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?