Rejection is an addict's great fear. It removes all semblance of structure – it dismantles the emotional scaffolding that safeguards a person's soul – banishing that man or woman to the temptations of drugs and alcohol; abandoning that individual to a long night of drunkenness, and an even longer descent into near-constant intoxication; poisoning that citizen with pills and powders, until the gravest worry ends at a gathering before an earthen grave for the latest victim of an overdose.
For those in recovery, myself included, rejection is a fact of life. How we deal with that pain, particularly for those who are artists (again, myself included), is critical to maintaining sobriety and good health.
That pain is real, and it is frequent, because I work in an industry where rejection either drives you to numb this feeling of inadequacy with drugs and alcohol, or the cumulative effect of rejection numbs your body to this phenomenon altogether.
Since I am familiar with both options, and since I am lucky to even be alive never mind auditioning for films, or writing and rehearsing music, I am not so much numb to rejection – sometimes rejection is a good thing, a necessary thing – I know how to stay strong against what I call this downpour of precipitative pessimism.
I understand that validation comes from within.
Taste is subjective, but art comes from a lifetime of toil, tears and sweat; it comes from playing a character or performing a song, from setting – and exceeding – your own expectations; it comes from pursuing, but never attaining, perfection; it comes from midnight recording sessions, high above the streets of Hollywood – and the artificial aurora of neon signs and the flash of police lights – where you lyricize everything from love to loss, only to leave the studio as yet another stranger in the wee small hours of the morning.
What that artist lacks is stability.
That situation is a prison without walls, in which the appearance of freedom – the liberty to write or compose, or sculpt or sing – belies the reality of stress and anxiety. It does not express the pressure to find work, where, unlike actual confinement, the receipt of mail is more a source of strain than solace; where bills pile unto themselves; where debts sport a bold shade of red; where these scarlet numbers are a statement of guilt; where banks tighten credit, as they brand borrowers with symbols of shame.
This environment would test the will of the most sober individual, while it is a test of another's sobriety.
My suggestion is to keep working by taking whatever work is available, as you continue to hone your craft.
And, though it is essential that you not succumb to drugs and alcohol, it is just as important that you not surrender your devotion to making art.
The latter restores your heart, and relaxes your mind. It is poetry by way of the strings of a guitar or the thistles of a brush: It is the medium as much as the message, where you derive satisfaction from what you produce; from metaphysical rewards rather than fiscal profits; from private approval rather than public applause; from personal contentment rather than professional advancement; from inner peace rather than outward displays of power.
I encourage you to think of rejection as God's protection, a spiritual – or metaphorical – defense from the hardness of life.
I ask you to consider the counsel of a former President of the United States, because we think that when things do not go the right way; we think that when we lose a job, we think that when we suffer a defeat that happiness is gone forever. Not true.
It is only a beginning, always. We must remember it, in times of mirth or periods of mourning, because there is no greatness without difficulty; there is no success without struggle; there is no perspective without perseverance. There is nothing without sacrifice.
There is no redemption without rejection.
You must earn the right to savor the glory of the moment, which means you must not weaken or tire – you must not fail or falter – in your effort to survive. You must endure because you can endure; as you shall endure.
You have the protection to prosper.