Getting rejected is part of being a musician (and a human being). You can be excellent at what you do, diligently working hard each day and still not achieve what you want. When so much of what you want is out of your control, this part of the journey has to exist.
The music industry is both so big and so small. It seems there are endless opportunities for songwriters, but if you look closely, the specific opportunities that will push a career forward are rare and tricky to get. Hearing ‘no’ can be a daily occurrence.
And it definitely stings.
It’s easy to become bitter and resentful. I think there is a part of me that becomes dejected with how difficult this career is. They come in many forms, too; if you start young, there are going to be family members, teachers, “friends”, etc. who tell you that you don’t have what it takes. It goes on when you’re trying so many things and many of them don’t work out. So many of them are not even outright rejections, but silence.
Time and time again, I have tried to let go of music, but it hasn’t let go of me. Rejections can create negative associations with songwriting; why would we write if it’s not a positive experience? It’s enough to put anyone off music, but somehow, I actually love songwriting more than ever. This is how I keep writing.
Take a deep breath
When you hear bad news, it’s okay to feel hurt. It wouldn’t hurt if it didn’t matter. Respond to this in the best way for you, whether that is writing a song, going for a walk or having some ice cream. Do your best to not beat yourself up—in fact, try to do the opposite, and tell yourself it’s okay to be rejected.
Remember why you write songs
Willpower only goes so far, but why-power keeps me grounded. For a long time, I didn’t have this figured out. Once I understood why I write music and what it means to me in my life, I come back to that when I hear some bad news. My reasons for songwriting are things that cannot be controlled by external forces.
Separate your ego from your work
Songwriting can be extremely intimate. Your work can start to feel like an extension of yourself and what represents you. While you can’t control how others perceive you, you can control how you perceive yourself. Your worth is not measured in every song you write or every award you win. Who you are is not defined by your work.
Remember your wins
We have more wins than we realize. Finished a song? Wrote every day for a month? Co-wrote for the first time? Released a song? Joined a music community? Started sharing your music online? If you love writing and sharing your writing, these are achievements, too. Remember how far you’ve come.
I am the type of person that is inspired when I learn something new about songwriting. The great thing about art is that there is always something new to learn and something new to try in my songs. It keeps me inspired to create good music, even if it doesn’t have mass appeal or isn’t award-winning.
Do other things outside of songwriting
Even as the content machine keeps going, you don’t actually have to keep up with it. If you want to watch some TV, interact with your loved ones and do other things you love, do not feel guilty. Taking breaks is healthy and an important part of keeping yourself from burning out.
Chances are, you’ll come back feeling ready to write your next song.