Recently, Mr. Exposition (my husband, also known at Keith) entered a writing contest that seemed absolutely perfect. He’s a sword and sorcery writer who’s also a Dungeons and Dragons nerd. The contest was writing for a player module, mashing together two things he does well. He seemed like a shoe-in. Wrote a great short piece, and sent it off, hoping to at least get on the short list of winners, if not the top prize.
Earlier this year, I applied for a performance slot at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, which is the Oscars of burlesque. The top performers in the world compete to win the title of Reigning Queen of Burlesque and other accolades. There are also non-competitive slots. It’s a dream I’ve had since first performing, just to get on that stage. I sent in my most polished act, spent time drafting the perfect pitch in response to the application questions, and eagerly awaited a response.
Unfortunately for both of us, the ones we wanted, didn’t want us. My application came back with a “no thanks” and when the finalists were announced for Mr. Exposition’s contest, his name was not on the list.
When you put your heart, your hand, and your head into a project and the results don’t stack your way, of course that hurts.
I’m not going to tell you to brush yourself off and try again, because I think feeling bad is totally part of the process. Stock up on your comfort of choice, I’m pretty partial to a cheese plate, Keith prefers ice cream, and feel effing sorry for yourself. It’s not just okay, it’s kind of mandatory for me.
Once you’re full of delicious foods, your favorite TV show, or whatever your pleasure, then start getting back to the work you were doing. The work that’s more important than winning a contest. The work that you would be doing even if no one was looking.
But for me, rejection is integral to growth. If you work in a creative field and put your whole self into a project that doesn’t turn your way, rejection means you’re trying something newer and bigger than you have before. If you’re never getting rejected, you’re not pushing your creative boundaries, you’re not reaching for that new client base and you’re staying still.
So push your boundaries, submit to that contest, pitch that client, because you might win it, and even if you don’t, console yourself and savor the sting of growth.