How to Love Rejection

by Guest blogger Maria Scrivan

Turn rejection upside down by finding the positive benefits of learning the hard way.




The word “rejection” always seems to have a negative connotation. Just because something is passed over does not make it “bad” or “inadequate.” It simply may not be the right fit at the right time.

Give rejection another name. Think of it as “misplaced work” or “work waiting for a home” and keep submitting.

Why you should love rejection:

Rejection is Feedback

What information can you gather from the rejection? Is the company/gallery/customer the right fit for your work? Can you refine your work? Your presentation? Is there somewhere else that is a better fit? Is there a better person to speak to about your work? Use the feedback to your advantage.

Don’t take it Personally

As artists, our work is an extension of ourselves so it can be difficult to not take rejection as a personal attack. Rejection is not about you and it’s not about your work. It is about whether your work fits a specific editor’s (gallery owner’s/customer’s, etc.) need at that time.

There is a myriad of reasons why a piece is passed over. It could be the wrong style for a collection, a similar piece might have already been used, they may have already exceeded their budget, or the contact person might be too busy on other projects to get back in touch with you.


“Many of life’s failures are people who didn’t realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  -Thomas Edison


“No” Can Mean “Not Now.”

There are stories of New Yorker cartoonists that took 25 years of submitting before they were published. A friend had submitted the same samples to the same greeting card company for ten years before they were accepted. I’ve been rejected by one editor only to have a different editor in the same company immediately license an entire collection of my work. If you feel strongly that you are a good fit, keep submitting.

Try Again

If you send out your work and someone rejects it, you are exactly where you started. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says “No.”

You’re not going to fall off the planet or self-combust (although it may feel like that sometimes.) Rejection is not failure; it is an opportunity to try again.

Go With the Flow

Rejection could very well be putting you on a better path. I’ve been rejected by one publication who would have expected full ownership and a single printing of an image only to have that same image licensed by a greeting card company with national distribution. Rejection may pave the way to even greater opportunities.

You Gotta’ Be in It to Win it

Rejection means you’re in the game. If you’re getting rejected that means you are doing your work and getting it out the door. You are giving someone the opportunity to see it and make decisions about it. It means you are dedicated, and your work is out there in the world.

Rejection leads to persistence and persistence is what it is all about. Next!


Maria ScrivanMaria Scrivan is a cartoonist, illustrator and author.Her comic panel “Half Full” is syndicated online by Universal Uclick and appears daily on GoComics and in newspapers. “Half Full” is also translated into Spanish on GoComics and is licensed to newspapers and magazines in Sweden. Her cartoons are published in MAD Magazine, Parade Magazine, Prospect Magazine, Funny Times,, and many other publications.

Maria licenses her work to Recycled Paper Greetings, NobleWorks Cards, RSVP Greetings, American Greetings, Oatmeal Studios, Macmillan, CheckAdvantage, and Neat-O Shop.  Maria is a member of the National Cartoonists Society.


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  1. wow…we should all print this out and post it on our mirrors!!! Rejection of my work (not me) does make me more persistent for sure!!!! I don’t think it is realistic to think we will get into every show, book or whatever…if we allow it, rejection can makes us expand and grow as artists!

  2. Excellent post. Agree with Kathryn, I’m going to print this out and post it next to my bathroom mirror!

  3. Thanks Will!

  4. Dear Maria,
    After I wrote the Rejection Poem (below)
    I incorporated it into a “rejection sculpture.”
    It was a very therapeutic measure.
    Your message inspired us all.
    Bobbi Mastrangelo

    by Bobbi Mastrangelo

    Two entries allowed
    Selected my best
    Filled out the competition forms.
    Lined up with my art works.
    Caught admiring, jealous glances
    From my fellow colleagues:
    “Your art work is so unusual, so exciting!”
    A glimmer of hope pervaded.

    Paid the nonrefundable fees.
    Left my work behind with 528 other entries
    All carefully stacked in room after room.
    Went home and waited.

    Five days later I ran to meet the mailman. Ripped open the envelope.


    I wanted to scream, Cry!
    Pound those rejection slips with
    1,000 nails into wailing, bleeding wood!

    Oh the anger and frustration!
    The wounds were real.

    These latest works: an extension of my heart and soul,
    Myself packaged in two dimensions,

    REJECTED !!!!!!!

  5. Along with joining everyone else here who is going to print this article out and savor it, I want to add that this includes your own rejection of your own works. Example: I’m a photographer and just returned from a three-day trip to Rhode Island with hardly a decent usable image. I was ready to throw in the towel and decide I had lost my touch, until I thought about why so few good images. The main thing was that I had time-consuming meetings on both the full days of the trip, which left me no time to do other than whip down to the usual cliche spots — not in the best lighting either — instead of exploring another area I’ve been curious about. Another example: I’ve been meaning to photograph a little Hudson Valley town about an hour from where I live, and one Saturday morning the weather website said it was foggy there and would remain so for the next couple of hours. Wonderful! So I hopped in the car with my camera gear, sped up the Thruway — only to find bright sunshine in the little town! When I revisited, horrified, those photos the other day, I remembered what had happened. This isn’t a matter of making excuses; it’s a matter of a photographer reminding themselves that there are circumstances beyond their control, and learning from the experience. Sometimes one realizes that one isn’t going to get the best shots given the circumstances, but you shoot anyway for the “exercise” to keep your photographic mind limbered up.

    • Thanks Nancy for this wonderful observation. There are always things we reject during the creation process, as you mentioned, and I think it is all part of finding ourselves, our style, and our best work. This discernment helps to clearly understand and share our vision.

  6. Thanks you for posting, it’s such a personal thing for me , it’s helped me look at the whole rejection thing very differently .

  7. It reminds me of a book I read. Go for the NO’s If you get out there eventually you will get a yes. Plus I really believe that there is the right time and place for me. I just haven’t gotten there. But if I don’t move I will never get there. Thank you. Its the new year and time to start fresh. Get a good portfolio together , update my bio, and resume. Not fun but necessary.


  1. […] up when you concentrate on all the sales you missed, or the opportunities that didn’t work out. Facing rejection is especially hard, but it’s an unavoidable part of the life of being an artist (or anyone in […]

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