Ahhh the dreaded rejection. The letter comes in the mail (or email) and you open the thing carefully hoping for good news. Then you read the one page cold-hearted letter stating that there was 800 applicants for 12 positions and even though your work was stellar, you still are not going to get the brass ring. I recently received a letter just like this rejecting me from a fellowship from an unnamed organization for the second year in a row.
So what next? Curl up in a ball on the couch with a gallon of ice cream and a romantic comedy? Put your fist through a cheap door? How about a drunken stupor where you rant to anyone who will listen how stupid they are for not accepting your work? (that is my personal favorite by the way) Or do you just quietly stick the letter in the recycling bin and get back to work?
Well, it is probably time to get back to work. The first thing I do is call in someone to look at the work and make sure that I wasn’t crazy for sending it in in the first place. Step two, look at the work and re-edit the hell out of it. Try different sequences and see what you could have done better. Step three, look at the artists who did get in and get a feel for what the judges were looking for. This is also something to do before you send your work in as well. Make sure your work is right for what you are applying for and who is judging it. Step four, make more work. Don’t stop. Try new things. Try it from different angles, with different concepts, and everything else you can think of until you get it right.
Last, but certainly not least, do not panic. Everyone gets rejected. It is how many times you reflect and come back from rejection that really makes a good body of work. Many of us had the luxury and training of college and graduate art critiques to toughen our skin before going out into the real world. For those of you who didn’t try and find a local or online critique group that you can take part in. I promise your work will be better for it.