A thousand times no

I went to a concert at a summer jazz institute for young musicians, and in his introduction, the director said a very interesting thing about what all they try to teach these students. In addition to refining their musical skills, broadening their listening horizons, he said they also talk about “disappointment, and how to handle it.” It occurs to me that more educational programs of all kinds, including, perhaps especially, creative ones, ought to talk about that very thing. Disappointment can be a regular partner in the creative act — whether it’s disappointment as one is trying to put together some new work that just is not coming out as hoped (what I’m experiencing right now), or disappointment with how a performance turned out because unpredictable things marred the situation, or, of course, the disappointment of the many kinds of rejections when putting the work out in the world (like the time that not one person showed up for a poetry reading we were offering at a small library in the country). How DO you deal with disappointment? And why don’t we talk about those strategies more?

Sometimes you have to fall down on the ground and roll around howling for a while. You just do. Sometimes swearing is useful. Sometimes you have to just quit it all for a bit and walk away (perhaps dramatically claiming that you shall never return!). Sometimes you do more research, listen or read or experience more work by other people to gain some knowledge and inspiration. Sometimes you have to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Sometimes, as in the library reading debacle, you just offer your poems to the librarian and the quiet, dusty books and then take yourself out for a nice dinner.

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