“While the jury convened to adjudicate the applications recommended your application for funding, I am sorry to inform you that the Arts Board is unable to provide you with a grant as there were not sufficient funds available to support all of the recommended applications.”
Almost, but Not Quite.
Thanks, but No Thanks.
A little dream withers and dies.
Of course this is not my first rejection letter. You get a lot of nays and for every aye as an artist. In fact I have received this letter from the Arts Board three times.
The first time I was positive about it. My application had been recommended for funding, an improvement over a previous attempt. I took it as a sign of growth and development. I felt I was moving in the right direction.
The second time I was disappointed, but resigned to the competitive process. Other projects and opportunities quickly filled my life.
Yesterday, after receiving the same news a third time, I crossed my arms and stuck out my lower lip in a defiant toddler stance. “Fine”, I thought, “I am never applying for one of your stupid grants ever again!” A bit of hot, salty water fell out of my eyes. I flopped on the bed and indulged in a pout. I admit to being terribly unprofessional in my reaction; but I really, really wanted the outcome to be different this time.
After a bit, I decided that cookies and coffee would make me feel better. As I was preparing the coffee, I accidently bumped the carafe on the counter. Glass flew everywhere. Some strong words were said in a very loud voice.
The day went on. I moped. I did some non-art work. I went to bed.
Rejection is so easy to take personally. It doesn’t take much to convince yourself there is something wrong with you or your work or your education or your lack of education or your writing or one hundred other things. Maybe you are just not cool enough. Maybe you are the biggest loser that ever lived.
Once you recover from the initial disappointment, rejection can be a positive process. I recently learned about the 100 Days of Rejection project by Jia Jiang. He was tired of being scared of rejection so he purposely entered situations where he would be denied, hoping to desensitize himself. Through his zany social experiments Jiang discovered “that the stings and slights of rejection are universal among us as humans, but that with conscious intent we can turn rejection into enterprise, insult into ambition, and regret into courage. ”
One of the first things I saw when I opened my eyes this morning was the rejection letter on my dresser. After my shower I picked up the phone and dialed the contact number provided in the letter.
I needed to know more. I needed to know why. I needed to know where I had gone wrong.
No matter how hard it might be to hear
After a 10 minute conversation I knew.
The truth is: I just barely missed it. My application was strong and ranked highly. If I tweak my proposal a bit using the feedback provided, I have a really good chance of making the cut next time.
Thank goodness I asked.
Maybe one little dream can be revived.
And as for dream number two, it is still out there.