The Artist’s Guide to Disappointment


It dawned on me the other day that not everybody’s great with dealing with disappointment. Being a writer in LA, it’s a thing that I’ve become really good at. Like, that should be a line on my resume: “Deals with disappointment well”. It’s part of the game. You’ll hear a hundred “no”s for every “yes”, and that’s life. You deal with it, because you know what you want and you know what it takes to get it.

It’s not like that for everybody. Maybe it’s because creative talent is subjective. Just because one person doesn’t like your work, it doesn’t mean the next person won’t love it. Other professions don’t operate that way. Lawyers, doctors and architects are judged based on what they know and how much information they can retain. It’s great that the system is set up that way (otherwise we’d be living in really shitty houses, in an anarchical world dying of some ridiculously treatable disease), but it has to be hard to be told no and feel like that’s it. There’s no room for objectivity. There’s no room for error. If there’s error in creativity, it’s malleable and it can be re-crafted into something great. I can’t imagine how it must feel for things to be so black and white.

I mentioned this to my actor friend the other day and she made a good point. Living in LA is like the bar exam, or completing a residency program, for artists. We writers and actors and musicians have to prove how much we want it, and the test is surviving in this city with your self-esteem intact. We’re jaded, and it runs through our veins like blood; so you have to grown a thick skin to keep it from seeping out. We’re also passionate and resilient and optimistic to the point of delusion. You either get to the place where hearing “no” drives you and makes you want it more, or it’ll deflate you and you’ll give up. Disappointment can be extremely empowering. I think everyone can benefit from adopting the mental space of an artist. You do your best. You put your best work out there. And then you just let it go.

One thought on “The Artist’s Guide to Disappointment

  1. This post comes at the most epic of times for me! I am about to take a leap of faith that I never would have imagined! Failure is a possibility!!! It scares the shit out of me, but what would life be if we didn’t take these risks?….I mean really, what could go wrong?

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