Dealing with Rejection

April 29, 2019  

Rejection is never easy. You don’t expect to be rejected when you start a thing. You think, “I’ve got this” and wait for the results. Even if your intelligent brain tells you, you may fail, I’d be willing to bet that you always hold out that glimmer of hope that this time you’ll get whatever it is you’ve asked for. 

Sometimes, it doesn’t really matter. You can go on to the next thing and keep on doing it until something clicks. But if you are an independent artist, and your survival depends on getting that grant to keep going, that rejection is doubly painful. Often you have to start over and try again. 

I’ve lost my share of grant proposals, and I’ve wrung my hands in frustration more than once because the reasons for losing whatever this was seem so subjective. But – I’ve also gotten quite a few. Sometimes I think it’s a bit of a crap shoot. You roll the dice and take a chance. You might get lucky. And I think there is more than a small amount of luck present. Sometimes you can’t predict. 

So how do you deal with this? Sure an inordinate amount of cocktails and fist shaking might make you feel better, but it doesn’t solve the problem of lack of funds. Your project may be derailed, and your prospects for a future in your chosen artistic career may seem dim to non-existent. But you have to keep going. You can’t give up. One of the laws of rejection is the rule of attrition. Sometimes when the playing field gets empty of competitors you could be the only man left standing. 

All funding bodies operate under the same principles. They have to. Your product has to fit into a predetermined set of parameters in order to be accepted. Can you sell? Are you clear about what you’re doing with the money? Do you have people in the business who can vouch for you? Are you fresh? Do you present something that is interesting but not too off the map? Do you have staying power? Can you survive without the funding? Do you have a team around you? This all seems so straight-forward and something you could read on a website, but I’d be willing to bet a lot of folks don’t have all these questions answered when they apply for funding. I don’t – often, but I’ve still managed to get the grant. Without these, you may be setting yourself up for rejection. 

What about competitions and contests? Someone has to win, and everyone else has to lose. It’s what a contest is. If there ever was a set-up for rejection, it’s a contest – especially one open to thousands of people from all over the world. The odds of losing are pretty high, and if it keeps happening over and over, it can become soul-numbing. But…. 

What can you do? I have learned over the years that there will always be an element of rejection in my work. Some folks will like it. Some won’t. But I keep going. If I can connect with a few people, I’m doing my work well. If someone buys a CD, I’ve succeeded. If I can sing in front of an audience that is listening, I’m fulfilled. Maybe I won’t win that contest, maybe I won’t get the grant. But my music is something no one can take away from me. They just can’t. It’s all subjective for me. It’s mine to own. I don’t owe anyone else for my successes or failures. If I chose to be upset over my failures, oh well. Tomorrow is another day. I have learned that I will never fit perfectly into anyone’s mold, and that’s a good thing.

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