Rejected: Get Used to it, Kid!
So I just received my second rejection. The first was from the Beliot Poetry Journal (which was really sweet of the editor to tell me that although they were going to pass on my “self-confessional PSYCH ward poetic experience” he’s glad I’ve survived all of the things I’ve been through- haha…love that) and the second was from The New Yorker- a different poem entirely.
I won’t lie. The first one stung. Like a bee. Right in the head. (Obviously, it hit the ego more than the heart, but at least I’m aware of this.) What, I have an ego? YES. I frikking have an ego! Guh…it gets old. I’m fairly certain any artist, musician, or writer knows damn well what I’m talking about. There’s a fine line between wanting to share your art and wanting to feed your ego: this is the truth and it’s how it is. As artists, we like to dress things up like that old beast just doesn’t exist and we simply “are driven to create!” but what drives us? If we’re honest, we’ll acknowledge that at least sometimes, it’s the ego. If we’re in denial, we’ll say, “it’s just something I feel I have to do!” (Etc.)
So, there’s always that battle: self vs. art vs. self and striving to be more than simply wanting to get that little stroke that pushes you to your next piece. This is what I’m always thinking of when I submit new art somewhere: what am I searching for? Simply sharing this piece? What is my message? Am I imparting enough of myself in this piece so that people can feel it? I need to be saying something. Yes, the “praise” and the feedback come with the territory- that does feel like a warm, squishy blanket of “acceptance”- sure it does, but I want to know that I’m making an impression on somebody and adding something- no matter how small- to their lives, or the way they think, see, and feel.
Which brings me back to rejection. As in, “rejected by editors”. Maybe I’m a bit of a sadist, but I’m celebrating being rejected. Yes, I’m serious! I was rejected from the New Yorker,-come on…it’s The New Yorker for crying out loud. Being rejected from The New Yorker is a rite of passage. While the first rejection stung (get over yourself, kid!) I was completely elated by the 2nd one. Tickled. Serious tickled, because although I’ve been writing since I was a teenager (poems, songs, short stories, etc.) and have never had any education there at all- even having dropped out of high school in the 10th grade- I’m still acutely aware of my own ignorance as a writer, and, a poet. By claiming total ignorance, I can open my eyes and mind and have the necessary depth to fill in with an education in Creative Writing. Because I’m going into this saying “I know nothing”, I can learn so much more. Ego deflated!
I’ve created a Poem folder on my laptop, and also, a “Rejection” folder. It’s the rejection folder that will drive me in my art and work far more than any other. It’s proof that I have tried and do try and will not stop trying. I’m copying and pasting every rejection into that folder (dated, filed away).
Failure is nothing more than proof that you have tried.
I also entered my first short story competition last night- the top prize is $3,000. That one is going to hurt. Ha. But, it’s being slapped down in life that I have turned into an art form, so, the more rejections I receive (and there will be plenty); the more food for more art. It’s a self-sustaining cycle but one that holds valuable lessons for me, and I cherish them dearly.
It is a never ending question as to why creative people create and feel compelled to share what they make with others. I agree with you to a degree about the “ego” and our needing the approval of others…at least initially. I think the more you work, over time, you do come to find other reasons for making art which ironically can include trying to lose that overactive ego in the first place.
November 3, 2013 at 9:50 am
I agree with you, totally, Al. I remember when I was a fledgling photographer a decade ago- my stuff was crap for the most part (it really was) and I thought I was just “the stuff”- thank God a very talented Fine Art photographer critiqued my work honestly. (Boy, wasn’t that a revelation. Ha.) He gently ripped me to bits! But I treasure his words so much, even now. 10 years later- my style has been developed- it’s a bit gothic, etc. (In the traditional sense,) But I’m secure in my style so I don’t wrestle much with ego in that area. But poetry is different; I’m in “infancy stage” with it, just as I was 10 year ago with photography. Babies want to be coddled and always held, etc. heheh. I believe we battle the ego most when we are shallow in something, or are unsure of our purpose.
Thanks for your insightful feedback, Al. I always appreciate your views on things. :0)
November 3, 2013 at 11:47 am
Please accept this award. 🙂 http://bipolarbarbieq.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/sunshine-award/
November 3, 2013 at 8:41 pm
Thanks again, Barbie. xo
November 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm
I love it. I never thought I would be saying this but Congrats on your rejection 🙂 The more I read about how writers and painters got famous, the more I realized how much they had to be rejected to be recognized. I am sure all those rejections fueled them even more. Good idea about the rejection file. Use that to motivate you! 🙂 ❤
November 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm
Hey, thanks, M&M. :0) Exactly; Van Gogh and Plath are both great examples. Neither were famous in their lifetimes and interestingly enough, they both knew and spoke openly about authors being more important “dead” than alive. (They both committed suicide, so you have to wonder just how much of that played into their poor choices as well.) I recently read that Stephen King and even J.K.Rowling were rejected- King was rejected for years. He had to replace his nail on his wall with a railroad spike because he had so many of them- he was rejected repeatedly before selling Carrie. It’s encouraging though.
The thing about publishers (editors, etc.) who publish, whether in magazines or journals or whatever it may be, is that they want to know if you’ve got credentials. Credentials tell them that you TRY and that you’re not lazy, and that you won’t be lazy when you work for their company. Eventually, if you keep throwing your line out, somebody will bite- it’s inevitable- even if it takes years, and sometimes it does. But once a person has collected an impressive little cache (of publishings), then he or she can shop them around to the bigger fish, which are the publishing houses with an anthology or collection, etc. Rejection is inevitable. It’s absolutely going to happen, and many times. It’s best to embrace it- get to know it- have it over for tea and cake- because you’re going to be spending a lot of time in rejection’s company! So yeah, here’s to my rejection. [clinks glass] heheh… xo
November 5, 2013 at 10:18 pm
Cheers to that ❤ Now that I am taking a semester off which is terrifying for me as I feel like I NEED to be in school, maybe I will be able to read a book or two (OTHER THAN SCHOOL BOOK) ha! Totally hitting up Barnes and Noble when I get to SC.
November 6, 2013 at 7:52 am
I’m facing the same thing- I’ve decided to take a year off from school, but feel like the ground will drop! School is all I’ve known for years now- I’m still somewhat undecided but I really want to take a year off to pursue promoting my children’s book (shop it around to publishers) and work on my writing/music/fine art more. (I’m already a starving artist- not much will change either way.) I hope you have a blast in SC. :0)
November 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm