Persistence (and Progress) Pays Off

Make Your Attempts Early and Often, and Grow as You Go

Jess C.
5 min readNov 28, 2022


Photo by Ian Kim on Unsplash

I spent the better part of my life absolutely terrified of failure.

It’s not a unique fear, I don’t think. I’d say it’s safe to assume that no one really enjoys failure; even if you’re of the mindset that failure is part of growth, it’s not exactly the most fun part. I know I need to get my flu shot and see my doctor and eat spinach, too, and so I accept it, and I do it, but I don’t like it.

But for years — literally until the pandemic hit, really — accepting failure as part of growth wasn’t even something I did grudgingly, it was something that I didn’t do at all. As a past-tense “gifted kid” — who, as a result, never really learned resiliency at a developmentally appropriate time — failure didn’t mark a milestone in my growth, it marked a personal deficiency.

Failing at something meant it was time to give up.

The pandemic completely changed the hierarchy of my personal priorities — when faced what felt like the actual end of the world, getting a rejection letter in the mail suddenly felt a whole lot less dramatic.

So in late 2020, I started applying to art zines. The first application I submitted — through a Google Form — had my palms sweating and my pulse pounding. Looking back, Jesus, how fucking dramatic — it was an internet zine, curated by a couple of people I didn’t know, would likely never know, would never meet, would never have to interact with again.

But the thought of them seeing my work and judging it lacking scared me.

And more than that, if I got in, the expectations that would then be placed on me — that I would produce sufficient quality work, that I would meet the deadlines, that I would be able to format said work appropriately — also terrified me. I was afraid, ultimately, that I would not be able to meet expectations — both theirs and my own.

But, I applied. And I got my first rejection two weeks later.

The world did not end.

And — this is where post-pandemic me differed from pre-pandemic me — I didn’t put down my pen and swear off creating art.



Jess C.

Jess (they/she) 🏳️‍🌈 Educator/artist/writer/parent. Under-slept and over-caffeinated. Currently showing at Essex Art Center(thru Sept. 15th).