Ewan Mackay

How Do I Deal with Rejection as a Composer?

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When you think about what it means to be a composer, most will think of Beethoven and Mozart scribbling away under candlelight working on their latest masterpiece – rather romantic. Few will think of a very difficult field where only a tiny percentage achieve any sizable success and are what most would regard very comfortable, while the rest have to scrap away, not knowing if they’ll ever get that next opportunity or have that next piece of music heard by anyone other than themself. It’s fair to say that for the other 99% of composers, rejection is a fact of our artistic life, and dealing with rejection is a funny thing. Some people are good at taking the criticism they receive on board and use it to better their work, while others wallow in what could have been. For me, it comes down to two simple ideas 1. Getting over rejection as quickly as possible. 2. Using that rejection as an inspirational fire for your next project. 

Rejection has happened to me far more than success has – but that’s to be expected. However, I believe that the projects I have been able to work on have brought me far more fulfillment and artistic opportunities than those I failed to get would have. 

To my mind, it comes down to how you deal with not being accepted for a particular opportunity or even a nasty piece of criticism – I’ve had my fair share of that and more. Most of it comes down to how you build your network. If you have built a strong little network of performers, composers, organisations, then it’s more likely than not that you can make something happen than if you just jump in there cold with no real connection. I have had a number of follow up opportunities come from opportunities before them, simply through building strong relationships with those involved. I find that being enthusiastic, keen, and accepting that criticism both justified and unjustified will come your way. 

How quickly you are able to get over a missed opportunity will determine how quickly you are able to pursue the next one. There have been times where I have missed out on an opportunity in the morning and secured one in the afternoon. Just have faith in your own artistic ability. Know that you are good enough. If you do your networking right and compose music musicians want to play and people enjoy engaging with, then you’re already in a strong position. 

The current creative climate has shown us that rejection and hardship are everywhere, but we have also seen examples of innovation and progress in the way that we as artists go about creating and distributing our work. That’s the kind of forward-thinking thought that is required. Even if music is your passion project or source of full-time employment, it doesn’t mean you can’t go about working differently and better than you have in the past. Just be aware it might not work out the first time, but the more you work and press on, the better you get and your craft, and the more opportunities and mini successes will come your way.

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