Last week I mentioned that I wanted to try to become more “transparent” and let people see more of the “real” me. I am generally a pretty private person, and it is with great difficulty that I reveal my true and honest feelings. But in this case, I really want to give hope to others who might be struggling.
Today I wanted to write about bumps in the road of life. We all know that everyone encounters them. But I am afraid that sometimes, especially when our blogs are used not just to stay connected, but also in part as a marketing tool for business, we are less than honest.
We try to put out best face forward, we don’t talk about the rejections. We all post when we have a new design published, or are featured here or there, or have a new line out…. But how many times do you read something about a designer getting her submission sent back?? It happens to everyone- we just don’t (publicly) talk about it- I guess we don’t want to look less than successful. I have found that for every success I have had, there have been multiple rejections and failures. I still get rejected- quite a bit. A magazine doesn’t pick up a design, an editor refuses to answer my emails, someone who seemed to be my new best friend at one Quilt Market walks right by me without a second glance at the next Market. It is easy for me to let these things bring me down, make me feel less than, and feel like I will never achieve my goals. But generally, in business as in life, success is built with small steps, not leaps and bounds. Sure, there are occasionally those huge, heady moments- you sign a contract with a company you have been wanting to work with for a long time, you finally get a project in a magazine, your first book proposal gets accepted by a publisher. But 99.9% of the time those achievements are preceded by lots of hard work and failed attempts.
I have hit many bumps. At a Quilt Market a couple of years ago, I was approached by the vice president of a fabric company. We discussed the possibility of my designing for the company- and I was so excited! I sent her artwork as she requested, and then she strung me along for a good 6 months. My emails went unanswered, so I assumed she was no longer interested. To make a long story short, at the next Market, when I said I wasn’t sure if her company would be a good fit for me, she walked away and over her shoulder, as a parting blow, she said to me, “That’s OK- It doesn’t matter.” I was stunned. My heart was in my throat, and I wanted to crawl under the table. After treating me very shabbily, what she was saying was that I didn’t matter, she didn’t need me. Clearly, a low point. I went back to my hotel room that night and cried and cried. I told a fabric designer friend what had happened and she was furious that I had been treated that way. I was pretty sure that that would be my last Market. It was just too darned painful.
The next day, a design director from Henry Glass Fabrics came to my booth and asked me if I was interested in designing fabric. I said yes (although, I was quite tentative, as you can imagine). To sum it up- things worked out- I have had a great working relationship with them, and I am very happy to be finally doing something that I have dreamed of doing for about 10 years.
Now, I was approached by Henry Glass at my second ever Quilt Market, and many people would say that was really fast. But, I had been working on other areas of art and design and licensing for about 10 years- so I really wouldn’t call myself and overnight success.
And while I am being completely honest- I am tired of the “overnight” success stories! They are either less than true because the person laid groundwork for a long, long time, or their story is extremely unusual and they were just really, really lucky. I just don’t want budding designers and artists to think that because they get rejected they aren’t good enough. Sometimes skills need to be further honed, but often times, the timing is just not right, and sometimes it’s just really, really, really hard to get your foot in the door- trust me, I know! One story that really made me want to throw my magazine across the room was one in which the person being interviewed said she just decided one day to be an artist and the “universe obliged” and one year later she was featured in magazines and teaching workshops. Stories like this made me feel horrible about myself, because I assumed that because it was taking me so long to succeed, and others seemed to be doing it with so little time and effort, that there was something wrong with me. Now I see that maybe those success stories have left out a lot of details. I am NOT belittling anyone else’s success- I’m just saying that most have worked really hard and faced their share of rejection and failure before they succeeded.
Please, let me repeat, I want to be honest because I don’t want aspiring artists and designers out there to be frustrated. It takes a long time to establish relationships, to develop a style, to learn how to be a professional. I hope I don’t sound bitter- I’m so grateful for what I get to do and for any achievements I have made.
I don’t know if I will ever feel like I have “arrived”. There will always be someone more famous, more successful, and more talented than me. But what I do know is that I have tried NOT being in the creative field- and I was miserable. It has taken me years of stops and starts to be absolutely sure to my core that this is what I was meant to do. And if the day ever comes when this is not what I am supposed to be doing anymore, God will let me know.
My advice to those of you out there who are discouraged and wondering if you will ever “make it” or if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing: sorry it’s so cliché, but- listen to your heart. Do you feel in your bones that this is what you were meant to do? Can you not imagine doing anything else? You may not get an answer immediately- it took me many years to realize that I could not escape it. But keep taking steps, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and keep learning. You never know where your dreams, patience and perseverance will take you.
And how is this for irony: when I was almost finished writing this post today, I was rejected. I got an email from an editor who said she was sending my submission back because they weren’t using it. Ouch! But perfect timing as I wrote this! There was a time when that would have brought me down for days or weeks- but now it just hurts for a little while, then I get over it and move on.
I have been really honest here. I hope no one gets offended. I am just trying to be real, and I hope it doesn’t backfire on me! I am kind of terrified as I go to hit the “publish” button……