I used to think that no one could possibly deal with as much rejection as I do. I’ve been some kind of artist ever since I was five—I’ve been a dancer, a singer/songwriter, an author, a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, and an actress. When I was in middle school, I auditioned for The Nutcracker three years in a row before I finally made it into the ballet. I’ve been rejected in hundreds of situations: plays and films I wasn’t cast in, bands who didn’t want me as a singer, literary agents who didn’t want to represent my novel, MFA programs I didn’t get into, writing contests I didn’t win. I was just rejected today even. I entered a screenplay proposal into the Twilight Storytellers project, and it was chosen as one of the top 40 finalists, but didn’t make it into the top 20.
I’m not going to lie. Every time I get rejected, it does sting a little. I could enter a playwriting contest I only halfway want to participate in and still feel disappointed when I wasn’t selected. But ultimately, you dust yourself off and get back up. You eat some ice cream, listen to The Smiths, and watch Clueless for the 80th time. You read that one blog post about how many times J.K. Rowling was rejected and you keep going. You keep writing. You keep creating.
When I gave this idea more consideration, though, I realized that artists don’t actually get rejected any more than non-artists. People have to deal with rejection every day: the job you didn’t get, the dude/lady who never called you back after the date, the idea you offered at work that wasn’t used, the bowling game you lost to your best friend, the tweet you sent in to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that never got read on air. Sometimes they are big and sometimes they are tiny, but everyone gets rejected many, many times.
Whenever I experience artistic rejection, I have to remind myself that all art is subjective. Most of the time, artists get rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with the amount of talent they have. The casting director wants a blonde girl for the role, and you happen to be a brunette. The play festival needs a play that’s 15 minutes, and yours is 25. The band wants someone who wants to go on tour, and you don’t like to travel. Or it could just be a matter of opinion. One literary agent doesn’t like your novel at all and another agent thinks it’s the best book she’s read in years. Maybe someone even flat out criticizes you and calls your work super boring. But in that case, you can always take a lesson from the Dude: “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”