One of the most common questions other artists and writers ask me is this one: how do you deal with rejection and criticism?
I think the reason that people ask this question is that it is a real point of pain for artists and writers. In fact, it may be “the” point of pain, besides dealing with creative blocks, which are often caused by fear or rejection and criticism. So this question really is at the heart of the artists’ psyche, all the time, whether we are conscious of it or not.
Art is subjective. Not everyone will like what we do. Also, we are human. Sometimes we are going to make really shitty work, especially in the beginning of our careers. And what’s worse is that even as our work gets better, we get our work into the world and we become known, the likelihood that our work will be criticized or that we will experience rejection only increases exponentially.
One thing it’s important to understand is the universality of the experience: all artists deal with rejection and criticism — from the very subtle kind (no one “liked” that painting I just posted on Instagram), to more overt (my work didn’t get accepted into that juried show and the judge said it wasn’t developed enough), to mean spirited (someone publicly criticized my work, said it was crap), to self-inflicted internal rejection and criticism (I’m a terrible artist & my work sucks).
We are all looking for relief from this point of pain or a way to ensure that it will never happen to us. But the truth is, while we can gain some perspective and some thicker skin and most importantly, some self love, we cannot ever escape it. Sure, you can avoid ever being rejected or criticized by deciding never to put your work into the world, but where does that leave you?
Recently I talked to artist Susan Mulder about rejection and criticism for her series called The Rejection Chronicles. She asked me lots of questions about my experiences with rejection and criticism, my take on how to deal with them and some lessons I’ve learned. In turn, I talked about taking responsibility, listening to constructive feedback, ignoring mean spirited criticism, and not taking things personally (super hard, yes).
And if there is one lesson I’ve learned it’s this: rejection is always humbling. Situations that humble us and remind us of our humanity make us kinder, more conscientious people. And that’s always a positive thing. If seen in a good light, rejection and criticism can teach us where to focus, what we are good at, what we need to work more at, what we want to own, how strong we are and all kinds of other amazing things.
You can read my interview with Susan here. I also talk about rejection (and 14 hours worth of other content about making a living as an artist) in my online course Become a Working Artist, which you can purchase (and watch at your own pace) here.
Have a great Thursday, friends!