Rejection and Perseverence

As you begin to assemble your career, or even if you’re deep in the midst of it, I feel it’s best if you acknowledge that your work will likely be rejected several times initially, and that finding the right gallery will likely be no simple task. Therefore, let me give you one piece of advice about rejection: get used to it. Let me also give you another: determine to persevere, no matter what.

Perseverance is the quality that enables you to handle rejection after rejection, then more rejection, then further rejection, then perhaps several more years of rejection, and still snap back. I’m not saying that those rejections shouldn’t depress or anger you, or at times make you want to abandon the whole bloody business. They should, and will. But you’ll have to persevere nonetheless–that is, if you want to succeed. You’re the one creating the work. You’re the one who has to believe in yourself. You’re the one who has to know whether your work is any good. If you do know this, and are certain of your artistic destiny, then no amount of being turned away should make any difference. Sure, you may punch a few holes in some walls before it’s over, but after the dust has settled, and you’ve mended your knuckles, go back out and make the approach again. And again and again. And again.Don’t get desperate. Don’t give in to despair. Listen to your inner voice, the one that has assured you about your work, and your place in the world, since the day you first began to create. Voices like that rarely lie (which isn’t to say that we don’t on occasion misinterpret them). Listen to the reassurance it gives you, assuming it does. As you listen, and as you prepare to send your work out once more, try to employ resiliency, combined with stubbornness, mellowed with humor, strengthened with discipline, bound with humility. And hell, enjoy yourself while you’re at it. You’re alive, you’re free to create, you’re work is maturing. If you learn to take the rejections well, you’ll gain strength and character from them. In time, this can lead to one formidable artist, and career. Decide that it will, and that the day is coming when the galleries will be happy to work with you. People respond well to confidence–which should never be confused with arrogance. Determine that the rejections will help build these things up in you; they can, if you decide to take them that way. They can also destroy you, if you let them. Don’t. In the end, the only person who truly has the power to destroy you, is you. That’s a tough one to remember, and a tougher one to practice, but from everything I’ve seen in the world, I believe it to be essentially true. You want an example of perseverance? George Bernard Shaw didn’t get his first significant play staged until 1897, when he was 41, and even then his career was several more years in taking off. Finally, by 1904, his talent was established, and he went on to become one the leading dramatists/philosophers of the 20th Century. What would have come of him had he given up? Very little. Please try to employ the same stubbornness. If you do, you’ll outlast the snobs, and the critics.

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