There is one thing that no course or tutorial, be it face to face or online can prepare you for, and that is how to deal with rejection. It is also unfortunate as composers (or actually any type of creative) that we are probably subject to more than our fair share of rejection compared to most other professions. Rejection will happen, it is par for the course and there is no denying, it hurts and sometimes it can really hurt.
Being rejected when you have poured your heart and soul into a composition or project can knock you for six. It can also make you start questioning the very reasons why you are doing what you are doing, and worse than that, it can make you question yourself. It becomes a slippery slope of inner turmoil and conflict, constant questioning of: “Am I good enough?”
Secondly, always try and learn something from being rejected. This is what makes rejection a valuable learning process. Switch your feelings about rejection and look at it as a learning opportunity, rather than hiding behind it, so remember to always ask for feedback. It isn’t easy to get feedback and sometimes feedback isn’t easy to digest but take on-board any comment or criticism and learn from it.
The best way to counter this is to accept that you will get rejected. You will get rejected hundreds (if not thousands) of times in your creative career. It is a fact! History is littered with tales of musicians, composers, inventors, businesses, filmmakers who suffered tremendous levels of rejections before they broke it. For some people, it seems like an overnight success and the years of struggle is neglected in the story. So, how do you brush yourself off and carry on in the face of these never-ending hurdles?
The way I deal with this is to change perspective and turn rejection on its head. Firstly, I think of it in terms of the daily choices I make and realise that I (we) reject so much on a daily basis, be it a type of cereal brand, TV show, newspaper etc. We all have things that appeal to us and those that don’t. When you frame your rejection in that light, you realise that perhaps you weren’t the best match for that person or project and they may have not been the right match for you. However, you will be the right match for a project, you just need to keep looking and trying. Never give up and realise that you are now a step closer to finding it.
Of course, you may disagree with what has been said, but being able to explain the reasons for your choices, as well as offer constructive feedback about why you might have chosen the path you did, is also a part of the learning process and can help you build confidence. Though as the old adage goes, the client is always right. You should take a step back and consider what comments have been made and then be 100% honest with yourself about whether the criticism may be based on fact. This is when you can up your game in those areas, learn from the process and hone your skills.
Many years ago, I got the amazing opportunity to play some of my music for a producer who has worked on some of the biggest albums of our time. I sat with my little demo CD in a room in Abbey Road and watched as he listened and skipped through the tracks. He was very polite, but basically said there are another 10 people around the corner, who write this kind of material to a much higher standard and that I should possibly try something else.
Wow – that hurt. That really, really hurt.
But I brushed myself off and kept trying (and keep trying) as that rejection taught me to listen to what is out there, always give my A game and just keep going.
To sum up, the best way to deal with rejection is to accept it from the outset, and to accept it right now at this moment, no matter what you do or how well you are doing something, you will get rejected in your career. Accept that you will probably be rejected more than you get accepted, especially to begin with. Then accept that this can be a good thing! Being rejected will help you learn, develop and it will help you understand what you are trying to achieve and what your client wants. Rejection, it’s not as bad as it seems when you turn it on its head.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Neil! If you have some wisdom you wish to share, why not become a guest blogger? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.