Resilience: Bouncing Back as a Writer
On Monday of this week, I was asked if I could sub for a teacher at Manchester United Methodist. I said yes, but remember joking to my husband that it was somebody playing 'hooky' after a long weekend. (We've all done it... I feel bad about saying that now.)
When I arrived at the teacher's classroom on Tuesday, my boss was there. She took me aside and let me know that the teacher was out for emergency brain surgery. She had a brain tumor, (which turned out to be cancerous), and she might not be returning to class.
I've woken up early to teach in Fenton, worked on other projects at home, and then left to teach in Clayton at night. It's been a lot, but I'm happy to help during this time. She is a really nice, energetic person, and she's extremely missed by her family, students and the other teachers. In addition, everyone remains extremely positive about the situation. Though she may have a long road to recovery, it's still possible with treatment.
I use this example not only to show how quickly things can change in our lives, but how resiliency matters no matter the circumstance.
Of course, this can be applied to writing.
Dealing with Disappointment
Resilient writers aren't people who get rejected less. They are people who have learned to cope with disappointment better and to move on faster.
Paula Davis-Laack, the founder and CEO of The Marie Elizabeth ® Company, which helps high-achieving professionals become more resilient in their daily lives, suggests writing a thinking blueprint to help with writing resiliency. (This technique is based on the work of psychologists Drs. Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, to help develop greater self awareness about counterproductive thinking patterns.)
Below is an excerpt of the process from an article on the website Nano Writing Coach.
1. Describe factually the activating event or trigger (I tried to write last week and got stuck).
2. Write down your emotions and reactions (frustrated/stopped writing for two weeks).
3. Write down exactly what you were thinking in-the-moment during the challenge (I can’t write a book, the process is just too overwhelming).
4. Ask yourself whether your reaction helped or hurt your ability to find a solution (hurt – I love writing and need to do it consistently; hire someone to help get me back on track).
Keep Track of Rejections
Author Jane Friedman, whose newest book is The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), suggests creating a spreadsheet in order to keep track of places/people you are working with, as well as any rejections you receive.
In fact, you can actually download the template she suggests using here. (It's color-coded, too, which makes it even easier to manage everything. Friedman highlights her rejections in gray.)
Take a Second Look
Sometimes a piece of work that's continuously rejected, even by different places, may actually need a second look (by you!) Be honest with yourself (in a kind and respectful way, of course.) Perhaps it's time to look at what you're actually submitting, sit down, do some rewriting, and submit again.
At the same time, make sure you've also familiarized yourself with the market.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
It's so easy to focus on what's lacking in our lives. We often forget about what we do have. Writing in a gratitude journal can help us reflect on what's going on in our lives, and regarding our writing, the accomplishments we've made throughout our careers.
Gratitude is the secret to building resilience and happiness, too. You might not be exactly where you want to be, but look how far you've come. And don't forget to congratulate yourself.