There’s a new YouTube video. You can watch it below or read the my notes under the video!
First, a big thank you for everyone who has taken part of the submission reject conversation. It has been so amazing to read all your thoughts on the subject and all the messages of encouragement you have sent me. However, it has surprised me a bit that most of the messages have been private messages to me rather than comments under my Instagram photos or the YouTube videos. It feels to me that there are many of us who feel the same but still rather stay out of the public eye, despite me trying to open the conversation.
But I’m glad I shared my thoughts in the last episode of my knitting podcast. Already it has opened my eyes to so many new points of view. If we just keep things to ourselves there comes a time when we are stuck in our thought patterns and start going in circles rather than moving forward. Talking often broadens our view on the subject and makes us consider it from other sides and perspectives.
I decided to make a little summary about the conversation and write down how my thoughts have changed since last Friday.
- It’s OK to feel disappointed and sad if something you have worked hard on was not selected. It’s also OK to take it personally because, let’s face it, it IS personal, it happens to you personally. However, it’s not personal in that sense that it happens only to you or that it happens to you because of you. We shouldn’t let it affect us on a personal level so that we let it value our self-worth or our abilities as designers.
- No great designer ever got where they are without facing rejection. The road to the top is rocky and windy. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime so clearly this cannot be taken as the measure of one’s artistic worth! I often forget to look behind me and see all the roads I have already traveled and only keep focusing on everything I haven’t yet accomplished. I must keep reminding myself that I only sent out my first submission a year and a half ago, and it has only been 9 months since my first ever magazine published pattern came out. I’m pretty sure that none of my favorite knitwear designers came hits overnight but there is a lot of invisible work behind their success. Also it was so humbling to realize that even when I consider myself a beginner and a newbie, there are already people who look up to me. One of the messages that touched me the most was Audrey’s (@yarnflakes on IG) confession on her instastories: “ Just watched Sari Nordlund’s new video about submission rejects in designing and it’s the uplifting honest testimony I needed. As a beginner designer who’s pretty much mostly facing rejection, it’s obviously a relief to hear a designer whose work I love talk about this.”
- We should take the submissions as learning experiences and creative outlets. Many of you made the comment about regarding submissions as designing experiments, trying out new weird and silly ideas, and as creative exercises. I really love this point of view, as I’m always full of ideas and inspiration. Maybe the submission rejection stings badly when I really believe in the design and should be considered as a sign that it’s worth developing rather than as failing and something I should stop working on?
- Verena (@thewoolclub) from Making Stories pointed out finding your own style and only submitting ideas that were worth developing even if they didn’t make the cut at submission calls. That way the work you did on the submission is not wasted but can be regarded as the first steps of the designing process.
- There were also many more similar comments, for example Kerri’s (@kerriknits on IG) comment about not sitting around and waiting for a yes, but constantly working on something and keep creating new beautiful things. That is definitely something I should work on. Often I feel like I’m holding my breath from the moment I send my submission until the moment I get an answer, so it’s very exhausting as you can imagine. I should learn to relax more and start working on the pattern (or something else) instead of just waiting around, that way I’d already have some basics done if I get a yes or the beginnings of a new self-published pattern if it’s a no. (However there are certain limitations to this as some publications choose the yarns they want you to use and some let you choose them yourself, so exact stitch counts are off limits before you know what yarn you are using and the gauge it gives you…)
- Finding and learning to trust our own style. My recent motto has been “if I like there must be others too”. There are so many styles of knitwear designers and even more of knitters’ personal styles, from the classic and simplistic designs of Petiteknit to the avant-garde style of Stephen West. So I should really focus more on trying to design things I want to wear and my own style, instead of trying to please others. This discussion has also made me realize how knitwear design is much like fashion design. It’s about learning to trust our own instincts and listening to your heart. Creating things that make us happy. Fashion changes and new things come along all the time. I believe that if we are happy and proud of our work it shows and others will notice it too.
- We should not let rejection letters bring us down, as it usually doesn’t tell anything about your designs worth and it’s most likely that it just didn’t fit that particular issue. We should be taking more pride in the fact that we have tried despite the outcome. The alternative is not trying at all, and there’s nothing to be gained by letting opportunities pass us by.
- However there was a universal agreement about finding it hard to know what to work on when there is the lack of feedback on your design submissions. I’m wondering how publications would feel if I sent them a question asking why my design wasn’t selected? I have done this about work positions I have applied and always got a nice answer and something I can take into consideration or work on in the future. The submissions aren’t that different from job applications so maybe that could be an alternative to just sitting around wondering about things on my own? Also, submission short-lists were a supported idea, especially among the beginner designers, so magazines, take note!
- A couple of editors for knitting publications contacted me as well and I really enjoyed the conversation to that direction as well. It was nice to get a little insight behind the scenes and the selection process that goes on after the submission deadlines. I must say I’m in no way jealous of their job trying to narrow the submissions down to a coherent collection and as I wrote to Hanna-Lisa of Making Stories, the job of having to say no to budding designers must be at least as hard as being on the receiving end of that no!
- In the end, you own your design and are free to do whatever you want with it. The thought of not being allowed to resubmit ideas is being brought forward by my own self-doubt and the feeling that a once rejected idea is not worth further development. However I think we have already established that it is a flawed thought pattern, so the conclusion must be flawed too. People told me about resubmitting ideas to other publications until they found a “home” for them. I find that really comforting. Which brings me back to the earlier points of believing your work and only submitting ideas that you would want to work on despite the answer from the submission call.
- Also, lastly, the discussion about rejection and dealing with it doesn’t end in the knitwear design world only, but we face rejection in many other aspects of our lives as well: auditions, applying for schools and jobs, publishing world, and so on. So the bigger question is how to learn to love yourself and trust yourself enough to realize that the rejection is not personal, but keep moving towards your dreams nevertheless?