Dwell In the Love Not On the Rejection

Plenty of people denounce Valentine’s Day as one that was invented by the greeting card industry, but put me in the column for wanting more love, more hearts, and more sappy cards.

Send away!

©Debra Benditz, Good Morning. Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

©Debra Benditz, Good Morning. Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

Recognize the romantic love between you and your partner.
Celebrate familial love with your parents, children, and extended family.
Commemorate the special love between you and your friends.

And don’t forget to honor the love you have for your buyers, collectors, patrons, and students.

Send cards, flowers, and chocolates. If it’s too late to pop something in the mail, start typing your email messages.

While you’re at it, stock up on the love for yourself because you’re gonna need it.

Ouch!

The artist’s life is full of rejection and criticism.

The gallery doesn’t want your work. That couple praised your recent piece, but didn’t buy it. The residency you want so badly won’t consider your application.

©Peggy Klineman, Seeing Red Dots. Mixed medium on panel, 12 x 16 inches. Used with permission.

©Peggy Klineman, Seeing Red Dots. Mixed medium on panel, 12 x 16 inches. Used with permission.

To add insult to injury, nobody commented on your recent blog or social media post. You’re beginning to wonder what the point of all this is.

It’s amazing that any artist thrives at all. It’s a testament to your resilience that you persevere despite the roadblocks you encounter.

You do it because you have an unwavering commitment in the work you do. You can’t imagine doing anything else.

Still, because you are human, the criticism and rejection hurt.

And those voices are louder than any chorus of praise you might receive. The default for so many of us is to dwell on the negative comments and rejections and ignore all of the nice things that people say about our work.

Do this instead: Pump up the volume on the positive messages that are all around you.

Dwell In the Love

I won’t pretend that I experience the same kind of rejection as you, but I receive my share. Something I’ve done for years might help you get through the tough times.

©Larkin Jean Van Horn, Pele. Mixed media textiles, 6 x 3.5 x 1 inches. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of G. Armour Van Horn.

©Larkin Jean Van Horn, Pele. Mixed media textiles, 6 x 3.5 x 1 inches. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of G. Armour Van Horn.

I keep a “Loved” File, and I suggest you do the same.

Cynthia Morris recommended that I start this warm-and-fuzzy file about a decade ago. Over the years, my file has grown to four stuffed folders and, wanting to save on paper, an electronic version in Evernote.

The file, in whatever format you choose, is a reminder that you are loved. That you are respected. That you are valued.

Keep that email from a fan. Highlight your favorite sentence.

Take a screen capture of the “I love it!” comments after you posted your artwork on social media or your blog.

Write down the nice things people say to you at your opening. Don’t dismiss them! Don’t wonder why they didn’t buy if they like it so much. Appreciate the moment. Bask in the adulation.

Treasure the kind words from students who benefit from your knowledge and generosity of spirit.

There’s no need to stop at your career and business. Relish the appreciation of friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Whenever you question if you should be an artist, pull out your file and be assured that you do have impact and you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Your Turn

When you receive words of praise, how do you keep them close and meaningful?

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34 comments to Dwell In the Love Not On the Rejection

  • Keep a journal of all the wonderful things someone tells you so that on the low days you can read them…

  • I keep a gratitude notebook. I record things I am deeply grateful for, which often includes lovely feedback. It always raises a smile to browse through when I am having a bad day.

  • The rejection gets easier with time too. I barely look at the “we recieved hundreds of entries and we regret to inform you” notes anymore- straight to the trash and on with the next thing!

  • One of my students gave me a gift of a handmade book. It is small, but beautiful. In it she wrote all the ‘Ruthisms’ that she had collected over a year of classes. It was filled with words of encouragement and wisdom that I had passed on to her and the rest of the class. I treasure it, and take it out when I feel I haven’t done my best to reach all my students. At least I know I really reached one!

  • This may not fully resonate with others commenting on this post, but something I heard during a speech recently stuck in my mind. Every morning (could be in the evening), she wrote 3 things she wished she had done differently, 3 things she had done well, and 3 things she was grateful for. I have a blank book I bought from DJ Pettitt several years ago and I think it’s going to come off the shelf and be put to good use as my daily reflection. Yea, Alyson, for the reminder to celebrate the love.

