Did I Do That?: Facing My Fear of Rejection as an Artist

When I first saw the Tech JXN Film Festival advertisement on my Facebook feed my immediate thought was to find someone to connect to the opportunity. A brand new film festival with people I know and trust who are looking especially for folks who traditionally don’t get access to these types of creative venues…YAAAAS! Surely someone who I know would be a perfect match to this opportunity.

This is the way my brain works, y’all. I love connecting people to information and resources. It’s what makes me super shiny. And it’s great when you find something you excel at, truly. But this time I had to shake myself when a tiny voice whispered to me, “You are that somebody this time”.

“Excuse me,” I said to myself. “I am not a filmmaker. I dabble at making some content for my 58 subscribers on my YouTube channel, sure. But my role has always been to promote the creative work of others.”

Y’all, I had a robust argument with myself. I thought about all of the 31 independent projects I’ve contributed time and money to (approximately $4,000) over the past eight years and half of those artists I continue to support as a sustaining patron.

I’m not pointing this out to brag or boast. These numbers were a revelation to me when I actually sat down to write them all out. I support what I believe in and when I say I’m going to do something, I almost always get it done…except when it comes to doing MY things.

I love storytelling, especially the kind that gives voice to the voiceless. Once upon a time I dreamed of becoming a documentarian and feature magazine contributor leading up to the day when I would basically become Oprah. But I also have an intense need to help promote others and for years I’ve lived out of balance with myself in pursuit of one part of my calling.

I decided I would work towards balancing my scale by applying to this festival. I had plenty of time and a really special feature film that I told myself I could have ready in time and at the same time I knew I was setting myself up. Deadlines ran up on me involving things I needed to do for my clients and I was perfectly prepared to excuse myself from the festival competition. I had convinced myself that it was the responsible, adult thing to do when three friends on separate occasions called me on my bullshit. It was then that I was confronted with an ugly truth…

I was afraid.

This realization shook me. I am not a person who operates in fear. I confront issues. I handle shit. I’m the one folks shove to the front of the pack to deal with difficult and uncomfortable situations. And yet and still, I was afraid of pushing this particular button. How did I get this way? I needed to understand the root of this fear and so I put in the work to unpack some very painful memories.

I can remember the circumstances that are wrapped like a hard crusted scab around the earliest rejections of my creative work. The first was from second grade when a teacher graded me poorly for an arts and crafts assignment when I clearly followed the rules and did the assignment by myself while others had their parents help them. That’s the first time I remember feeling rage over having been wronged. I was 6.

I remember fielding rejection after rejection when submitting my writing for competitions in Highlights and for school competitions with feedback that celebrated my technical skill but that rejected my subject matter as most of what I wrote about then was commentary on social injustice and world events. I wrote about war, politics, greed, racism, sexism, religion, if it was something I deemed important, I wrote about it.

I was precocious and I had no idea how to write about fairy princesses and unicorns.

When I made it onto the literary magazine in high school I thought I’d finally be able to pierce the veil and find a way to have my work move past the tips of my English teachers grading pen and into the hearts and minds of other interested readers. In two years I never managed to get a single one of my submissions through the Ed board for publication. I cried and raged inside but I buried it deep because I was convinced I would lose far more than I would gain if I struck out in anger at my peers for not seeing the value in my work and I couldn’t stomach the accusation that I was asking for special treatment for them to accept my work.

These early rejections taught me something else, that while I might not be able to see my name in the author slot, I could help others effectively navigate the politics and procedures of getting published. Helping others became a way for me to salve the hurt and it filled my time while that hurt crusted over and I went on with my life.

I submitted works of my own for things from time to time but I didn’t put my heart into it. I even wrote a book some years back that very few people ever saw and the only person who bought it was my mama. I don’t often think about that because honestly it hurts. No one writes a book or creates a work of art in the hope that in sharing it with the world that it will be rejected.

Being inside my head can be an exhausting experience but taking the time to unpack my feelings paid off in the long run because I remembered something else about myself. When I recognize that fear is trying to steal joy from my life, grown up Marta goes to war. As I grew older I found an outlet for that rage that would form around rejection. I convert that energy into the fuel for keeping fear at bay. I’ve also learned to call for backup reinforcements when I need them.

Last night, I hit the submit button and applied to my first film festival.

Tech JXN Film Festival Submission

This won’t be my last.

I’m sharing this because I know some of you who are reading this right now have a project on a shelf or in your brain that you want to share but fear of rejection or failure has you stuck in neutral. I promise you are not alone. I laugh every time people slap the “fearless leader” sticker on me because I know how I battle with my demons on a regular basis. I am here to tell you that you don’t have to remain stuck in neutral. Reach out for help. Don’t leave those projects on the shelf because they were planted in you for a purpose.

If you don’t have someone you can reach out to for help getting your project out of neutral, shoot me a message and I’ll help you find someone. Many creatives have a bad habit of isolating ourselves and burying our talents and that’s just not healthy. Honor your gifts and kick fear in the balls.

Marta C. Youngblood is the founder and creative engine behind TheWRITEaddiction creatives co-op founded in 2014 as a virtual community supporting writers from all over the United States of America. Marta’s passion drives her to support the success of creatives from all walks of life to honor their talent and share it with the world. She believes that working in our creative callings does not have to be synonymous with being a “starving artist” and helps creatives master the business skills and strategies they need to work in their gifts.

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