Accepting Rejections

I often get frustrated by colleagues posting online about never getting accepted into any composition workshops, never winning competitions or always being shortlisted. Mostly because I can relate. I just want to yell at my laptop screen: “Would you stop whining??? We’re all in the same boat!!!!” It’s an emotional punch to the stomach for everyone who receives a letter or email containing the response they’ve been awaiting for weeks when it starts with: “Dear *insert name here*, Thank you for your interest in such and such…” and you know what follows. But does it have to be so painful?

I came across an interview by Marie Forleo on her YouTube channel (which I’m addicted to)  with actress, director, producer and writer Bryce Dallas Howard, who was talking about the reality of being an artist. She explained that she gained perspective on the whole thing when her grandmother, actress Jean Speegle Howard, told her that on average, actresses working in Hollywood, the ones who could make a living and comfortably pay their bills out of acting, would succeed on 1 audition out of 64. Knowing this, Bryce Howard entered her career knowing not to get discouraged when receiving rejections, that she had to keep at it and eventually, she would receive a “yes.” (See the interview here https://youtu.be/E-DF4LUm0Rc )

Why was anyone told this before? I know I wish I had been told! What a great way to handle rejections! What if every time we got a “no,” we counted it as one step closer to a “yes?” Plus, how easy is it to get feedback to make up a better application or proposal the next time around?

I was always hesitant to do so, being afraid to ask for too much time on the part of the organizers or committee, until I applied to an opportunity conjointly with a wonderful soul and performer I love working with. She had sent the application, so she received the email that started with: “Dear team, Thank you for your application…” She didn’t hesitate and sent an email back asking for feedback. We received a short, but efficient email outlining two strength and two weaknesses in our proposal. We are in the process of applying to several opportunities with the same project, so it’s great to know how we can do a better job at pitching our idea.

That’s one strength that we have as composers that actors and actresses don’t have: it’s mostly not about the way we exist, physically, mentally or creatively. It’s about the way we talk about our ideas: we have the ability to review again and again a proposal. So maybe the ratio of successes to failures experienced by composers is even more than 1:64?

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On Just Asking.

I recently came accros an opportunity for a project that would help advance my career as a composer. The problem is that the deadline for its application was very close, and there was a long list of steps to take in order to complete it. Including people to contact. And documents to get from them. And you know that the more people you contact and need documents from, the longer it takes to get everything together. Or that’s what I tend to think.

I tend to give up too easily when time is an issue, but didn’t want to pass on this one. So I decided to do everything in my power to put this application together, even if it meant trying until the very last minute.

In four days, I found all the musicians that would be involved in this project (people I truly admire), and a compagnie to mentor me and support me in this endeavour. I started emailing everyone one by one, when usually I would be too ashamed to ask for people’s time at the last minute (and show my flaws as a last-minute-kinda-person). But one by one, they replied back quickly with enthusiasm and the will to make this happen. “Let me know if I can do anything else!” they’d say. I mean, I’m the one supposed to be enthusiastic about their responses, no? One of them even reviewed my application countless of times, helping with my ESL funky grammar. That level of support felt so good! I’m loving a good team work, when a group works towards the same great goal. I just never realized that that goal could be mine and that it could be worth working towards.

I knew I wanted an outsider to support this project, and so I spent a few days brainstorming in order to find the perfect fit. I ended up asking someone I knew through my job whose sole purpose in life seems to be helping others and making others happy. Despite them being off work due to illness, they did everything they could so that their company would get involved and give me a hand.

This is what I learned from this experience:

1 – I have no clue how I got everyone on board so quickly, but I did just by asking…
2 – …maybe by believing in my own project.
3 – I have no clue why people got on board so quickly, but something inside makes me feel that it’s all about making music together and helping each other. And I liked it.
4 – Some people are just plain kind and devoted and worth trusting.