Saturday, November 1, 2014

Help for Writers Dealing with Disappointment 
Have you had a great month writing? Or a disappointing writing month? I've had a disappointing month, so I thought this might be a good article to run...for me as well as for you.

For writers, dealing with disappointment is something we have to learn to do more than we ever wanted to. Or ever thought we'd have to.

You're not alone. I have to remind myself that neither am I!

I hope this article helps you this month. What writer do you know who needs this today?

ReRun from the September 2010  Dianne E. Butts About Writing E-Zine, with certain updates

Dealing with Disappointment 

Writing and publishing (or attempting to get stuff published) can be filled with disappointments. Going in we know there will be rejections of our work, and most of us can deal with that. Those who can't don't last long in the business. But even when we've been in the business a long time, there are times when a rejection comes along that's just really hard to take. (Tweet that!)

Maybe it's because we really, really wanted this article or story published. Or it could be that we really, really wanted to be published in a particular publication or compilation book. (It would have looked great on our resume.) Maybe we're trying to break into book publishing, and so with every book proposal we send out we're hoping and hoping that this one will be the one the publishers loves and offers a contract for. Maybe we're finally a published author...but then our publisher takes our book(s) out of print. Or maybe we've just had a long string of "no's" and it's quite possible that if we get one more, it might well be the proverbial straw (or envelop, or e-mail) that breaks our back. (Tweet that!)

Sometimes it's easier to say, "Oh well. That's okay." But there are times when the disappointment in the rejection just seems bigger than we are. We really thought it would be accepted. Or we really hoped it would be accepted. Or we really hoped our success -- whatever that success was -- would last longer. So when the "no" comes, it hits us hard. And then the thoughts start coming... and escalating...and multiplying: "Well, maybe I'm not good at this. But nobody wants my work. Maybe I should find something else to do with my time and energy. Something that pays better. Or pays period. I'm never going to get anywhere in this business. Publishing contracts are for all those popular writers. I don't stand a chance. I should just quit." (Tweet that!)

What does the voice in your head say?

When I wrote this article back in 2010, I had experienced a discouraging event. At the time, it was pretty devastating. One of those disappointments that was hard to take. It kind of knocked the wind out of me, and it took me a while to catch my breath. Have you ever felt like that? (If you're a writer, I bet you have.)

So, it got me to thinking that maybe we need to talk about how to deal with disappointment. Which got me to thinking about why I was so knocked for a loop with this disappointment. Which made me start considering what I could learn from this. Which made me wonder what wisdom I could possibly share with you to help you through your disappointments? (Tweet that!)

Gleaning from that experience back in 2010, here are a few thoughts:

  • Prepare to be disappointed. I don't know why but I totally neglected to prepare myself for this disappointment. It just never occurred to me the answer might be no. Was I cocky? Not intentionally. Was I over confident? I don't know--I don't think so. For some reason I just failed to anticipate that I might be told no, so I wasn't expecting it, so when it came I was extra super disappointed. Lesson learned? Note to self: Next time try to remember the answer could be no and be prepared for that, for goodness sakes. When we're prepared for the possibility of a disappointment, it's easier to take if it comes. (Tweet that!

[Of course now, in 2014, I realize that only applies to disappointments we can see coming, not disappointments that come out of the blue.]

  • Try not to let the negative thoughts take over. Sometimes I think our own thoughts can start kicking us around. I believe writers are notoriously insecure. That's partly because we're so alone. We can't compare ourselves to anyone else, so we don't know if we're a good writer. And we don't know it when other writers get huge disappointments. When we get a "big" rejection, then we're in danger of letting those negative thoughts overrun us. Listen to me: The fact is you are not the worst writer in the world. You do have good ideas and good information to share that others need to read to help them in their lives. You're not stupid, dumb, or inept. You do have every bit of the same potential you had before this rejection. And everything you've ever written or ever will write is not trash. There.  (Tweet that!) Copy that to a Word doc. Put it in size 72 font. Print it out. Hang it on your wall. And the next time you get a "big" rejection that makes you want to quit, review. (And the next time I get a big rejection that makes me want to quit, please remind me to re-read what I just wrote and tell me this applies to me, too.)

[Interjecting a comment after experiencing a major disappointment last week in 2014: Did I write that? I think back in 2010 I wrote that for me now in 2014. Thanks me, I needed that.]

  • Give it time. This is probably the biggest, most helpful thing I can tell you. I knew it at the time. I had to tell my husband (as the tears welled in my eyes. No, I'm not kidding.), "I'll be okay. I just need some time." If there's one thing I've learned after twenty years of writing for publication it's this: if you give a big hurt some time, it will eventually start to hurt less. (Tweet that!) Kind of like pounding your thumb with a hammer. Takes your breath away, but hang in there and you'll get your breath back. Sometimes a smaller disappointment only takes me a day to catch my breath; sometime I only need an hour. This one... This one took me about two weeks. For me, that's a big disappointment. Huge. Galactic. Univers... Well, you get the point.

  • Failure is not the end. I'd just completed a class, and ironically this is something a faculty member told us in class. As I recall it, he asked when did we ever begin to think that failure means the end?  (Tweet that!) Many people fail. Many writers who write articles, books, and films fail. But that doesn't mean it was the end of those people, their career, or even their writing careers. Think of how many writers have written something that  failed. Then they wrote something else. Writers should take note. So you tried something and failed. So what? Try again.

  • Catch your breath. Get your feet back under you. Take a look around. After about two weeks, I began to realize that I really wasn't any worse off than I was before. Sure, I didn't get to move forward in the way I wanted to. But I still have all my writing ideas. And I can still write them to the best of my ability. And as I write I will still be learning and improving. And I can still study more about writing. And I can still write those nonfiction ideas or story ideas as novels or screenplays. And I still have all my friends and contacts. And I can still ask them for help. And... And... And I can still continue on with the same plans to write I had before I received this "no." And I can still submit again. So what have I lost really? I'm no worse off than I was before I got this "no." What about you? Chances are that rejection you got wasn't the only project you had going or the only place you could send that project or the only idea you had. If it was, come up with another idea, project, or place to send it. You're creative. You'll come up with something.

  • Figure out your next move. Now that I've realized I'm not worse off than I was before, I realize I can keep moving along the same track I was on. Maybe a "no," a disappointment, tells us we should change tracks, or maybe we just need to back up to where we were last on track and move forward from there. Either way, figure out your next move and keep moving. (Tweet that!)

That's where I'm at now. My next move? Anything I want. I have ideas that are priorities and others that need further development. I've signed up for something new: the 168 Project's "Write of Passage" screenwriting competition.* I've got articles to write. In other words, I've got lots to do and lots to look forward to and lots of possibilities.

[*Update in 2014: Looking back, I realize I wrote this article for September 2010. The next month in October 2010 I participated in the 168 Film Project's "Write of Passage" for the first time, and my short film script ended up one of the top eleven finalists. See what can happen if you keep moving forward?]

What about you? As a writer, how do you deal with disappointment? (Tweet that!)

Or, what's your next writing move?