Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rejection, fame and fortune and the question of why we create

What was said to the rose ...
I didn’t want to write this. I really just wanted to whine. However, whining doesn’t make me feel better, so … 

There must be a million of us sitting where I am this morning … probably many millions. What should I call us? Cast aside creatives? Unpicked flowers? Rejects? Losers?

Galleries around the world are filled with unsold art. Computers near and far hold unpublished poetry and manuscripts. Etsy is crammed inch to blistered pixel with hope and expectations of recognition and compensation. And, it’s not just today’s living and breathing creatives; history is filled with unappreciated artists.  Van Gogh, Gaughin, El Greco, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, Monet, and Vermeer are among the many artists whose work received little to no recognition during their lifetimes. And, for each of them, there are probably hundreds (thousands) of unsung artists who we will never even know about.

And, of course, it’s not just artists. The writers who have been severely rejected range from Beatrix Potter to Agatha Christie to J.K. Rowling. And, it’s not just the women. The long list of writing rejectees includes Louie L’Amour, Dan Brown, J.D. Salinger … and Dr. Seuss! Other creatives such as Walt Disney, Oprah, Madonna, Elvis … even Thomas Edison … were all soundly rejected before being recognized as the geniuses they were.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of us who have gotten our fair share of rejections … such as mine this morning … are geniuses. Most of us in the unrecognized mass of artists, organizers, writers, designers, poets, parents, dancers, cooks, singers, gardeners, architects, teachers, musicians, and so on, are simply people trying to express our creative natures. 

The creative urge flows through all of us. However, some of us have linked recognition and money to the products of that urge. And, that intersection of creativity and commerce is where most of the fender benders happen, like the one that showed up in my inbox this morning.

I love writing and making art. It feeds my spirit, engages my mind and, touches my heart. I love the process as one might love a person or a furry companion or a place that expands our very being. Which makes me contemplate my reaction this morning when a bit of pixels announcing the winners of a gallery contest did not include my name.

Silly though it may be, my first reaction was to question my place in this world of creativity. Maybe I don’t belong. Maybe I’m not good enough. Perhaps I should just quit.

Fortunately, I’m old enough to have gone through this before and have studied the creative  process enough to know that the response to a work of creativity has little to do with our inner need to be creative. Which bits of that creative urge get recognized by the world in the form of prizes or money are subject to the whims of the external standards and styles of the moment.

We create because that’s who we are. To stop creating because someone else (or millions of someone elses) doesn’t appreciate our results, is a form of self-destruction. What we create is neither “good” nor “bad.” It is beyond judgment since it is simply a piece of who we are … like a fingernail or a smile. Others may like or dislike that piece of us, but that has nothing to do with who we are. To try to pretzel ourselves into their mold would mean destroying the essence of our true nature.

If what we are creating represents who we are, that’s about as much as we can ask for. The process of creating means bringing our “self” into an external form, regardless of what the world around us appreciates or thinks appropriate. Creativity is a self-discovery process. Why would we ever want to stop discovering who we are?

Okay, that’s the end of my lecture to myself. Back to work. There is more of me to discover and no time to waste in whining about things that are beyond my control.



  1. I agree so much Joyce. Who am I? We find this question in the Perennial tradition.

  2. Ah, happens in all mediums, I think. Quilt judges...hmmm...or commonly called quilt police as they whip out their magnifying glasses to check those tiny stitches. No show that I've ever entered rewarded the same quilts that I would have rewarded. Emphasis is way too weighted on technical skills instead of "art" concepts of design, balance, etc. Of course, I compete at a quilt show level most often, not in an art show kind of space....but still, more and more even some of the more graphic antique quilts are considered art, even the Gees Bend quilts now fall into "gallery" worthy objects, and for sure technique is NOT what got them there. Yes, frustrating.....but my joy in getting to see my quilts hung for others to study and critique is unending. I suspect much of your disappointment comes from not being able to show your work....not in whether it wins or sells. None of us wants to work in a dark closet.

  3. Ahh yes overcoming rejection isn't easy. But on with the excitement of the next creation whether it is rejected or not. The human spirit is an amazing thing. 🙂