Robert Mankoff was rejected by The New Yorker 2,000 times between 1974 and 1977.
He drew 2,000 cartoons during those three years and but didn’t stop drawing or submitting his work to the magazine.
Finally, one of his cartoons was accepted. Then they accepted another one and another until he was invited to become a regular contributor. Twenty years later he became the cartoon editor for the magazine.
How did he finally find success?
Mankoff’s story is profiled in Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit. He pushed through the many, many rejections until he found success. That drive came from a deep sense of motivation and a realization that comedy and, more specifically, comic drawing was his mission. It was a calling.
He also spent some time studying many years of published cartoons in The New Yorker. He realized that they all had two things in common:
- They made you think.
- They had a distinct style.
So, he started working on cartoons that were funny but also made you think. He also narrowed in on one style of drawing called stippling, which is a dot style of drawing.
Today Mankfoff advises aspiring artists to submit ten ideas for cartoons a week, or, more than five hundred every year.
We can learn a lot from this as artists. When you create and submit hundreds or thousands of pieces of your work, you start to improve your craft and develop your unique style (if you are intentional about it). Then, over time, you increase your chances of acceptance by the sheer volume of work you product.
No matter what form of art you create, increase your productivity as much as possible and increase your chances of success.