Rejection Ritual/Balls in the Air

There’s something about jugglers. I’m told it’s not hard, what they do, no, neurosurgery and rocket science are hard but, juggling? Not hard, but there is a trick to it. And that trick? Why, it’s to always have one ball in the air and work the momentum in your favor. If you look at jugglers, really watch them, you’ll see they indeed do always seem to have one ball in the air at all times.

How is this related to photography or art in any way, you might ask. And, I’d be willing to tell you. The other day I got asked, “As an artist, what is your rejection ritual?” Perhaps one of the most daunting things is to learn to deal with rejection. Rejection is all around us, it comes at us in many shapes and sizes, so we have to learn to deal with it, right? Perhaps I’m better at this than most as well. Seriously, I don’t like to toot my own horn but I’ve always been one to never let rejection get me down or get to me on any hard core deep philosophical level. What’s my secret? Just like juggling, it’s not hard, but there is a trick; a method to my madness if you will. The trick? That’s easy. You guessed it, it’s the same trick the jugglers use: always have one ball in the air. What do I mean by that? Allow me to explain.

I always have opportunities out at sea. What does that mean? Easy. I never just send out one gallery packet or apply for one show or submit work to one call for entries. Nope, I never do. Rather, I send out multiples. I submit to two, three, heck even four things at a time. Send it all on out there, go ahead, why, I dare you. The more you send out, the more likely you are going to be rejected, right? That’s great. Rejection is a part of what we do. But the secret? The secret is that the more work you send out, the more likely you are to get accepted as well. Think of the juggler. If he only has one ball and he threw it it would be gone and he would be left with nothing in his hands. The rhythm would be off, no momentum there. But now, give him three balls and he drops one? There’s still the other two to throw around and he can learn to work with the momentum. Over time and with practice, he gets really good at juggling and learns to sense the momentum. He feels it coming when he’s going to drop a ball and when one is going to fly. He just knows, because he always has one ball in the air and he’s learned to work the momentum.

When you send work out as an artist once you get rejected you can focus on your other balls, as it were. “OK, so I didn’t get into Gallery X but Gallery Y might still want my work. I haven’t heard back from them yet.” You also have a hand free so you can, just like the juggler, work that momentum. Send to work out now to Gallery Z and keep that momentum going. Don’t stop and wallow in the Gallery X business, no, you’ve got more balls to throw out into the wind.

The “trick” if you want to call it that is to not take yourself too seriously (never take yourself too seriously,) have fun at it, and keep those balls flying around in the air. Build that momentum. Just like our happy juggler, one day you might find you can juggle chain saws and not just balls. Woo Hoo!

So, to boil it down, my rejection ritual is that I don’t have one. I don’t have one because, Ha! I never get rejected. Now, I might get a “no” or drop a ball once in a while but I’ve always got stuff out there, always got more stuff to send out there and there are always more opportunities ahead of me than behind me, so I don’t wallow in what I might have missed. No, rather, I focus on what’s coming into view next and try to keep that momentum going as best I can. That’s my little secret.

I mean, I do sometimes drink a spot of whiskey but I don’t cry in it, Instead, I toast my cup to the next, to the better opportunities that are surely coming my way. I hope you consider doing the same. Now, get your work out there. Go on, throw a ball out there and see where it lands, I dare you!

Until next time…

PS This one shot with the Canon 5DS on the Washington coast. Lovely sky, cloudy day, great day at the beach, it sure was.

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