Embrace the Rejected

Nowadays, it’s so easy to criticize. It’s simple to dish out critiques online or even to look in the mirror and tear ourselves apart. Trends are so easily established and shared that it’s glaringly obvious when we aren’t participating in them, and social media has implemented this heightened mob mentality that sways our opinions before we can even formulate them for ourselves. Rejection is around every corner in this environment, whether it be an email saying that you didn’t get a job you wanted, or you’re left on read on Snapchat, but especially when it comes to sharing our creativity. Pushing boundaries has never been met with such immediate resistance.

Beginning of a poem that got absolutely torn apart in a workshop and then rejected by my college’s literary magazine. Is it a great poem? No. Did it serve its purpose in sorting through personal turmoil. Absolutely.

When we face intense rejection both on and off of social media, it can be our initial reaction to pull back and question our ideas, or to tone them down in some way. However, I’m calling for us artists to trust our creative instinct. There is a reason a certain idea or concept piqued your interest, so carry that out and see where it takes you. The way I see it, it’s far better to ride an idea out and realize its potential than to look back when the inspiration is stale wishing you’d done something with it. That being said…


Now, I did a little bit of hard-hitting research for this post, and I find that there is one common thread among many artists who made an impact: they faced intense rejection at one point or another, sometimes even throughout their art careers and lives.

It took J.K. Rowling several publishers before she found one that would take a chance on Harry Potter.

Tori Kelly was completely rejected by Simon Cowell on American Idol before she found her own path in the music industry.

James Baldwin was heavily criticized for his portrayal of a homosexual relationship in Giovanni’s Room. It is still one of the most iconic LGBTQ+ novels, and it was one of the first.

Frida Kahlo was rejected again and again by the love of her life, Diego Rivera, and went on to create her most well-known work as a result of his many affairs.

Lucille Ball was told she would never make it as an actress before she landed the title role in I Love Lucy.

Emily Dickinson hardly published during her life, and when her work was published posthumously, it was torn apart for its unique structure and use of slant rhyme and punctuation. She is now one of the most renowned poets of all time.

Vincent Van Gogh barely sold one painting during his life and now it’s rare to find someone who has never seen a piece of his art, and the originals are in the most prestigious art museums across the world.

Stephen King nearly gave up on Carrie and threw it away until his wife convinced him to give it another go. He’s now published dozens of novels and is one of the most well-known writers of our time.

Ai Weiwei has been exiled, imprisoned, and loudly debated regarding his art in critique of the Chinese government. He has started a powerful movement in resistance.

At the end of the day, there are so many voices screaming their opinions at us between the people in our lives, the Internet, or even random strangers. Don’t forget to give yourself the gift of silence to re-center with your perspective. The above artists always maintained their root beliefs and vison for their work. Disconnecting for a little while can do anyone a lot of good, but especially artists. That we each have our own unique creative process is one of the most wonderful things art has to offer. Moving forward, I’m making it a point to keep that process sacred. At this point in my life and in my creativity, I want that process to be mine and mine alone and I don’t want to share it mid-way or too quickly. Revealing the final product will be my end goal for the time being.

Overall, I want to encourage you the embrace the ideas that may be rejected by others or even the ones initially rejected by yourself. Trust that there’s a reason that you’re holding onto the concept and just let yourself run with it. It’s at this point that I want to add that I’ve really been trying to get back to my childhood mentality in creativity: no idea is a bad idea. Simply try without the many voices in the world weighing you down and decide later whether or not the concept is worth pursuing. An idea might not become anything, but it could be your breakthrough. Don’t count it out before you give it a chance.

Much Love, Quinn

Post Prompt: Take one idea you’ve questioned and pursue it, or consider a new trend and turn it on its head.

Post Sources:

Several of the examples I used in this post were from my own previous knowledge (J.K. Rowling, Tori Kelly, and Emily Dickinson). However, for others, I referred to the following sources:

James Baldwin: https://www.biography.com/writer/james-baldwin

Frida Kahlo: https://www.fridakahlo.org/frida-kahlo-biography.jsp

Ai Weiwei’s website refers you back to his Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ai_Weiwei

Lucille Ball, Vincent Van Gogh, and Stephen King: https://thoughtcatalog.com/rachel-hodin/2013/10/35-famous-people-who-were-painfully-rejected-before-making-it-big/

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