As a child, I can remember sitting in the back of the family station wagon, singing along to ABBA songs with my sister. Everyone in my family can sing and it made me feel I fit in as it was something that I was really good at. As I went off to school and church, I often struggled to find an outlet for singing because no one seemed to want to hear me sing… It wasn’t that I can’t sing, I’ve been told plenty of times that I have a great singing voice.
People are often really surprised, saying things like “I wouldn’t have thought you could sing like that”. mmm… okay…thanks?
A bit of encouragement goes a long way with kids and while I have been too sensitive to criticism at times it was probably only because I became wary of rejection. The hurtful thing was that no one ever criticised my actual singing, it just seemed that people didn’t want to hear me sing. It wasn’t my singing, it was me that was being rejected.
All artists have to learn not just to deal with rejection and criticism, but I really struggle with this deep-seated fear of what I call Unconditional Rejection. “I don’t know you but I don’t like you.” I’ve done a few personality tests and always test in the smallest percentage area, what I call the “weirdo” group.
So, here I am in my late 40s learning to embrace my inner (and outer), weirdo. I have to remember that the people who reject me, are not my people. Rejection is protection because it helps guide us to our sweet spot.
I heard someone suggest recently that your ‘life purpose’ can be found in those things that you envy in others. Picture this; You see someone doing a Ted Talk and feel envious – boom, you want to do a Ted Talk specifically and more generally, want to be a speaker and teacher. I saw Mamma Mia 2 this week. I was so envious of the main character Donna. She was brave and pretty and so loved by everyone she met, and everyone wanted to hear her sing! Going back to the Life Purpose theory above…apparently, my life purpose is to be loved and accepted for who I am. And heard.
Okay…hand me the mic!
In the years I worked as an artist, I’ve learned to take criticism and even rejection linked to my creative output and to take it with both hands and suck out its marrow! Criticism can teach us more than praise every day of the week and we have to learn to recognise it’s many forms and be prepared to mine it for the gold therein. (I’ve written before about my 1-star review…)
Some rejection is overt. Think of the emails that I could print out and stick on a nail, à la Stephen King, but I don’t want to waste the paper nor hammer a nail into the wall.
If you want to make a life as a creative (and a living!) and you don’t have dozens of rejection emails, you’re not shipping enough work, not approaching enough agents. I personally have seven rejection emails, nowhere near enough.
Some forms of rejection are insidious; like the weird ghosting that happens when someone offers to read your manuscript and then NEVER CONTACTS YOU AGAIN. That is weird, but it’s also a little disconcerting. The questions this raises for me range from “Is my story so bad that they just decided it was easier to never speak to me again?” to “Are they planning to steal my story?” and everything in between. (I always send a polite message to say it’s totally fine if they don’t want to read it and sometimes they respond. I never want to make people feel uneasy.)
It feels super-bad when someone does this because I am not ashamed to admit that I crave connection. Some people don’t realise that I am totally comfortable with criticism. Hell, I am at the point where I celebrate this kind of response to my work…
At the time of writing this, I was smashing the rankings too! 😉
Current Sales Rank: #380,574 in Kindle Store
I just really appreciate someone taking the time to read my work. I know it’s not perfect. I’d have to be some kind of narcissistic fruit-cake to think that my first novel, written in a year and self-published with the most basic of editing would be a world-class read.
I am loving my new cover though…
Quote of the Day…