Walking my Talk: My First Official Rejection
I've written about rejection and failure here before. It's impossible to talk about creativity, and going for your dreams without doing so, really. So here is a little transparency:
A month ago, I applied for this Portraiture exhibition curated by the NVCAC. I was really excited because it seemed like exactly the perfect fit for me and my work. I spent days putting my submission together. The process of delivering it turned into a textbook example of what people mean when they talk about "Mercury in retrograde". It sucked, I was scared, and stressed, and things went wrong, but I got there in the end (with a big, loving hand from my mom. Thanks mom.) All this to say: I was invested. I'm not going to pretend like I didn't want this .
Fast forward to today. I got the kind of mail that is physically hard to open because it is so many kinds of exciting and stressful. And here's what it said:
First, let me say: this is how you reject somebody, people! The NVCAC were an absolute pleasure to deal with. The letter is sensitive, carefully worded and encouraging.
Still, art is a sensitive topic. Talent and ability is my Achilles heel. I have carefully guarded myself and stayed hidden to avoid exactly this for many years. So this is how I felt at first: "If my work wasn't right for this show, than what is it right for?! " Then I took a short moment and a few deep breaths.
This is part of the process. This rejection (and the many others that are sure to follow) are what will make me indestructible and very, very clear about what I am doing and why. Once I let the initial shame settle (along with the visceral feeling that my work is rubbish and I never wanted to look at it again) I felt relieved, and maybe even a little inspired. I started thinking about the other exhibitions I could apply for (now that I know how) and the possibility of creating my own. Collaborations! Events! coloring books! So many other things.
Conventional wisdom would dictate that I burn this letter and never talk about it, but I've learned to see conventional wisdom as an arrow pointing in the opposite direction. So, I'm sharing this because I want to celebrate. I am proud that I tried my best and pushed myself way out of my comfort zone. I am proud that I am now professional enough of an artist to receive an actual rejection letter from an actual gallery. Lastly, I would like to raise a glass to all of you who have ever put all of your effort into something only to have it not work out the way you planned (oh wait, that's all of us. Yay!). Here is a toast to expensive learning experiences, spectacular failures, and painful growth catalysts. Here's to the reality of ambition and the creative process. Here's to daring greatly.