determination: Rejection can fuel creatives with a renewed sense of motivation and determination. It serves as a reminder of their passion and the importance of perseverance. It pushes them to work harder, take risks, and push boundaries in order to achieve their goals and prove themselves.

  3. Opportunities for New Paths: Rejection often leads creatives to explore new avenues and opportunities they might not have considered before. It encourages them to think outside the box, innovate, and find alternative ways to share their work. Rejection can redirect their creative journey and open doors to unexpected and fulfilling paths they may not have discovered otherwise.


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