Fear of Rejection

By guest blogger Patrick Ross

This sign should have another one just past it saying 'Warning: Speed Trap Ahead.'

Six weeks. Thirty-five states. Forty-three interviews. Six thousand, eight hundred miles. Four time zones. One speeding ticket.

Those are some key statistics from my summer 2010 road trip across the United States. I headed out in a rented hybrid to capture on video creative individuals. My interview subjects included writers, musicians, painters, actors, photographers, songwriters, illustrators, even a jewelry maker. It was a project for the nonprofit artists’ rights group I ran, but it was also a personal quest, to see America and its creativity.

What fears did this trip entail?

Fear of incompetence. I had only produced my first short film a couple of months before the trip.

Fear of snafus. I was on an absurdly tight schedule, so any hiccup in a creative’s schedule and I might find myself in a state with no one to interview.

Fear of running out of time. I was editing and posting videos while traveling.

Fear of indigestion. That one came true more than once, given all the fast food I consumed.

But my biggest fear was fear of rejection.

As a writer I’m used to that fearโ€”I experience it every time I send a query or submit a manuscriptโ€”but my fear here was that of a rejection from the creatives themselves. As a journalist I had never feared an interview subject blowing me off. I wasn’t asking them personal questions, so a rejection wasn’t personal. But I was asking these creatives to share their souls with me.

A more fun aspect of Idaho's I-84 was learning that tumbleweeds were no match for my rental car.

And every single one was a stranger. I found a few through referrals from artists, but many I uncovered through Internet searches. Most had never heard of me, and none had ever met me.

For some strange reason, these creatives kept agreeing to meet with me, often inviting me into their homes. But still I was anxious. There was very little time for dialogue before my arrival, usually just a handful of emails to confirm logistics.

It was like I was experiencing the journalistic version of Match.com.

I experienced a lot of personal growth on this road trip. I learned that I am an artist with a passion for creative expression, a self-identity that I had suppressed for years as I told others’ stories rather than my own.

I also learned that creatives are among the most warm, welcoming and open people you could ever meet. Like the realization above, I think I already understood this on some level. It was why all of my friends from middle school on were artists of some sort. It’s why I covered artistic issues as a reporter and gravitated into artist advocacy.

But encounter after encounter told me my fear of rejection was misplaced. As Milli teaches with writing, once you start doing it, every day, the fear is pushed aside. It no longer has fertile ground in which to thrive. The same occurred on the road trip with my fear of rejection. After all, the seventh time one of these strangers greeted me with a hug and bade goodbye with the gift of muffins, it became a bit difficult to hold on to that fear.

I also can now boast forty-three new friends.


Patrick Ross is a writer in Washington, D.C., who blogs on creativity and writing at The Artist’s Road. He is a former reporter, editor, artist advocate, think-tank senior fellow, veterinary assistant, short-order cook, and telemarketer (if he ever called you pitching a carpet-cleaning service, he apologizes). You can follow him on Twitter (@on_creativity) or visit his professional web site. He has one final tip from his road trip: Don’t expect to find a decent chimichanga in Rockford, Illinois.

30 Responses to Fear of Rejection
  1. Patrick Ross
    Twitter: patrickrwrites
    March 4, 2011 | 7:36 AM

    Milli and Judy, it’s such an honor to have a post featured here on your blog! As you know I’m a big fan of the site; actually, Judy, one of your posts is linked to today in my Creativity Tweets of the Week! http://bit.ly/dVGKIn

    I hope this post is of value to some of your readers, if only to warn them about speed traps and bad Tex-Mex.

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 4, 2011 | 1:03 PM

      LOL! Having done many road trips through New Mexico and Texas, I can attest to needing warnings about bad Tex-Mex.

      We’re very pleased to have you as our guest today, and thank you for the great content and visuals. Thanks also for featuring FoW in your Creativity Tweets of the Week. Much appreciated.

      ~ Milli

    • j
      March 4, 2011 | 4:36 PM

      I just saw that! The honor is entirely mutual. Thank you!

  2. Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear)
    March 4, 2011 | 9:32 AM

    I love this post. What an adventure you had, Patrick! Isn’t it lovely in the time we live in to find that people are generally good, kind and giving?

