Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight

The title for this week’s post comes from a Japanese proverb.

I’m trying to keep this phrase at the forefront of my mind as the rejection letters start to roll in from the dozen proposals sent out earlier this year.

Some days a rejection letter is as inconsequential to me as a piece of junk mail.  I can read it, shrug without attachment, and file it in a manila folder.  Other days it is a fist exploding into my chest, grabbing my heart like a sponge and squeezing it dry.  As in other aspects of life, perspective is everything.

Most times I could care less about people’s opinion of my work.  I make what I make because, well, it’s what I want to create, dammit.  I wear Suzanne Partridge’s quote like a badge (armour, perhaps?) on my chest:

As long as I keep getting rejected, I know I must be doing something right.

It is the hegemonic obligation to strive for financial success or societal acceptance that wears me down and makes me feel insignificant when I don’t get That Show…That Grant…That Sale.

Sometimes my heART-sponge gets squeezed so dry I feel unmotivated to continue.  I start wondering what it would be like to give up.  Throw in the towel.  Quit.

But one thing I have been blessed (cursed?) with is TENACITY.  For better or worse, I cannot let go of things.  While this trait is ofttimes unhealthy, TENACITY is also my superpower.

TENACITY is the reason I keep submitting proposals to galleries.

TENACITY is the reason I keep making art.

TENACITY is the reason I don’t give up.

All (The Winner Takes It)

All (The Winner Takes It), 2006.


Lately I’ve been trying a more proactive approach in how I react to rejection.  I remind myself of other creators who have worked under a cloud of continual rejection and have eventually been rewarded for their perseverance (though sometimes posthumously).

  • Edouard Manet (vilified by critics in his time)
  • Vincent van Gogh (sold only one painting in his time)
  • C.S. Lewis (rejected over 800 times)
  • Robert M. Pirsig (author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – rejected 121 times)
  • Emily Dickinson (fewer than a dozen poems published in her lifetime)

These are, of course, only a precious few.  Here is a list of 50 fine, tenacious folk who make for some pretty inspiring reading.

Today I’d like to toast the countless number of unrecognized creators out there who fall down seven, eight, a hundred and twenty-one or more times and are still getting up, regardless of where they are on their scale of success.  Thank you for getting up again and again.  You motivate me.

Who motivates you?  Do you know of a creator who gets up more than they fall down?  Please share in the comments!

2 Responses to “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I totally needed to hear this right now 🙂