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The Confident Artist

by Gloria Hopkins

"Your writing is so convoluted!" barked the editor of one of my first articles. That comment cut me to the core because the editor was someone whose work I admired a great deal. I was insulted, indignant, hurt and mad. Through all this, I was determined.

Six months later I was hired by three of the web's largest nature photography sites to write for them. I put my head down, learned to write and in a short time I was being paid for doing so. Pretty great, huh?

Dealing with Rejection

I have been rejected by everyone. My writings, paintings and photographs have been rejected. My ideas and my dreams have been rejected. I have been rejected personally by those I thought loved me. I've felt rejection every way there is to feel it. But with each rejection I'm more driven than ever. This is for a couple of reasons:

  • I know that unless you need a great deal of improvement in your art, often a rejection is a simple matter of need. If someone doesn't need what you have, they're not going to pay for it. When the time comes when they need your work, they may remember and call you.

  • The key to handling the sometimes crushing emotions of having our work rejected is to grow a very thick skin and understand that its usually nothing personal. Every creative person is rejected at some point.

Let it Turn

A very wise photographer I know helped me through an emotionally difficult time. His advice for my grieving over a rejection was to let the pain turn into something else. We all have the mental power to do this and it does work. I was a little embarrassed because this person was several years younger but much wiser than me, but I'm glad that he was there. It is a coping tool that I use every time I feel the sting of a rejection.

  • Let the emotions of a rejection turn into something else: creativity, personal drive, a commitment to improve, as I did with my writing.

  • Work harder than ever on your craft, commit to not just improve but to excel and when you do, you will feel really great about yourself. This is how the confidence of an artist is born.

Always Improve

Not only is it important to focus our energies in ways that will improve ourselves or our work, it is equally important to learn from our rejections. Pay close attention to the reasons that you were rejected. Don't try to escape from them or ignore them, and don't let the bite of a rejection roll off like water on a duck's back. It helps to embrace the rejections, learn from them and always strive to excel.

  • If you work hard enough on something and if you love what you're doing, there should be few personal reasons that you won't excel.

Confidence and Competition

The main reason that many artists are confident is because its almost a requirement. In the visual arts the competition is fierce. There are some really great artists out there making fantastic art everyday and we'll have to compete with many of them at some point in our careers. It takes a lot of confidence for some to do this, especially if we have no regular source of guidance, instruction or feedback on our work. To compete in the arts it helps that we have a thick skin as well as a healthy dose of self confidence and confidence in our work.

  • As we strive to build our confidence its important to retain our sensitivities. Often an artist's sensitivities are what make them great at what they do so it's important to not lose them. I always consider it a shame when a person becomes jaded, bitter or overly discouraged because of a bad review or critique. It's always better to embrace the opportunity for improvement.

If I haven't given you enough reasons to build a good sense of self confidence and to embrace rejection and learn from it, here is one final reason: with confidence comes boldness, a sense of adventure and experimentation in our crafts. These are the things that make an artist great.

Text and image copyright Gloria Hopkins

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