8 Awful Ways Artists Deal With the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Rejection Letters

Sending applications, even just the simplest non-life-altering ones, can be addictive. It gives us an illusion that our dreams are just within our reach, and can be achieved in just a few clicks. For every application we send out, we plant a seed of hope in our hearts and we cannot wait to start reading acceptance letters so we can finally start on our journey towards success. But you’ll find out, in your first ten rejection letters, that it’s never that easy. If you’re a beginner at this rejection thing, you tend to see rejection more seriously. For you, it’s sort of a sign- should I continue with this art thing or get serious with life?..whoop! A rejection letter. There’s the answer. But we know even J.K. Rowling received many rejection letters before she got published.

If you just received a rejection letter, it’s alright (in fact recommended) that you respect your feelings. If you feel down, by all means go have a bottle of wine or sleep in three days in a row. However, never ever, even if you’re drunk or depressed, do any of these things that could sabotage your career before it even started:

1. SENDING A HATE MAIL TO INSULT THE JURY. “Who do they think they are? Did they actually listen to my demo? Did they even view my reel? I’ve worked so hard for my craft, even left my job to pursue my passion full-time yet they just reject my art as if they’re gods!” I hear ya. Trust me, you’re not the only one who’s planning to send mails to their rejecters after a rejection. It’s the kind of impulsive thing we all want to do. But you have to ask yourself this: Will it help me? If I want to see this as a long-term career, will it help me if I attack the jury? The answer is a hard NO. Never. It will sabotage your career to the point that even if you send a really award-winning piece the next year, they’d reject you. Why? Those people are doing a tough job. They’re not kidding when they said that they’re reviewing a lot of applications. In the internet age, everyone can basically be an artist so it’s likely the receive hundreds, even thousands. If your work is good, they might have rejected it for various reasons (doesn’t fit the theme, etc). At the end of the day, it’s mostly luck and just a bit of talent. There are so many talented folks nowadays with access to internet. What to do then? If you really need to vent, compose an email but don’t send it. The next best thing is ask the jury (kindly), if they have suggestions on how you can improve your work or increase your chance of getting in the next time.

2. ASKING FOR A REFUND. You paid for the application fee, you did not get in, now you want your money back. That’s okay if you’re 100% sure that your project was not viewed (good luck proving that) but here’s the more likely scenario: They viewed your work, they’re not compelled. End of story. Do you deserve an explanation just because you paid for it? No. Does this mean they’re just sucking everyone’s money? No, just anyone who’s interested. Besides, these events do cost a lot. They also pay the rejecters for their time and effort, so it’s pointless asking for your money back.

3. PRETENDING IT DOESN’T HURT. Masking your hurt will do you no good. If you really feel like punching a wall or breaking down, go ahead. We’ve all been there…and many of us still do that from time to time. You need to release your frustration (in a healthy, safe way) or else you’d snap. Acknowledge that the rejection makes you feel like shit and sulk. The rule for this is that you just have to make sure you don’t sulk for a very long time. Treat sadness and frustration as guests. Welcome them when they step on the door but don’t let them overstay.

4. MANICALLY SENDING OUT APPLICATIONS WITH THE “I’LL SHOW YOU” ATTITUDE. Unless this is coming from your genuinely-healed optimistic self, DON’T. You’d just be wasting money and time (and developing more frustration) if you are still angry deep inside while you’re applying for other opportunities, you’d soon get burned out. If you’re really frustrated, rest. Don’t transfer your anger to your keyboard. Why? You’re not sane during those moments. Acting on your anger that way will only sabotage your applications further and cost you big bucks.

5. OBSESSING ON THE JURY WITH THE “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” ATTITUDE. So you know the members of the jury because you hate them so much. Then you start Googling their names and learning about them. You check their works if they’re really that good ‘coz how dare they reject yours? If you have a lot of time to waste, sure do that. But that will only make you bitter every minute. Don’t resort to that. Besides, if you do this to all of the people that reject you, you’d be a bitter loser. Don’t waste your time on things that will not help you.

6. OVERCOMPENSATING. This is pretty much the same as #4 but instead of directing your anger to applications, you direct it to your craft. Because you feel like you’re not good enough, you practice until you bleed just to become better instantly. This is dangerous. I know it’s a smack to the ego if we don’t get selected, but don’t be too hard on yourself because most of the time, it’s not really about your work. In fact, I’d suggest you do the opposite: pamper yourself. Yes, go get some ice cream, buy yourself that gadget you’ve always wanted to have. You’ve worked so hard, you got rejected. Give yourself some credit for trying and for doing great work. After pampering yourself, that’s the only time you can go back to your goals. Don’t punish yourself!

7. EDITING YOUR STYLE BASED ON THE TREND. Now, don’t be too affected by your critics and the people you’re trying to please or else you’d start changing your style just to fit the market. You’re an artist for a reason- you have your own vision, your own voice, you’re own style. You have to be more stubborn than soft when you’re feeling insecure. Your inner voice should be louder than the critics. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to criticism, that means you have to make sure you’re not just trying to please people.

8. SEEING THE REJECTION AS A SIGN THAT YOU SHOULD CHANGE YOUR COURSE. Don’t believe in signs. It’s either you show up or you don’t. Most of these jurors take note of all the people who submitted and keep track of your submissions. Most of the ones they take submitted more than three times. Don’t give up. Well, unless you really can live without your craft, then do.


James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.

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