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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writers: Cue the sad trombone.

November is over. My belt doesn't even have a notch that will fit my happy sweet potato and turkey stuffed belly. But there's something else I stuffed with: disappointment.

And no, not just the kind that comes along with overconsumption of holiday carbohydrates. I can't regret anything that tastes so good. No, readers and writers. My disappointment is much more apropos to this blog. I am disappointed in my word count.

The end of November didn't just mark the end to the Thanksgiving prep and the full throttle tilt into December festivities. It also marked the end of NaNoWriMo, the 30 day 50,000 word write-fest. And for the 'wrimoers that either means jubilant victory or disappointment and a sad trombone.

Personally, I only managed a anemic production of 11,000 words for the month. Allow me to be the first to say: *mwomp mwomp*.


Which brings up the question about the ugly side of authoring: how we deal with disappointment.

Whether you're writing, or editing, or querying, disappointment is just a part of the author's life. It can't be helped. Until you've reached billionaire author status, writing and publishing is pretty much a constant path of rejection, with a few dots of light along the way to keep you going. And once you get there? Even Rowling experiences disappointment. It's perhaps just a slightly easier pill to swallow with all the money and success she has to wash it down.

This is how I imagine Rowling handles disappointment.

Learning to handle disappointment is an unpleasant, un-fun, totally don't-want-to-do-it thing that we all have to learn eventually. So why not start now?

The number one rule for handling disappointment is my personal favorite: don't be afraid to build yourself up and brush it off.

Put in terms that everyone else will hate: go ahead and self-aggrandize. I know, I know. Hear me out. We all know those people. You know. The ones who ask for critique and then proceed to ignore everything you say that isn't a hyperbolic compliment? Hell, I bet some of us have been those people. That's not what I'm advising though. We need to be open to criticism and to change, but what I'm saying is that we need to build ourselves up enough that disappointment doesn't cut us down to the quick. Been there, done that. And let me say: OUCH.

Don't be afraid to congratulate yourself even if you didn't reach your goal or win or get the agent, what have you. For example: I was shooting for 25,000 words in November and only produced 11,000. Am I disappointed? Yes. Of course. Have we mentioned that I am competitive? I am. Very. But I'm still giving myself a pat on the back because, even though it was only 11,000 words, it was 11,000 good words. Words that are the right words, in the right spot, with a lot of careful thought and planning and consideration around them. That's kind of a big deal. So go ahead -- feel good about yourself. Revel in it while you can. Because the number two rule for handling disappointment is:

WALLOW. 

Feel bad. Feel horrible. Feel disappointed and disappointing and little and sad and angry and frustrated and whatever it is that you personally feel when you let yourself down. I feel like taking it out on everyone around me with a sulky demeanor that apparently says "please comfort me" to my friends but actually means "LEAVE ME ALONE, I AM WALLOWING".

Feeling bad is a necessary part of the disappointment process. Go with it. Feel it, and feel it good. It'll get it out of your system, and it will also serve as a reminder for next time so that maybe you won't fuck up as much.

Done wallowing? Good. Rule #3: Make it better.

Now that we're done getting all feel-goody with ourselves about what we accomplished and all down on ourselves for fucking it up in the first place, let's move past all the feelies, okay? It's time to get to the doing. You know what went wrong. Or maybe you don't. Now is the time to figure it out and right the wrongs of the past. It's time to make a plan. Step up to the plate. Miss your NaNoWriMo word count? Well this December challenge yourself to write more than you wrote in November! ("Whoa, there, crazy pants blogger lady! Is that even possible??" YOU'RE DAMNED RIGHT IT IS.) Basically, combine those stages of bargaining and acceptance into one hella package of action. (This is my way of acknowledging that my rules for disappointment are basically a jumble of the stages of grieving. Look, it was an accident that I figured out too far into the past to care. So sue me [don't sue me]). My competitive nature tells me that everything is just a challenge. A defeat is just an opportunity to do better and shove it in past self's underachieving face.

I believe in you, future yous! Now go do it!

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