  • Thank you, Alyson, for this very timely post. I have been struggling for a long time to get back to my art after many life struggles and art rejections. I’m going to put your suggestions into action.

  • Thank you for this wonderful post! I do keep an electronic file like this, but I never look in it! And I have trouble remembering praise and love, especially in the hard times. But your post and people’s comments have inspired me to get serious about accepting love. I think I will print out the contents of my file and make a book out of it. Physical objects are easier to remember to look at than digital ones. I’ll make it with a thick spine and write something useful on the spine (maybe “You Are Loved”?), so that even if I don’t look through the book that often, I’ll read the title subliminally every day.

  • This is so important Alyson. Even when artists accept the praise we often hold onto the rejection too. And we focus on the rejection no matter how much praise we get. Instead I have had to learn to let the rejection go and keep the good stuff close. Without the love there is no energy to create.

  • Thanks Alyson! I am getting back to my daily gratitudes in my little moleskine. this post helps!

  • Over the years I’ve collected the thank you cards that I’ve received from my students. From time to time I revisit those cards. They always bring a smile to my lips and warm my heart.

  • Connie Lippert

    I have an encouragement folder full of wonderful emails I have received over the years. If I ever need encouragement, I can go there.
    And I don’t throw away the rejection notices. I have kept them all for years. I have two large notebooks with acceptance and rejection letters all mixed together in chronological order. It is interesting to visit occasionally. You can even look and see that, wow, after my 4th attempt at that exhibit, I finally got in. Always good to have a record.

  • When I get advertising material together for the workshop I teach is when I am reminded of the impact I have on other women. I read over their comments from the evaluation sheets I hand out. I always use those comments in my advertising.

  • I have kept a love file like that for years, starting with my career as a physical therapist and now I have one for my art business.
    At exhibit receptions I have a clip board with a form on it to collect email addresses from attendees. In addition to spaces to collect their contact info, I also include spaces to ask what is their favorite art work in my exhibit and how it made them feel. It is fun to go back and look at what people have to say. Warm fuzzies!

  • I put notes or pictures up wherever I will see them often to convince myself otherwise when I start getting a bad case of the “Who Do You Think You Ares”. When the notes start to look junky they get stashed in a file folder. Or, in the case of such things as the “money rock”, feathers and glass beads, all gifts from students, I let them be a warm spot in the clutter until eventually they get stashed in a small box. I come upon these stashes at odd times and always feel a lift afterward. The most recent stash I came across was an envelope I had marked, “emergency cheer”. It had a “toy” my then 3 year old daughter made for me from a scrap of cardboard and paper and a lot of masking tape. I had had a horrible day and she thought I might need something to amuse me. It’s a drawing of a smiling bird, wings outspread, taped above a hole in the cardboard into which I am to put my finger in order to wiggle the bird up and down. It’s hilarious! I think, who cares about that man who scoffed when I said that being an artist IS a real job- here’s a piece of art that proves how incredibly unique and important our job is. Art reaches in where words fall short. Even a child can see that!

  • Thank you Alyson for this idea. When I worked in corporate, I maintained an “atta girl” file which lifted me on bad days. I never thought to do this for my art. Brilliant! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • I started selling my art at our local farmers market this summer, and occasionally I would write down the lovely things people said about my work. I’m taking from your post I should write it all down and compile it into a file as a hedge against the inevitable negativity we all experience!

    Thank you for this great suggestion.

  • Hi Alyson,

    In the past few years I’ve had the great good fortune to meet wonderful
    artists and show curators at home and internationally. I now have a
    circle of people who are kind and appreciate my work. They do spread
    the love, and I feel it’s part of my mission on the planet to do the same.
    I also know the value of my work — the paintings I exhibit in larger
    shows, because I like to travel and be there, and I can see what’s happening
    in the wider world. People don’t usually say mean things at art shows,
    and rarely on line. If I need to see a record of the love I receive from
    fellow artists, I can scroll back through my blog and it is very heartening.
    Thank you for your wonderful post, and Happy Valentine’s Day! <3 You
    mean a great deal to me Alyson.

  • All over the inside of my studio door, I have taped a selection of my exhibition posters and photos of work that has been sold up through the years…with small red dots on all of them, to remind me that work was done, praised and sold, and that I most likely will repeat this cycle again and again. It gives me encouragement and hope, and it’s highly visible all the time….

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