Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On failure

As a freelance journalist, I've become strangely desensitized to rejections from editors. If a story idea doesn't fit a publication, I shrug it off. Sometimes, a great idea doesn't suit the needs of a particular publication at a particular time. I send off loads of queries, and while I might get frustrated when I can't break into a particular market, I don't get terribly upset.

Naturally, when I began focusing on my art career in 2009, I figured I'd go boldly forth, and pitch myself just as shamelessly.

Turns out, I'm a big chicken shit. While I do submit my work to magazines and apply for art shows and galleries, the rejection has been much harder to bear. I have had many a pity party in front of my monitor - even when I realize that my work was inappropriate for a particular opportunity.

I have to constantly remind myself that failure's part of the deal - especially for artists. We will get rejected by juries, funding committees, the general public. We will inevitably display our art at an outdoor festival and overhear snide comments from passerby.

Success! This spring, my art graced 17 billboards across the province.
I'm waiting for my thick skin to grow in, but until that happens, I force myself to ruminate on the good that comes from putting myself out there. Sometimes I fail, but sometimes I do fantastically well.  Earlier this year, for instance, I was one of three winners of the Art Upon Request campaign, and had one of my artworks on 17 billboards across Alberta for a couple of months.

Failing, now and then, helps me appreciate these wins. It also helps me bond with members of the art communities I'm a part of. Falling on your face is a kind of rite of passage, I hate to say, and it bonds us all together.

Another win: Sold this at a juried art show this month.
But failing's also important for the learning opportunity. Sometimes, I fail because something I've painted, drawn or written kinda sucks. Or, it's simply wrong for the market I've submitted it too. Knowing the difference between a piece of art that's missed the mark, or a piece of art that simply doesn't match a market, is a critical skill. You don't figure it out without putting yourself out there and risking failure.

That said, after a recent failure to secure a spot in a juried arts and crafts festival, I think I'll be laying low for a wee bit. As a writer, I know that success is 90% perspiration, I also know that a person needs to have reserves of mental energy to put it all on the line. So, for the next couple of weeks, I'll be doing the things that make me happy and putting applications and queries aside until I feel ready to put it all out there again.

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