The practical aspects of disappointment

(this is a follow-up to my post on the mindfulness of disappointment – read that HERE)

In my last post, I discussed how to reframe feelings of failure when you get turned down for an opportunity. While I’m specifically talking about juried exhibits and gallery shows, the advice can apply to more: job applications… promotions… product launches… any situation where you put yourself out there and it doesn’t turn out as you hoped.

In this post, I wanted to talk about some of the more practical aspects of the “you just got turned down” situation. Understanding these aspects can further help you get past feelings of disappointment and back to trying.

It would be great if you could get feedback on why you were turned down. Sometimes you can. But most of the time you are left to wonder, “what went wrong?” Following are just a few reasons.

just a few quilts
  1. It’s not you; it’s them.

Have you ever gone to your favorite restaurant craving their specialty, only to be told they are out of the important ingredient? You order something else, and even though it’s a perfectly good meal, it just isn’t what you wanted.

This is exactly what can happen with an opportunity. Jurors and curators are human being with their own set of tastes and expectations. While your work may be perfectly good, they may simply have something really specific in mind.

Is it fair? Maybe not. But it’s life. And more importantly, it’s not your problem. You just weren’t a fit at this time. Next time, there might be a different juror. Or they will be hungry for something closer to what you’re offering.

  1. The competition really is that fierce.

I know it seems like a hollow sentiment when they say  “we received so many entries…” and “it was such a difficult decision…” but sometimes that’s really true. So many shows, galleries and other opportunities are advertised online and have many more eyes on them. Apps like Submittable make it really easy for organizations to put out calls for creative work and likewise make it easy for people to submit their work.

It’s disappointing for sure, but you don’t take it personally when you don’t win the lottery, right?

  1. You made a mistake.

This one can be tough to face. But if you don’t read a prospectus or call for entry really carefully, you can miss an important detail. When you get turned down, it’s always worth it to re-read the guidelines and make sure you  met all the requirements. If you realize that you missed something important, don’t beat yourself up. Chalk it up as a learning experience and look more closely at the details next time.

  1. You’re not quite ready.

This final one may be the hardest. Often we get really excited about opportunities but our skills or execution aren’t quite up to the level of the competition. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you need more experience. Reframing “amateur” to “not quite ready” is just as important as reframing “failure” to “disappointment.”

Beyond hard and fast “rules” – such as “you must submit 3 images” or “you must be a resident of the such-and-such region” – much of the business of entering a show or exhibition is quite subjective. And at the risk of sounding overly philosophical, I think a lot of life is like that.

It is impossible to be everything to everyone at all times. There are simply times when others won’t instantly like you, or won’t care for your work, or don’t feel compelled to become your raving fan. You can’t lose sleep over that.

So keep making art work, my friend! If you want to put it out in the world, then keep submitting it. Keep learning. Keep making adjustments and tweaks. The stars will eventually align!

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