I just got my first rejection letter! Woohoo! They don’t want my poetry! Well, actually it was a rejection email, but–after the initial squint to check and the shoulder slump to confirm–I’m going to take it as a win. Because you know what? It means I finally got some things out the door, stood them on their own little iambic feet, and sent them skipping out to face the world.
So we got smacked down, my poems and I. So what? We can take a hit.
See, this formal and slightly awkwardly worded rejection email is proof. Proof that after far too long, I finally trusted my poems enough to send them out. To a stranger, with publication authority and the accompanying judgement rights. More importantly, I finally trusted myself to write poems that can withstand that judgement.
I’m not saying I want to paper my room with rejection letters (waste of ink, isn’t it, printing out all those emails?). My skin is still thin and tender in many places. But underneath, I also know there’s a crazy-powerful network of neurons and bunching muscle. Me and my poems can get knocked down and scramble back up again, PDQ. I’m sure of it.
There’s this whole notion of “100 No’s” I’ve seen around in various places, mostly in retail or marketing related organizations with an aggressive, sales-oriented definition of success. The idea is that, in business, you don’t need to make every sale, you don’t need a lot yes-es. You just need one BIG yes. And to get to that big yes, you’re going to have to go through a lot of no’s. It’s a numbers game for people with the guts to withstand rejection, essentially.
I’ve also heard this applied to artists, and this is where it hits home for me. Actors, writers, painters, musicians–anyone who is trying to get their work–the artistic representation of some piece of their soul–sold, distributed, or even just seen. It’s rough out there, and it takes a lot of asking. It seems like 100 no’s is pretty accurate par for the course. But you don’t need every art gallery owner, casting director, or publisher to like what you do, to say yes.
Just one yes can be a major turning point for an artist–I’m not talking fame and fortune, though wouldn’t that be nice? One big yes could pay your rent, your phone bill even. Or it might be what gives you the extra shot of confidence to move on to your next big vision.
But while we are waiting for the yes(es), maybe it’s the no’s that could give us strength. Not defiance. Not “I’ll show them!” because they don’t matter. Maybe there’s a quiet, patient comfort in knowing that each no brings you closer to a yes. Maybe each no can feed our inner mad scientist, brain bulging with art and plotting that keeps us madly scheming, because we know that logically, statistically, we just have to wade through these no’s for our yes. Maybe each no amkes us less afraid of the next, gives us some latitude to reach farther for the next no–make it a “Oh hell no,” and you’ve got something!
Maybe I’ll use these pretty sheet of 100 Golden No’s to keep track of my attempts. Becka at Life as an Artistpreneur made them to share with her readers because she–a former multilevel marketer, herself– totally buys in to the empowerment of the no’s. “I get turned down ALL THE TIME. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not scared to email big companies, or big names and ask them crazy things because I’m used to hearing NO and to me, it’s worth it to get a few NO’s if it means that I’ll get a crazy awesome YES thrown in there every now and then.”
Cross each shiny gold no off with a big black sharpie X? Sure why not! I have a lot of poems.
No doesn’t look so threatening now, does it?