rejection proofFor all but a few creative people, fear of rejection can really slow down the creative process.  We’re concerned about what others think, after all– that’s why we show off our work.  When we must invest a significant amount of money into our creative work to get it out into the world, the opinion of others becomes a meaningful factor in our decisions.  That’s why I take advice whenever I can from people with experience in the realm of being rejected, and even sometimes being successful, so that I can get some perspective on my fears.

In Rejection Proof, author Jia Jiang went through his life hoping to someday be a self-made man– an entrepreneur.  Trailblazing is risky, however, and he grew more and more fearful of the rejection he might experience if his ideas wouldn’t work out.
Jiang set out to work on an experiment, hoping to rid himself of the fears he thought were holding him back.  He started a blog to track his experiences through “100 Days of Rejection”.  Every day, Jiang set out to get rejected by asking crazy favors from people.  The things he asked ranged from borrowing $100 from a stranger to volunteering to do work he wasn’t qualified for.  The blog went viral because, as it turns out, everyone in the world experiences some fear of being rejected.
In the book, Jiang sums up his “Rejection Toolbox”, the lessons he learned from his experiences.  I’ll re-word the list of tools to be useful for us, as artists and creators:
Rethinking Rejection
Rejection says more about the rejector than the rejectee, and is influenced by many factors outside of the rejectee’s control.  It is never a judgement of merit.  If the rejectee goes through enough rejections, eventually someone will say “yes”.
Taking a No
Sustain a conversation after the initial “no”; don’t run away, clam up, or argue with the rejector.  Use the opportunity to learn about how to improve, collaborate, or change tactics.
Positioning for a Yes
Target your audience to be more receptive, explain why you work is important, and be personable.
Giving a No
Give a clear, concise, and respectful reason for your rejection, and then offer alternatives or small concessions.
The Upside
We may not like it, but being rejected can be motivating, builds character, and helps us improve our work.  Besides, sometimes it’s good to be rejected by folks whose thinking is flawed.
Finding Meaning
Being rejected can help us rethink what we’re doing and help us measure how devoted we really are to our projects.  We have empathy for others in the same position when we are rejected.
Finding Freedom
We must find the inner freedom to move past our fears and take the first steps toward making our projects real.  Nothing will happen if we don’t make it happen.  When we are rejected, we learn to accept ourselves and push on without needing the approval of others.
Finding Power
Focus on the factors that you can control, then detach your self-worth from the results.
I found Jiang’s experiences to be very motivating.  It helped me to be more realistic– understanding that I am the one saying “no” to my work when I am I don’t move forward out fear of rejection from others.  This is the case for all of us, and we must move past those fears to get our creative work out into the world.