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Creative Rejection

by Jean McGuire in My life

If you have ever been on a job hunt, then you know how it feels to put your best foot forward just to have someone either ignore it or stomp on it. If you have ever submitted a new, creative idea to your boss only to have them tell you politely, or not, that’s not what they’re looking for, then you know how rejection feels. Now, imagine doing this all the time.

The creative people I know are some of the most sensitive people in my circle of friends. It takes sensitivity to be able to delve into yourself and pull out a piece of yourself for the world to see. Those same sensitive souls are the ones who regularly submit some of their most intimate thoughts and visions specifically for others to decide if they are “good” enough or not.

A standard part of putting your creative work out to the world is submitting your work for others to approve of and, hopefully, help promote. When you submit your work for jurors or the public to view, you know intellectually that not everyone will be gentle with your work. While there will be some who love your work, there will also be others who will not.

“A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.” – Bo Bennett


Oddly, rejection is as much a part of being a creative as putting paint to canvas, writing your story, or crafting your music. In order to get your work out for the world to see, you have to submit it for public scrutiny. As a creative, you have to be willing to put your work out for the world to see, and all too often, judge.

Submitting your work is an ongoing proposition. You can’t stop submitting once you’re accepted into one exhibit. You have to keep putting your work out there, week after week and month after month. It is much like sending your child to a new school every week and hoping that someone will like them and be there friend.

I am constantly working on submissions. There is an artist’s website, Call For Entry, that lists exhibitions around the country that are looking for artists to submit work.  There is a writer’s website, Duotrope, that lists which agents and publishers around the world are accepting submissions. I review each of these websites every week. I try and submit at least one thing on each website every week. In other words, I open myself up for rejection every week. Every. Freaking. Week.

“Artistic rejection is like taking cod liver oil; they say it’s good for you, you know they’re right, but it can be still tough to swallow.” – Ian Semple


I have been turned down for art exhibits, and I have been rejected by agents and publishers. Sometimes the rejections have been hard for my ego to take, but you have to build a thick skin. There have been times when I have written back to the person who wrote the rejection letter to thank them for being so kind. There have been other times when the rejection has been so brusque all you can do is lick your wounds and know that you can’t please everyone. It’s all part of the gig.

As an artist of any type, all you really want to do is try to capture how you are feeling about something or how it looks to you so others can see it that way too. Catching that fleeting thought, sound or image is an elusive goal that we all strive to achieve with each and every piece of work we do. Sometimes it’s successful, sometimes not so much. Sometimes people like the work, sometimes they don’t.

The lesson I’ve learned is taking that rejection and learning from it. I know that if everyone always loves everything I create and always accepts it exactly as is, my work would never grow. I would never know the pleasure of pushing myself to the next level if there wasn’t anything challenging me.

 “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” – Sylvester Stallone


I have spent much of my life being told I am too sensitive. I have been told I take things too personally. After a few years of striving to be a serious artist and writer I laugh at these allegations. I swear, it takes an ego of solid steel to keep putting my work out into the world.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.


(Image courtesy of siraanamwong)


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