Rejection + Resilience

©Zandra Stratford: My concept sketch for the Victoria Airport Installation Project.

©Zandra Stratford: My concept sketch for the Victoria Airport Installation Project.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile, I even started a blog post in January called Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better (which I must have read somewhere but my brain is soup about such things) that was about not getting the Victoria Airport Installation that I was one of five finalists for. I have been rejected from several things since then too and usually it doesn’t bother me at all. I feel momentarily disappointed but depending on the kind of rejection (little r or capitol R) I can usually move on pretty quickly.

Not getting accepted into a juried show is a pretty easy one for me, that one feels less personal, and I have a pretty positive attitude when it comes to those ones. The same with rejections for things that I felt I had zero chance of getting but thought, “Why the fuck not? Apply!” I never invest emotionally too much into those probably because it feels like such a long shot that I never feel like I will be seen let alone accepted. Recently however, something came along that felt like it WAS FUCKING MADE FOR ME. The brief about what they were looking for and what my work is about seemed so simpatico that when I was preparing for my submission I half wanted to just wave my hands at my website and say LOOOK, THIS IS WHAT I’M DOING AND TALKING ABOUT OVER HERE, IT’S WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR… LET’S DO THIS THING. I diligently prepared my submission and really believed that I had a shot of at least making the short list because it was just so perfect.

You can see where this is going right? *Cue the tiny violin music.

I didn’t make the shortlist, and as is fairly common, no explanation, just a “Thank You… So many submissions… blah blah blah.” You know the rejection letter. I wasn't disappointed. I was fucking mad. I’m still kind of stewing a bit to be honest, I’m not quite ready to be a mature adult about this just yet. I have given myself pep talks about why this probably wasn’t a good fit. Sitting in board meetings, red tape, bureaucracy, negotiating, managing personalities and dealing with people, maybe being bored out of my mind, not being able to control how far back I can roll my eyes without getting caught. Obviously I don’t know if any of these would be true but this is me trying to rationalize and move on.

Why do I care about this?

I allowed myself to get emotionally invested in this one, usually I have a pretty good level of non-attachment when submitting but goddammit, I wanted this one. I got excited about all the potential this had and what it could do not only for my career, but also just having some input creatively in the city I live in. I got way ahead of myself and thought about how much leverage it would give me artistically and the platform building it would create. In my mind, I was creating partnerships, working with brands and generally just raising the bar even higher for my work. The truth is though, I can still do all those things, it may not be as easy, but I think that idea is just limited by my own thinking. I don’t really need a fancy title to move forward with all those things, I can still work away and work hard towards those things on my own. Those goals were on my list before this thing was in front of me so nothing has really changed. Sigh, I just have to get back to work.

So, get back to work.

The good thing about capitol R Rejection is that if it’s something really big (whatever that means for you) it probably pushed you creatively to apply for it. It probably got you thinking about things in a bigger way. It probably made you aware of what you could do if you had a bigger box of crayons to play with. It probably got you excited about your work and your future work and got you thinking, what if?

While it feels really good, if you’re always getting accepted for stuff, you might not be pushing yourself as far as you can go. If it starts to feel easy then it probably is, for me that means that I’m getting too comfortable and that will never do. It’s a big yawn for me. That said, if you’re getting a series of little r or capitol R rejections in a row, it’s totally legit to just want some kind of win already, because it can feel like you’re being held down and if you don’t have the mindset you can get stuck there. I could probably write another post about Permission & Acceptance, but i’ll let that one percolate for a bit before I get around to it.

This is another long ass post, and there is more I want to say but I feel like I’m talking to myself and I’d rather engage with you guys. I shared a post about Getting 100 Rejections in a Year on facebook earlier in the year. It’s a bit different for writers as I guess they maybe don’t have the same kind of submission fees that we do, but there is some good stuff in there. In googling that piece I came across this piece by the same writer and it’s so fascinating to read what happened as a result of her piece going viral, I encourage you to read it. She comes a bit full circle on some thoughts I wanted to share too (and now I know where that failing better bit came from) but would rather have a conversation about. Now that I’ve read it I’m also tempted to edit my piece and expand a little bit more but Kim’s thoughts very much mirror my own in many ways. Maybe they will for you too. Love to hear your thoughts…

It’s May and I haven’t run out of fingers on how many things I’ve been rejected for yet, but I’m close. :) How about you?