Reflections on Rejection …

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

“A rejection of me is a reflection of them.”

Look into the mirror and repeat that phrase at three times out loud. Do it ten times if you do anything creative, such as writing, music, blogging, art, photography, etc. Lock it into your memory like the mantra it is, because it’s one that you’ll need it to counterbalance all the verbal diarrhea the haters and losers will will try to dump on you.

I’m going to break it all down for you; but first, a little story. In my former life, I was an alt. country singer/songwriter. While auditioning potential bandmates, I got a call from a young man who was very excited about working together. He was coming on so strongly, in fact, that he sounded downright manic. We agreed that I’d send him some of my songs, then I’d follow up with a phone call. He also asked me to go to a Detroit rockabilly show with him, going so far as to suggest I crash at his house for the night. It was a little too much for someone I hadn’t met, but I took the polite way out and told him “We’ll see.”

On our second call, his former exuberance was replaced with a nastiness that was exceedingly personal. “I don’t think it’s gonna work out, man. Your vocals are just … different.” I asked him what he meant, and he went on and on about how “weird” my voice sounded, and that it didn’t “sound country.” I had to agree with him, it wasn’t going to work out between us, and I told him as much. “Well you’re still coming down to the show, right?” he asked. I replied with a flat “no” and he shouted, “That’s bullshit, man! You promised!” Click! Dial tone. Breathe in. Say, “A rejection of me is a reflection of them.” Breathe out.

Working in the creative arts take a lot of guts, and putting your art out there for public consumption is very risky. You’re doing something that a lot of people only wish they could do, but they stop short of doing it because they’re scared of being criticized by assholes just like themselves. And when they encounter an artist who’s on his/her way up, these haters are confronted with their own inadequacies. They feel compelled to lash out and project all their self-loathing into the artist who’s doing the one thing that they, themselves, never can. Their internal dialogue most likely sounds something like this: “Who does he/she think she is, showin’ off like that?” And then comes their attack(s), and its always personal.

The most vicious, personal attacks disguised as “critiques” will most often come from complete strangers. Friends, family and close acquaintances aren’t usually that mean. After all, they have to see you nearly every day and/or on the holidays, so they’re less likely to be brutal about your work … even if it deserves it! Instead, they’ll likely say something positive yet largely non-committal, such as “it’s great” or “that’s awesome” or “you really got something there.” Long story short, the glowing praises of family and friends can sometimes blind you to ways in which you can improve and grow as an artist. Take it with a grain of salt.

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled haters!

If you’re being attacked by a critic who’s saying things just to be mean and hurtful, try not to take it personally. I know it’s easier said than done, but the rewards are worth it. Stop and ask yourself why is the person making their criticism personal? Do they even know you on a personal level? Chances are they don’t, though there will always be one so-called “friend” or family member who chooses to “go there.” Fortunately this is rare, but when you come from a place called “Trauma Central,” it’s to be expected. I’ve already dealt with one family member whose “helpful advice” crossed the line. How do I know? I’ll let you be the judge.

Here’s what Mr. Wonderful had to say about my neo-noir murder mystery, World So Dark: “You did an okay job with the characters and dialogue, I guess, but you got the police procedure all wrong. I’m tellin’ ya, Jay … you really need to call me before you write books like this ‘’cause I would’ve seen this stuff a mile away. I’m tellin’ ya, you gotta have me help you write this stuff, man.”

Did you catch it? In the off chance you didn’t, I’ll drop some intellect on ya. His “book review,” if you can call it that, starts out with a vague compliment, which he quickly negates with the added, “I guess.” This followed by a litany of self-serving, egotistical statements meant to illustrate how much he’s allegedly needed to make the book a good one. Was he trying to help me? Or was he bothered by the fact that I wrote a book and he didn’t, and felt the need to prop himself up by tearing my work down? Again, I’ll let you be the judge while I while I repeat my mantra.

Whether you’re a serious artist or just a dabbler, you take great risks when you put your work out for public consumption. Your talent and dedication is bound to inflame the petty jealousies and insecurities of those who don’t have the courage to do what you’re doing. And it’s not egotistical to admit that, either; it’s a simple fact. Why else would their alleged critique of your art turn into a personal attack against you? My advice: accept it as just another part of the job, and DO NOT let it detract you from living your dreams. After all, even Beethoven had his critics, but I’ll be you can’t you name five of them without using Google. Don’t worry, neither can I … and that’s my point!

Just remember your mantra: ““A rejection of me is a reflection of them.”

J.P. Ribner is the author of three novels: Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

  1. halloweenmachine says:

    Great story, and so true. I go by the (David Mamet) mantra “Don’t accept criticism from anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your success.”

    I like your mantra, though. It’s tough to get multiple rejections for a project you really believe in, and I usually do think to myself toward the person in question, “Your loss.”

  2. Superbly stated, JP! Writing…just like any other artistic creation…has to involve a little bit of an emotional strip tease. You can’t create what you think others want to see and hear for then it makes you fraudulent. Great post, my friend!

  3. Roxanne says:

    I see authors freak out about bad reviews all the time. I’ve learned to just accept it and move on. You can’t please all the people all the time. And even the biggest money making authors have haters (50 Shades anyone ? Tons of people hate it- me included- but it makes the money and the movies so I am sure EL James doesn’t care)

  4. Laura Hedgecock says:

    Great post J.P.! My ability to take criticism held me back for a long time. Finally I decided I could handle it from total strangers better than friends. I’m going to keep your mantra in mind.

  5. Mama S says:

    Great article JP. You always delight me with your life’s perspective. I like that you give examples of your personal trauma . Then dissect it with bold face truth and make it all very logical…Keep writing JP.. I appreciate your form of artistic thinking . It’s like THERAPY for me… Love always, Mama S

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s