Rejection is part of artistic life, whether it’s a part in an opera that you audition for but don’t win, a painting you’re proud of but nobody buys, or a short story coming back in the mail three days after you mailed it out. The fine YA writer Patricia Hermes begins her talks at conventions by proudly unrolling a room-wide strip of paper made by taping together hundreds and hundreds of her rejection letters! She says the only reason she doesn’t have more is that now her agent gets them–and keeps them.
Rejection hurts. It devastates. You doubt your talent, you doubt your luck, you doubt your material. You think of quitting, you threaten to change careers. Then, despite all of it, your discipline puts you back in your chair before your open manuscript.
My college voice students are disappointed to discover that when they walk out the door of their school a bachelor’s degree in their hand they don’t walk right into the nearest opera company to begin their careers. Some are discouraged when they learn that artistic studies never end. And it is often the case that the singers who make successes are not the ones with the best voices or the greatest talent . . . they are simply the ones who never give up.
Yup, it’s tough. I once asked a voice teacher for some assurance that my lengthy study would pay off, and she told me, “If you can do something else, go do it.” She wasn’t being cruel; she was saying there are no guarantees, no promises. She went on to say that the work itself has to be its own reward; if there’s some other work that will give you the same satisfaction, you had better find it.
But perseverance does pay off. I’ve seen it happen over and over in my students, I’ve been much blessed by having it pay off in my own life, and I see it succeeding all around me. If this is the work that makes you happy, that gives you joy, then stick to it. Try everything. Live like an artist. And I wish you all the best in your pursuit of the artistic life . . . in whatever discipline you choose to follow.
Copyright © 1998, Louise Marley. For more on Louise Marley, her books, and music, go to http://www.LouiseMarley.com