I recently encountered three separate cases of young composers dealing with rejection/criticism quite badly (in my humble opinion) and thought I’d share some thoughts on the issue of dealing with disappointment.

In one case the person felt she was treated unfairly by an institution and vented her frustration here on Facebook, a public forum. Sharing your experience and disappointment is one thing, but in this case she was very critical of the institution and despite more experienced folks arguing that perhaps she didn’t do as well as she thought or perhaps she’s not a good fit and suggested she remove the post because it looks bad, she continued to double down and argue how she felt wrong and criticizing the institution.

In two other cases I was asked for feedback on music (I dread doing this, but always try to give gentle yet constructive criticism when asked). In one case, the person began explaining how she’s just starting out, and still learning and instead of accepting my input, tried to refute it. In another case the person became upset and told me I don’t get it and have no taste in music.

In all three cases, their responses were, in my view, quite immature and counter productive.

In the first case – know the difference between sharing a bad experience and complaining, and consider what you say in a public forum. Going on a critical tirade against a respected institution because you were rejected, or didn’t get the scholarship you thought you deserved is NEVER a good idea. It makes you look petty & bitter. It’s likely that you simply didn’t do as well as you thought, which is why you didn’t get the desired result. Learn from the experience and do better next time, whether you try again with the same institution or in a different yet similar situation. At the end of the day, even if you’re 100% right in your feeling that you were wronged and should have gotten a better result, it doesn’t matter. Bitching about it reflects poorly on YOU, not them. Again, there’s a difference between sharing a bad experience and complaining about it.

When requesting feedback, the only acceptable response is “thank you” possibly followed up by “that’s a really good point, I’ll work on that.” Even if you disagree, it doesn’t matter. You asked someone who is far more accomplished and experienced than you for feedback and they were kind enough to take the time to give you thoughtful constructive criticism, take it and be grateful. If you disagree that’s OK, you can ignore it. If you think the criticism is valid, learn from it. But making excuses, or worse, attacking the person who gave you feedback you didn’t like reflects poorly on YOU.

In this industry we deal with rejection on a near daily basis. Even when things are going great and it’s a total love fest between you and the filmmakers, the focus is always on what ISN’T working. If you need to bitch, vent or complain do so to your closest friends or your partner, not in a public forum. And then let it go, you just have to learn to go with it, learn from it, be gracious about it and move on. Otherwise you won’t make it in this industry.