The Art of Being Rejected



Let’s face it. If you really put yourself out there as a writer (or any type of artist), you’re going to get rejected. If you put yourself out there a lot, you are going to get rejected a lot. I speak from personal experience.

I have submitted my poetry, my fiction, my plays, and screenplays for hundreds of publications, writing contests, opportunities for productions, etc. I have sent countless e-mails trying to book myself as a solo musician or to book my band. I have sent my albums and poetry books to bloggers for reviews. I have been to many auditions for plays and films. I have been subjected to a number of really harsh critiques in writing classes and workshops.

I have read some pretty great reviews of my work and I have read reviews that were pretty terrible. In one review of an EP of a band I used to be in, the reviewer failed to discuss my musical abilities or how my voice or lyrics added to the band, but he did say I looked like Glen Danzig (for real).  Once I had a staged reading of one of my plays where the crowd literally just bashed my play and my music (it was a musical) for thirty minutes afterwards during the talk back. I once played a solo acoustic gig to three people. I played another gig at a festival where I was on a tiny stage made out of plywood, not a single person stopped to listen to me, and not a single person clapped after any of my songs. When I was querying literary agents, I could always count on at least one rejection letter in my inbox basically every day.

So I know rejection and criticism.

There are two ways to handle rejection.

Like this:



Or like this:



Take a lesson from the Dude.

Some rejections are going to hurt worse than others. Some rejections will make you re-evaluate your whole artistic career. Some rejections will make you want to curl up in a ball on the kitchen floor, listen to The Smiths, eat cookie dough ice cream, and never leave the apartment again.

The true mark of an artist, though, is getting back up again and getting back out there. The vast majority of successful artists went through rejection after rejection and criticism after criticism. The Smashing Pumpkins were told repeatedly they needed a different lead singer because Billy Corgan’s voice wasn’t so good. Dustin Hoffman was rejected a number of times before he finally made it as an actor.  One publisher rejected George Orwell’s Animal Farm, saying, “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.” There are a ton of examples like these.

There is nothing anyone could ever say to me that would make me stop writing, stop singing, stop writing songs, stop creating, stop sharing my art with others. And to all my brothers and sisters of rejection, I salute you. Keep on creating the work you love. Keep on putting it out there. Don’t stop auditioning or trying to book yourself or submitting your work to publishers because you’ve been rejected or criticized. All art is subjective. There are people out there who love your favorite artists, but there are people out there who hate your favorite artists. The work you are creating has a place, and there are people out there who will absolutely fall in love with it. You just have to find them.

9 thoughts on “The Art of Being Rejected

    • So true! It’s all about perseverance, I think. Sure, there are things you can do to become a better artist along the way. You should always be working on your craft and technique. But I think a huge part of being successful is simply never giving up.

  1. For me it isn’t about perseverance, it’s about learning how to detach myself from my work when I’m reading the bad reviews or getting rejections. If I am able to put myself into the shoes of an unbiased reader, even one who doesn’t like my writing, I give myself an easier time when it comes to editing. Learning to use my inner critic to my advantage has been the key to keeping my sanity through the maze of rejection. It’s a fact, not everyone is going to get what you do, and you’re not going to do everything perfectly, sometimes we all need that part of our minds to kick us in the butts and tell us to SUCK IT UP AND MOVE ON.

    • That’s also true. Looking at the work as something outside of you is also helpful. And some criticism/rejection is really beneficial. It can help us grow as artists and try new things we wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.

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  3. My wife and I just watched “Finding Forrester” with Sean Connery.

    Quote/Connery: “Do you know what the absolute best moment is? It’s when you finish your first draft and read it by yourself…before these assholes take something they couldn’t do in a lifetime and tear it down in a single day.”


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