You Are Not a Failure | Reflections on a Life in the Arts
Rejection, mental health, long breaks, and the pressure to become "something" — let's talk about it.
We live in a world where an algorithm determines our value as a human being and how many points in our Insights it gives us. With apps like TikTok ravaging our eyes and attention, it seems like everyone is not only trying but are encouraged, to reach some level of fame. What started as a way of connecting with friends and family, is no longer that, but an entirely new entertainment platform.
There has probably never been a time where being successful has had this much pressure on everyone with a phone in their pocket. This is the truth for nearly everyone, no matter age or occupation. There is something about the fact that this isn’t fame coming from Hollywood movies or Disney Channel shows, but people’s own homes that is stripping down the distance, and making it seem like anyone can truly be famous.
Kids are going viral and becoming multi-millionaires by doing stiff arm movements—sorry, I mean dances—to top charted songs. Can you imagine what it feels like to be just a regular kid nowadays? A decade ago, famous kids indeed did exist, but not at this scale. Now, babies of family vloggers are famous before they have even left their mother's womb.
But this pressure, to be accomplished and have those hundreds of thousands of followers, is even more so prevalent for people working (or aspiring to) in the arts. Whether this is in writing, filmmaking, painting, or other creations, it seems like we are always told that the way to go now is by building an online presence. Simultaneously, it seems that people with no interest in the arts are given book deals left and right because people like their fake online pranks.
Do you want to get your book published? Go get a few hundred thousand Twitter followers, please.
Rejection will always be part of the journey
Let’s not sugarcoat it; getting your work and ideas rejected can be incredibly hurtful. When they say “We just don’t think this piece fits with our image,” it can be very easy to read as “We just don’t think you fit with our image,”. But after a while, the disappointment and discouragement from these letters will numb.
Not because they will stop coming—having your craft rejected will always be part of your journey, even legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese struggled to get studios to back The Irishman—but because you will start to understand that in order to get accepted, you have to get rejected.
Know that no matter how long it will take for you to find that home for your story, your art, for that part of you that you've baked into it, you will find it eventually. You just have to come to peace with the fact that not everyone will resonate with it, and you can't take it personally. There are literally billions of people out there in the world, and if you keep on pressing, you will find the right people, the right place. It can take months, years, even decades for some.
You will always be an artist
“Decades?!” you say. Yes, decades.
“Will I even still be an artist then?” Are you an artist now? If so, yes.
The thing is, working, creating, whatever you want it you call it, within the realm of arts and storytelling, isn’t something that dies out. If you know that you are a painter or a poet, that will always be with you. No matter how long it takes for it to be “legitimised”. No matter if you haven’t touched a pen or brush for years—if you feel your heart jump at the word, if you feel it calling for you, then you will always be an artist.
If, say for a year, you haven’t written anything more than texts and quick rants in your diary. No short stories, no scripts, no essays… You are still a writer. You always have been, and you always will be. It doesn’t matter if, in 20, 30, 40 years writing isn’t what pays for your bread and butter. If writing is truly a part of who you are, a paycheck does not need to validate that.
Do not let what you love consume you
There are many speculations and meanings one can draw from Pixar's movie Soul. If you haven't seen it, in short, it's about a jazz musician/middle school music teacher who finally gets the opportunity of a lifetime. But, on the same day, dies walking down the street. He is sent to the Great Beyond and must find his way back to Earth.
Through this journey, he is faced with questions on identity, purpose, and life. Without any intricate spoilers, the movie boils down to two main points:
1. Some may find themselves as Lost Souls, with no apparent purpose or direction. But the people who do know their calling can easily find themself swallowed by The Zone and never-ending grind, eventually ending up lost all the same.
2. The meaning of life is not to be accomplished, but to live in the present.
We are constantly told that we need to know where we are heading in life; that we have to be on a path towards becoming something. But your purpose in life is not valued by your salary, awards, and acclaim. It is the small moments. The engraved memories; conversations you have with friends, food you share with family.
It can be so easy to miss out on this in the pursuit of external recognition. But you don't need to accomplish anything—to be validated by anyone—to live a true, meaningful life.
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Evita is a Glasgow based writer and podcaster creating food for thought conversations on all things culture, trends, film and TV.
For more content, follow her on Instagram @MalinEvita, and listen to her podcast with filmmaker Shania Bethune, Making It: Women in Film, available on all major podcast platforms. Season two airs February 5th.