Rejection: A Compass for the Creative Career.

September 22, 2019

 

There is a popular saying currently trending within mainstream with roots in church culture: Rejection is a form of redirection. It is a difficult concept to bear in mind during the creative process, in the sharing and unfolding of artistic expression with audiences, peers or industry gatekeepers. Once an artist releases their work from a place of identity and shelter, only for it to be rejected on receipt, the experience can easily be conflated with personal rejection versus a rejection of what was created. The ability to remain objective in the face of rejection requires an innate level of self-assurance—a confidence in personal ability and potential—which is critical in preserving an artist’s self-esteem and creative vision.

 

Regardless of the level of confidence, however, rejection can still be very difficult to digest, particularly with live audiences, given the amplification of the experience, such as with the legendary Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York—a venue where many creative masters and icons, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Chappelle and Jamie Foxx have been booed by the audience. As any performer, who has graced the Apollo stage can attest to, its audience has always been ready and eager to unabashedly embrace or reject performances at full volume to the performer’s delight or embarrassment. When performers are unable to win over the crowd and are booed off-stage, the “Sandman” appears to collect them from the stage, summarily collecting on their dreams and aspirations in front of a live audience. Moments of rejection like these can be soul-crushing after hours of diligence and preparation, but when digested through a core of self-assurance, they can be prefaced with the understanding that said rejection is only occurring at that moment and does not translate as a dead-end for creative and professional aspirations. Self-assurance provides a knowing of individual talent, as well as its source, and a trust in the direction those moments of rejection are leading an artist towards.  

 

Christ also experienced rejection throughout his ministry, and from the very beginning accepted and understood it as an inevitable part of the progress of his purpose, in his instruction to his disciples to shake the dirt from their sandals upon their rejection within Israel, while traveling to deliver the message of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

In one particular instance, after performing numerous healings and miracles in various towns, Christ stopped in his hometown of Nazareth to teach from the synagogue on the Sabbath. After reading from the book of Isaiah, he began to address the crowd with a proverbial knowing, sensing their lack of faith and questioning of his background. The crowd was unable to reconcile their past image of Christ as a local carpenter with the present reality of his wisdom and knowledge and his stature as a teacher and prophet—prompting the following saying, from Christ’s message, which has since been used in varying contexts throughout history: “Prophets are never welcomed in their hometown.”

 

At the conclusion of his address, the crowd turned on Christ--seizing him and dragging him out of the town to the top of the hill on which Nazareth was grounded, with the intent to throw him off of the cliff. Instead, the account within scripture ends without any struggle or further conflict, with Christ “walking through the middle of the crowd, going his own way”.

 

No one will ever really know what happened at the top of that hill. There is no notation of any words or actions on Christ’s part that would have allowed him to merely walk away through the crowd without a struggle. There is no notation of a miracle or intervention. The only continuity within the account is in his self-assurance of his purpose, his identity and his relationship with the Creator. This is the only variable that would seemingly have allowed him to walk away from the moment unscathed physically, spiritually, psychologically or emotionally to continue forward to the next town in completion of his vision and purpose towards humanity.

 

For artists and creatives, self-assurance can prove beneficial in determining the places, spaces and people that are compatible with their artistic voice. Rejection should be acknowledged as a momentary indicator of unwelcoming, clearing the path towards the space where an artist's work is valued and optimally utilized within culture towards the illumination, beautification and unification of humanity at-large.

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