Why I Keep Rejection Letters

I must admit that I’m on a bit of a high as I write this. I have just received an acceptance letter for a juried art show I entered. This is a win, a success, an accomplishment, not my first and hopefully not my last. However, in my journey of intentionally pursuing art the past few years, I’ve received as many rejection letters as acceptance letters, and I’ve kept them all.

You see, when I first started out I received several rejection letters in a row. It was discouraging. The first temptation was to believe I wasn’t good enough, that my work would never go beyond my small scope of friends and family. It is very easy to project a response to my work as a response to me personally. Part of me wanted to give up. I felt like a failure. Then the light bulb went off. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn and grow. This was the motto I established months before I mustered the courage to step out of my comfort zone and find a way to pursue in faith the things I love.

Pride quickly crept in and brought with it the temptation to trash the rejection letters, to toss them like they didn’t matter. Something told me not to act on that temptation. It didn’t take long for me to see the beauty in the rejection. It makes the acceptance all the more exciting and rewarding. Yet it goes much deeper than that. Art is subjective. Some will like a piece when others don’t. This doesn’t just apply to paintings, sculptures and such, but it also applies to us. Some will like us and others won’t. However, it is not a reflection of our value or beauty.

The truth is that some of my favorite paintings I’ve done are not technically the best and may not be well received by others, but to me they possess an inexplicable quality that continuously draws me in. The common belief is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe it is more accurate to say that beauty is in the eye of the creator. No matter how we are perceived by the beholder, we are beautiful to the Creator. The beholder cannot diminish or increase the value of the created. Only the creator can determine its value.

Why do I really keep rejection letters? They are no different from the acceptance letters. Neither acceptance nor rejection determines the value of my work. More importantly, it does not determine the value of me.