Writers, Artists: You Are Not a Failure If Your Work Is Rejected

Vincent van Gogh self portrait pale blues greens, yellow and brownWriters and artists throughout history have feared and hated rejections of their work.

The most coveted goal of writers and artists–the end result and focus of all their education, training, efforts, and hopes–is to see their work published or mounted on display.

Artists and writers are particularly sensitive. When their work goes unaccepted and rejections occur time and again, as often happens in the sometimes cruelly competitive worlds of writers and artists, the emotions they feel are frustration, then discouragement, and then misery.

cartoon of woman crying and hand held up behind her saying NOEach rejection compounds the effects of the previous rejections and can lead writers and artists from heights of blissful optimism to the total disappearance of confidence. Yet without confidence, writers and artists cannot do their work.

This post shows that writers and artists are not failures if their work is rejected. They may be passing through a phase on the way to great success. Or they may find joy and peace of mind in the act of creating without making any effort to sell or publish their creations. They may find satisfaction without an expectation or desire to be published, or they may seek alternatives. Self-publishing is currently very popular, as are blogs and newsletters.

But even for writers and artists whose goal is to have their work published or accepted, rejection does not mean failure.

 

I Read a Post About Rejection

A few days ago I read an article which asked how writers should Sad-faced dog respond when editors reject their work, and there it was, the questions “What is winning? Is winning the only thing that matters? Is getting published the only thing that matters?  Is that the only credential that makes you a significant literary person?”

Having been involved in many intense competitions in sports, in earning a living in bitterly competitive business environments, and in the arts, I have seen that there are more enduring, valuable, and humane ways of finding success than that. I feel that my views can help writers and artists who are trying very hard, but unsuccessfully, to achieve the ultimate goal of having their work accepted

Painting of white book floating above blue water and skyI remember once learning that a publishing house I was interested in submitting to typically received 5,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year. Less than seventy would be published.  What about those thousands of disappointed writers? I’m sure they had worked very hard and had high hopes. But their hopes would be shattered. Are they to conceive of themselves as failures? Are they supposed to give up hope of ever being successful?

I think that there is a healthy response for writers and artists who submit a work and do not have it accepted, an optimistic and hopeful attitude.

 

Other Forms of Winning that Precede Success

If you are a writer or artist, you are not a failure if your work is rejected. You may be winning.

You are winning and not failing when you refuse to let any fear of rejection or any intimidation stop you from submitting your works. (Stung by rejections, some writers and artists grow excessively cautious about showing their work at all. They become paralyzed. Better to be bold and fearless.)

Portrait of William ShakespeareYou are winning and not failing when you are persistent in spite of setbacks, are able to recover quickly, and are resilient.

You are winning when regardless of rejections, your writing and art are now better than ever before, when you are at the peak of your abilities, performing at your personal best.

You are winning and not failing when you make sure that the quality of your work (and your reputation) are always improving.

You are winning and not failing when you are mature and skilled enough to write and paint expertly. (Any person must spend thousands of hours developing an expertise in any art before they should expect to excel in it.)

You are winning when you are motivated and working hard. (Hard work will overcome many problems. Creative people have faith that effort along with talent leads to the best results; they are in love with work.)

You are winning when the work you submit is absolutely finished, polished like a precious jewel, and as high quality as it can be.

The word No, written in white on green, purple, red and other colorful squaresYou are winning and not failing when you are knowledgeable–about the subject, about your craft, about what the client is looking for, about everything you should know. (To creative people ignorance is not bliss.)

You are winning also when you are true to yourself and have integrity (and are not so desperate to be successful that you compromise too much.)

You are winning when the works you produce have many strengths, like many pillars of a temple, and few weaknesses.

 

Still life with a grey/green pitcher, red and green grapes and red pomegranatesThose are the ways you are really winning even during those times when it feels like you are not.

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Artists, Failure, Publishing, Rejection, Self-Confidence, Success, Winning

8 responses to “Writers, Artists: You Are Not a Failure If Your Work Is Rejected

  1. It’s not fun, but a necessary part of the process!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Freddie Levin

    It’s best if you can separate your artistic work from the need to make money with it. It’s a lot of pressure and eventually will warp the kind of work you’ll do. Shaping things for the marketplace can keep you from doing your best work. Rejections are hard enough without that.

    Like

    • Freddie, you make the same point about artwork that Hemingway made about writing. He said writers shouldn’t change their style solely to get published. Stick to your own style, and if you have talent, editors will come looking for you. Also, Freddie, congratulations on being accepted for the International Puppet Film Festival in New Dehli, India. That’s quite an accomplishment.

      Like

  3. Wonderful positive reinforcement in this post, David. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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