Before we can actually “redirect” the world no, we have to discover what exactly is the stigma around being told no—especially for artists. Perhaps we don’t remember that “no” is actually not all bad. Sure, there are the blistering and traumatizing experiences by folks who hurt us so they won’t hurt quite so much (or who just hurt us because they’re vindictive; trust me, I’ve met them) and sometimes “no” just stops us in our tracks and grinds our progress to a shivering halt. We wander around our houses in desolation, sure that any creative efforts we dare to make are far-off dreams that we’ll never reach. We can’t do it. We’ll just stop now because it’s easier than trying to continue. After all, we’re not that good. Someone told us so. It has to be true.
But sometimes, “no” is actually “the good thing.” We get told no on a manuscript that really does needs more work, we take a picture and edit it over the top, ruining our original effort, and someone doesn’t respond to the image just the way we’d hoped, or our daily workload makes it impossible for us to be creative until the weekend.
We go back to that rejected dark place, wandering around our life as if we’re on hold listening to the music, wishing we could just hang up and get back to our creative pursuits. Have we ever stopped to think that perhaps being told “no” redirects us toward a correct path? What if being told “no” points out to us our true north?
Sometimes “no” reminds us that we were shooting too low the first time we tried. Sometimes “no” pushes us to be better, to dig deeper, and to stop pretending. Because really, if all we ever got in our life was “yes,” would we ever look at ourselves with enough healthy empathy (which tells us the truth about ourselves, not just whatever we need to hear)? Would we ever actually edit ourselves? Would we ever think we needed to?
If we learn to take rejection as just that—one person’s point of view and not a creative standard etched in stone—we may find that our creativity can endure rejection and actually become stronger. We may find that being creative, if only to prove our critics wrong and to seek out a higher level of self-creativity, becomes our refuge and our safety.
An editor I know likes to make custom jewelry. The past few years haven’t been easy on anyone, but my editor friend found herself barely making ends meet and had to give up her jewelry business. She is now so busy with her editorial work that she doesn’t have time to get her passion—jewelry making—back up and running. The experience has soured her on being creative. She talks about 2007 with longing, complaining long and loud to those of us who are still around that the publishing industry has just killed another victim—her. I don’t like to listen to too much of that attitude. To me it’s like my friend is already telling herself “no.” I would love to see her pick up her jewelry tools and make one necklace. Just one. Don’t you think she would be so much happier?
Once I wrote a book manuscript that was acquired by an editor at a large publishing house, but it was rejected during the infamous editorial meeting. My editor apologized, but couldn’t do anything about it. Had I more of a certain type of credentials, the book would have made it through the editorial board. But really, losing the book deal made me hungrier for a better book deal. I used the opportunity to rework my vision for my writing into something else completely different. For me, having to wait made me appreciate my expertise and knowledge of publishing and book writing. Sure, I didn’t get what I wanted right off the bat, but I learned a lot about myself.
I took my “no” and moved right along.
Action Step: What is your “no” and how have you used it to make your creativity better?