    So glad your fear of rejection melted away (for now at least) and that you grew your list of friends.


    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 4, 2011 | 10:00 AM

      Hugs right back, Kellie! To quote your new web site, Booyah!

      • Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear)
        March 4, 2011 | 11:28 AM

        Aw! Thanks, Patrick. I love hugs!

        So kind of you to swing by my site. And, you even used one of my favorite phrases. You’re a gem!

        BTW – I’ve already tweeted and Facebooked (is that a verb?) links to this article. I really do love this story and can’t wait to hear more juicy details.

  3. Bell
    Twitter: StartYourNovel
    March 4, 2011 | 12:48 PM

    It was great to read about your experience, Patrick.
    This sounds like something I would like to do, although the end result would be in blog form. (I’ve never tried video either as an art form or as a documentary.)
    Man, I envy you. In a good way, of course.

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 4, 2011 | 12:53 PM

      It was quite an experience, Bell. As Milli knows, I’d like to turn it into a book, and am exploring that possibility now. If you did do something like that and blogged while doing it, given your own experience as a writer I’d think you’d get tremendous readership!

  4. Elisa Michelle
    March 4, 2011 | 1:15 PM

    Sounds like a very interesting trip. I’ve learned just from going and back and forth from California to Texas that any and all trips involve a ton of fast food and more hard braking to avoid speed traps than anything.

    Fear is a huge thing for me. I have a huge anxiety issue, and I can’t imagine doing this little project of yours. For that, I’m truly impressed and glad you’re so passionate about artists. We’re a strange bunch, but the friendliest I’ve ever met.

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 4, 2011 | 2:26 PM

      Like anything in life, the satisfaction you get once you overcome a fear is incalculable. The speeding ticket was a small price to pay for what I got out of that trip! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. purplekangaroos
    March 4, 2011 | 3:11 PM

    “Six weeks. Thirty-five states. Forty-three interviews. Six thousand, eight hundred miles. Four time zones. One speeding ticket.”

    Inspiring! Electric! It’s great that you did all that in spite of all your fears. Those creatives will get notice because of your astonishing efforts. You really have something to be proud of Patrick.

    It was heartwarming to hear how you were so welcomed by the creatives. I wonder what the first time was like? Is that in the book? ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 4, 2011 | 3:23 PM

      You know, the trip got off to a very interesting start. I arrived early for my first interview (in Haverhill, Massachusetts), so I took a walk in a nearby park and met a fascinating man who had found himself homeless. What was most remarkable about him was that he declined my offer of money, saying he had a plan to get back on his feet and didn’t need my charity. Something about that meeting told me this trip was going to be unlike anything I had ever experienced.

  6. j
    March 4, 2011 | 4:35 PM

    “It was like I was experiencing the journalistic version of Match.com.” That is just what I was thinking as I read. It would be like one blind date after another. What a wonderful thing you did. I must carve out more time to read your blog (and watch your videos).

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 4, 2011 | 5:22 PM

      J, I’m very flattered. I’ve started exploring Zebra Sounds and some of your past writings, and you have an expressiveness that is really breathtaking. I’m only just now returning to creative writing (I’ve spent the afternoon researching literary journals for a piece I just finished in a writing class), and your works are among those serving as inspiration for me. (BTW, kudos for pulling off second-person writing so well!)

  7. Amy BuchheitY
    March 4, 2011 | 11:00 PM

    Only one speeding ticket through the entire adventure? I’m impressed!

    You forgot to mention being sent packing for awhile in Washington state! Not by the creative of course (which is me) but by my former room mate/ex husband. No harm was meant but sometimes with him it is hard to tell. I’m glad you came back! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I was one of the ones who had no clue who you were before you wrote me. You bet I looked you up after first contact – good thing no one was trashing you on the ‘net! ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

    I had some fears during the interview process, too … fear of looking bad, fear of sounding like a blithering idiot, etc. I had never done a recorded interview of longer than 3 minutes, so that was a little nerve wracking. Fear of being edited into saying something completely out of context, like they do on reality shows. You know, where they take a few words out of one conversation and cut them into another conversation to make a whole NEW conversation? Yah. See if that idea doesn’t make you a little nervous at first.

