Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Facing the Risk of Rejection (Guest Blog #1)

Welcome to Guest Blogging Month at That's Women's Work. My name is Alex Hickey and I'm a folksinger-songwriter who lives & works in rural Nova Scotia. 

I have days when it feels like the biggest (and most difficult) part of my job as an artist is to find the strength and courage to open myself up to the risk of rejection. It's the part of my work that looms ominously on days when I've promised myself that I'll spend some time contacting people to ask them to book me to play shows. Or come see a show. Or stock my CDs in their store. Or review my songs in their magazine or on their blog. Or play my songs on the radio.

The process of asking people to support my work entails asking them to listen to it and evaluate it, and that always feels like it teeters on the edge between two things. On the one hand is the hope that my work will resonate with another person and give them an experience that might motivate them to help the songs along on their journey out into the world; on the other hand is the fear that my work will be met with disinterest, dismissal or out-and-out hostility.

And that can be scary for me.

I've often resorted to shielding my vulnerability by shutting down emotionally, but that strategy has an unfortunate side effect: it interferes with doing good work. (I believe that authenticity is the most important component of artistic work, and vulnerability is a vital part of my authentic self). My other big temptation is to avoid the risk of rejection by not doing the work of trying to put my music out into the world. As long as I don't ask, no one can say "No". The unfortunate side effect of that, though, is that they don't get a chance to say, "Yes", either.

Lately, I've been experimenting with some different strategies when facing the risk of rejection and I offer them to you here:
  1. Take the long view (tell yourself that you have plenty of time and you don't have to push yourself beyond what you can handle at any given moment; if you feel you've already missed your chance to be an artist, you might find it helpful to read this article by Malcolm Gladwell)
  2. Take it easy (do as much as you can, as you're ready for it; suit your pace to what you feel you can handle. If you're not ready to tackle something, be kind to yourself about it)
  3. Get help (whether hired help or help from friends and colleagues, learn how to identify the help you need, and how ask for it, take it in and appreciate it)
  4. Team up (Join with a friend or friends to swap complementary skills and strengths. Form a co-op for the difficult jobs and/or create a group for mutual support and inspiration)
  5. Find a role model or mentor (Find someone who's journey inspires you and, if possible, ask them if they will mentor you)
  6. Redefine "success" (Success doesn't have to look the same for everybody; set goals that align with your values and work toward them)
  7. Treasure positive feedback (it's hard to resist shutting down in the face of rejection; remember that keeping your heart open can also let in a lot of light; keep positive feedback on hand, where you can refer to it as often as you need to)
  8. Embrace opportunities (when opportunity knocks, be sure to take it as a sign that your work needs to be out in the world; rise to the occasion and do what you have to do to meet each opportunity with your best work)
  9. Fight the power (don't buy the lie that success in your field will only come with recognition from the establishment)
  10. Show up (even when the outside world feels like a hostile place, keep showing up for your own work so you don't lose sight of why it has meaning for you)
  11. Make the world a better place for other artists (make a point to respect and honour other people's work and their vulnerability around it; be a celebrater!)

1 comment:

  1. Love your article Alex! I know many artists will find these tips extremely helpful!