Being rejected is a part of the process. This year I threw my name in more hats and bigger hats than years past. Naturally, more rejection emails than usual came this spring. Before saying anything further, and while maintaining the anonymity of these various institutions, I will quote from a number of them:
Are these lies—what else are they—supposed to make me feel better? That I find absurd, especially since the insincerity bleeds through so obviously when the examples are gathered. Somehow, I can’t imagine this overuse of the word “unprecedented” for the same sort of letter a few decades back. Are our characters so weak in this day and age and our near fetish for feeling hurt and offended so prevalent and extreme that we need phrases like these? Are we so hostile to those with the authority to include some and exclude others that we in some sense require their enterprise to be tinged with randomness and impossibility, no matter the actual legitimacy of these institutions and their processes?
I don’t believe in competitions in the arts in the sense of their really meaning anything. But too many times is it in the voice of the institution itself that is judging its applicants that the inevitably not completely meritocratic nature of a competition in the arts is revealed. In what way is that not outright disrespectful, to exclude someone and in the same breath imply that their exclusion was at least in part based on arbitrary choices… so they shouldn’t take it personally? Of course I shouldn’t take it personally, and I don’t, but that is not why!
By saying that there were an unprecedented number of applicants, particularly when there were not a truly “unprecedented” (as opposed to “large”) number of applicants, I am in a way being told that my piece, portfolio, or application might have been as good as the ones that were chosen, but oh, it was still not chosen. Nothing can truly be better than anything else. We have gone mad in our relativisms and equations of all things. Almost as mad as the MPAA warning I saw a while back that said, “Selma is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Violence, bigotry, brief cigarette smoking.”
(Apr 6, 2015)