I believe this is the second time I've blogged about Cary Tennis' Salon.com advice column. What can I say, he writes about artists a lot in an eloquent way. Today's question is from a visual artist who is finding it hard to deal with rejections. Cary's response is long, but here are some of my favorite parts, with some personal comments.
"I have experienced literature that opened the skies for me, that made the earth tremble, that proved the existence of a world right alongside ours, so far superior to ours..... Every time I write I think I am required to make the skies open. I think I have to make the earth tremble. I think I have to reveal the existence of a dazzling universe quietly superseding our own, right next to us in another dimension.... So naturally I fail every day."
I went to a meditation class last night, and one of the themes, if you will, was forgiving yourself. Every time your mind wandered from your breath, you were supposed to say to yourself, "I forgive you." It was so amazingly nurturing to say that to myself about 100 times. That's what this part of Cary's column reminded me of.
This part about finding a supportive group of fellow writers also hit home. I feel so blessed to have found and continue finding other like-minded writers:
"You need constant encouragement and reinforcement in order to keep going. It's not even about feeling good so much. It's just about keeping going. I began to think about athletes....A batter gets a hit maybe every four or five at bats. So that's pretty tough. How would an athlete deal with all that rejection? In sports there is rejection and pain. But there is also joy and encouragement. There are coaches. There are teammates.
Those of us who work alone trying to make the heavens open up and the earth tremble, we need regular encouragement. We need coaches to say, Hey, good game. We need hand slaps and high-fives. Without support we will stop sending out our work."
And lastly, I will point to the part in his column where he explains just why it is that people need positive reinforcement just as much as constructive critism:
"Others have been hard on me as well, and I have sort of invited that. I have said, That's OK, give it to me straight, I can take it. Actually, I couldn't take it. But I would say I could. I believed in the interest of telling it like it is that everybody had to be hard on everybody else and on themselves. That would ensure that we were all aesthetically honest and pure.
Well, so now I am thinking, what good does that do if we become so embittered and afraid of rejection that we can't continue our work? I think what we need is more acceptance and more love.
Well said, Cary! (Click here to read the whole article.)