    I have not once regretted having you here. I am grateful to have you as part of my world. Friend number 42 made on the trip, right here! Sorry I didn’t have any muffins … at least I didn’t give you a swift kick out the door. ;-D

    Thank you for having the courage to step outside your comfort zone, to face your fears and do it anyway. I for one am really glad you did!

    • Amy BuchheitY
      March 4, 2011 | 11:27 PM

      Oh, yah, the one fear I found I SHOULD have had was the fear of bad lighting. That overhead lighting from three angles (track lights) combined with natural side lighting … NOT flattering. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Had I only thought about it … I might have done something differently. (funny how I spend plenty of time thinking about how my subject is lit in my work, but none thinking about how I was lit!).

      Now I know why actors blather on about how good lighting is everything! LOL.

      • Patrick Ross
        Twitter: patrickrwrites
        March 5, 2011 | 3:09 AM

        Amy, I was delighted to be welcomed warmly by you into your home. Yes, I was a bit spooked by the gruff greeting by your ex, but I WAS an hour early, a time-zone scheduling mix-up. I interviewed you on my last day of the trip and was bone-tired, but you were so full of energy you did the hard work of the interview for me. And while I think you look fine in the video, I fully confess that this experience gave me great appreciation for the importance of understanding lighting, an understanding I still lacked after forty-some videos!

  8. Aisha
    March 4, 2011 | 11:48 PM

    Beautifully stated- truly. Particularly the last paragraph- thank you for sharing your experience and the reminder that the more we work through it- the closer we get to overcoming our personal fears.

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 5, 2011 | 3:12 AM

      Thank you, Aisha. That’s a perfect summary.

  9. Lois
    March 5, 2011 | 12:01 PM

    Thank you so much for this! Your retelling of your road trip/ mission has made me want to take a road trip of my own (our own, really, as my Hubby would have to tag along…he’s the chauffeur, after all). I’ve been wanting to for years, but money is always an issue. Still, it would allow me the awesome opportunity to exercise my creative pursuits (writing, artwork, photography) in places I’ve never been. Time to start planning! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m really glad you faced your fears to take on this mission. The creative world needs more people like you on our side!

    Lois Eighmy

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 5, 2011 | 5:40 PM

      Thank you, Lois. Best of luck on making your dream happen!

  10. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    March 5, 2011 | 12:30 PM

    When I read, “Fear of incompetence.” I read it as fear of incontinence. I was thinking road trip + lots of coffee + miles of open road + no bathroom in sight = well you can figure the rest out. LOL

    Creative’s also have a wild imagination at times, wouldn’t you say? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure. Thank you for sharing.


    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 5, 2011 | 5:42 PM

      Oh my! Well, I chose not to share the predicament I found myself in when crossing Michigan, having just consumed a Super Big Gulp only to find myself jammed in a miles-long highway backup… ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Michael Lockhart
    March 5, 2011 | 3:09 PM

    I’ve loved following The Artist’s Road. Reading about you doing it, as opposed to just the fruits of the interviews, is a treat. I do hope that it becomes a wonderful book, but this – “I also can now boast forty-three new friends.” – seems like a pretty amazing reward already.

    Thanks so much for this!

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 5, 2011 | 5:44 PM

      Wow, Michael, thanks. As I wrote awhile back, it hasn’t been easy for me to tell my part in the story. The journalist in me keeps wanting to tell the creatives’ stories, which really are quite wonderful. But yes, the trip’s story can’t really be told without me as well, and there are some zany stories to tell! And you are so right about the reward of friendship!

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 6, 2011 | 2:22 PM

      Actually, Michael, tomorrow morning (Monday) I’ll be posting a pretty personal post about how one particular creative on the road trip was inspirational to me.

  12. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    March 5, 2011 | 7:22 PM

    Incredible journey you are taking. I envy it on so many levels.

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 6, 2011 | 2:21 PM

      Thank you, Tricia!

  13. Goldie Massey
    December 13, 2011 | 11:14 PM

    Particularly the last paragraph- thank you for sharing your experience and the reminder that the more we work through it- the closer we get to overcoming our personal fears. Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure.

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