“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

The Truth.

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.



Schrodinger’s Letter

“Oh, by the way, this letter arrived for you yesterday”.

My husband plops a slim white envelope on the bathroom vanity.  The return address belongs to an arts institution I have sent, not one, but two separate proposals to over the last few months.

My stomach lurches.

My heart pumps a fresh shot of adrenaline through my body.

The Letter I Have Been Waiting For is here.  I need only to rip the thin layer of paper to know.

I pick up the letter, walk to the bedroom, and place it on the dresser.  I put it address side down so I am not able to read any words through the paper.

I consider the letter and what it might contain.

My stomach flips.

I prepare myself for all possible outcomes.

I try to be rational.

Statistically the letter is most likely to be of the  “Thanks, but No Thanks” kind.  A tactfully worded note will inform me that, although my work has merit, there just isn’t enough funding or space or need at this time.  (I think a successful applicant would receive notice by email, followed by a formal letter, don’t you?)  I will sigh and accept the news.  I will allow myself a good mope and then move on. I may even convince myself I have more creative freedom this way.  (Who needs them anyway!)

As I try to keep myself calm and prepared for the worst, the wide-eyed optimist inside still dares to hope for the best.  It reminds me that I spent a lot of time and effort on my proposals.  One of them could be successful.  My work is worthy.  I have had plenty of encouragement.  I have done my best.  I know acceptance by this institution would mean a lot to me.

 I allow myself to dream a little.

There is also a really, really small voice that whispers, “What if both of my proposals were selected?”  My rational mind is quick to chastise this voice for going too far, but still….what if?  (The term “over the moon” comes to mind.)  At the same time, the insecure voice says “Oh no, then you will actually have to succeed! There will be so much more potential for failure.”  EEK!

The last possibility I can fathom is the letter pertains to a subject unrelated to my proposals.  Perhaps the institution would like me to participate in a survey, attend a conference, or discover a new program.  My hopes and fears will be put on hold for another day.

I take the letter off the dresser.  I turn it over in my hand.

The letter holds potential for triumph, disappointment, frustration, fear, elation, suspense, success, depression, tears, and relief.   If fact, no matter what the news is, I will probably experience all of the above.

There is nothing more frightening than success, except perhaps failure.

So, is the dream alive or dead or something else altogether?

Let me open this letter and find out.