6 Badass Creatives On How to Get Past Being Told “No”

published Jun 22, 2017
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(Image credit: Samara Vise)

“Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,” croons Lee Ann Womack in 2000’s pop-country tune “I Hope You Dance.” But sometimes you can’t wait for a door (or window) to open. Sometimes you just have to open your own damn door. All people in creative fields get their ideas rejected at one point. (Yes, even Don Draper.) But when you have real passion for a project, or a strong vision you want to see through to the end, it can be devastating to be told “no.” Or that you can’t move forward. That something won’t work. Or that your idea just isn’t any good.

I reached out to a group of smart women in creative careers who have all experienced being told “no” at some point. Below they share what they’ve done instead of just accepting that answer.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Her home in Los Angeles rocks a 1950s aesthetic and is filled with colors, textiles and light. Her debut novel, MIRROR IN THE SKY, was entirely written in her dining room, and her upcoming novel, LIBRARY OF FATES, will be released July 2017.

A “no” is basically a closed door in a wall and if you’re a woman or a person of color, you’ve already learned how to climb the wall, or dig a tunnel underneath it or — I don’t know — fly over it if you have to. It took me years — probably my entire twenties and a good portion of my early thirties — to realize that the rules don’t apply equally to everyone and when the cards are stacked against you, the only way to get a “yes” is to subvert the system. “No’s” are far more common than “yeses,” so you hear them a lot when you’re a burgeoning writer. In fact, in the beginning of any creative career, all you’re ever told is “no.” All you hear, for years on end, is that you’re not good enough, smart enough, creative enough, bold enough, beautiful enough, talented enough, disciplined enough, unique enough. It’s like a total erosion of the ego and obviously deeply unpleasant and disillusioning. But if you choose not to take the “no’s” personally and keep going, I think that sheer audacity begins to produce a lot of “yeses.”

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Along with her husband Jayden, Caroline runs Woodnote Photography and Coco Carpets, two companies that combine a love for travel with an eye for all things beautiful. Their Los Angeles rental is full of color and pattern.

I decide how badly I want that “thing,” and then either shift to try a different route, or let it go and move on to a different idea. I heard Zach Braff do a Q+A once and he said, “No is just a comma on the way to ‘yes.'” I don’t really know what that means, but it feels hopeful so I like it.

(Image credit: Samara Vise)

She was the first woman in state history to be nominated by a major party for governor of New Hampshire and is currently the host of the radio show The Attitude. She lives in a bold attic apartment of a grand Victorian she inherited from her aunt.

Rethink the ask, get into “their” head and rephrase the question so that “they” can get to yes. No is about endings; yes is about finding the possible. I describe myself as a politician in recovery, but when I was serving in the legislature, compromise, authenticity, mastering the facts and shelving your ego gets you to more yeses than you would know.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

She’s the owner of Material Life, a Lower Ninth Ward shop where she sells items that reflect black cultural identities. But she’s also a photography historian, writer and editor with a passion for art and her black roots. Her colorful Seventh Ward home in New Orleans is bursting with history.

Do it, anyway. I always trust my instinct — it isn’t always right, but I never regret following my own mind.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Paco runs a consulting firm called The Hell Yeah Group, where she help creatives understand finances. She’s also been building a non-profit called Allies in Arts, with a friend. She’s also played in bands since age 17. She shares an art-filled Los Angeles home with her wife Jenn.

Listening is the first step to understand why there is a “no.” Letting the person know that they’re being heard is vital. From there, having compassion and being empathetic helps bridge the gap to coming up with creative ways to compromise.

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

Judy is a textile designer known for her designs inspired by nature on pillows, throws, rugs and other soft goods for the home. She lives in a beautifully designed loft in the Union Square area in Manhattan, which she shares with her two teenage sons.

Depending on what it is about, I do not take no for an 6 Secrets for Getting Out of a Rut (That These Badass, Creative Women Know) all the time. I usually am not a very black and white person; I like to see and explore the grey area. Being a creative person means that I want to explore the “no” and see how we can possibly change this finality into something more in motion.