Stress Happens–Surviving and Thriving Despite Life's Setbacks
This week has been really rough. One problem after another. No Internet. Printers wouldn’t work. It has been one setback after another. On and on. I have felt like I have been trapped in Hell’s Whack-A-Mole. Just about whack one problem on the head and two more pop up in the peripheral vision.
It is very easy to get discouraged. In fact, I set aside time for my own pity-party this morning. You would have liked it. It was catered and everything.
The thing is, we all have bad weeks. Setbacks and getting discouraged or overwhelmed are all a part of life. We live in a realm of contrasts. One of my favorite movie lines of all times was from Vanilla Skies. “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour.”
Writing is a highly competitive business. Now that everyone can be published, there is more competition than ever. If we stopped long enough to think about our career choice, we would probably have a stroke. We face rejection letters from agents, bad reviews of our books, complaining e-mails, and all kinds of other emotional assaults where we exercise very little control.
Thus, the people who are going to succeed in life (particularly a writing life) need to have effective ways to deal with stress, setbacks and disappointments.
I have a very weird personality. I am, by nature, quite lazy and love to procrastinate. Over the years I’ve become self-disciplined enough to make lists and tackle a plan. But my new problem is that I get target-fixation. Any deviation off my plan throws me into a total tailspin.
For instance, I couldn’t get Internet, so I couldn’t download the assignments from Warrior Writer Boot Camp so I could edit and give feedback. Okay, no problem. Move to next on the list. I would print off my new book and do the line-edits. WTH? I have no printers installed? Every time I tried to install a printer, my computers made this clunking sound and a red window appeared.
Okay…red windows are never good.
Know the feeling?
After two hours of fighting with my computers, I sounded like I had Tourette’s Syndrome, and I think I still have a bit of a twitch in my left eye.
I was so pissed off at my computers and lack of Internet, that I couldn’t seem to focus on things I could do without printers or Internet…like, um writing? Reading? I felt like that scene from “Bug’s Life.” A leaf fell in front of my Things To Do List and I panicked.
Me: I’m loooooost! What do I do??? I’m gonna be stuck here FOREVER!!!!
Hubby: Do not panic. Go around the leaf!
Me: You don’t understand. I’m loooooooost! *breathes into paper bag*
Hubby: It’s okay. Look into my eyes. We’re going around the leaf.
Me: A-around the leaf? I-I don’t think we can do that.
Hubby: Nonsense. This is nothing compared to the Twig of ’93.
That’s me panicking in the front of the line.
Of course, Hubby came home later that night and in ten minutes all the printers worked. AT&T took pity on me and sent out someone to run new line for my Internet and that was fixed…
…and I felt like a fool.
How could I let such petty disruptions throw me for such a loop? Know the answer? I am human, and every day is a learning experience.
This morning, I sat back and thought about my week and my choices. How could I do things differently next time?
Evil Kristen: Throw computers out the window, obliterate with shotgun then set on fire????
No *sigh*. Although that would be fun, I believe it would cause even more hassle long-term. No, after some careful consideration, this is what I came up with after I traced back to when things began to go wrong:
We need rest.
I normally take Sunday off. I work hell bent for leather all week, but Sunday is a rest day. A big name author responded to my request for a blurb, so instead of resting Sunday, I spent all day at the computer getting this manuscript ready to go.
This means that by Monday, I was on my eighth work day in a row, and I work 10-12 hour days. I was tired. Ok, I was fried. So, when setbacks came my way, my frazzled emotions blew them out of proportion.
We need to rest. Rest is important. We live in a modern society that wears sleep-deprivation like a merit badge. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Being overworked, stressed and tired just makes us cranky, stupid, and inefficient.
We need to be flexible.
I still have to work on being able to switch tasks. I tend to get compared to a pit bull a lot :D. Tenacity is a noble trait, but sometimes persistence looks a lot like stupid. Sometimes, we need to just back away and let go.
Maturity teaches us discernment. As writers we are encouraged to be persistent, but sometimes it is better to back away. Been shopping the same novel of 5 years and it is still being rejected? Stop reworking it. Put it down. Move on. We aren’t a failure, we are being mature and knowing when it is time to stop chest compressions.
The manuscript is dead. Flat-lined. Harvest for viable organs to be used in another manuscript that still has a chance at life.
When I realized three doors had been cut off, ramming my head against them didn’t get anything accomplished…it gave me a headache. Next time I hope to be better at recognizing that not only is the door closed, but it is locked and triple-bolted. Time is better spent on open doors. Duh. Not rocket science here.
Be willing to ask others for grace.
Stuff happens. I find it funny that often we are so generous with others, but then are afraid to ask anything from them. I remember years ago, I was so broke I didn’t have money for anything. Wendy’s 99 cent menu was my friend. I recall being so embarrassed to go ask family for help. WHY?
Would I have batted an eye if any of them came to me? I would have enjoyed an opportunity to be generous. It would have felt great to be needed, and that this person would come to me for help. Yet, when it was me needing the help, suddenly things were different? No. No they weren’t.
Last night, I felt so discouraged and depressed that I couldn’t make certain deadlines. It only later occurred to me to e-mail and explain my technical problems and ask for grace. Perfectionism can cause undue stress and tunnel-vision. We are wise to give ourselves permission to not be perfect. We sometimes are better off realizing we cannot control everything. Relax. Breathe. Ask for help.
Mash-Up of Awesomeness will resume next week. I didn’t have Internet long enough to do a good job, so I am taking my own advice and asking for grace :D.
So what do you guys think? What do you do when you hit a wall? What have you learned from your bad weeks? Have any tips to share? Maybe share your battle story of the Leaf of ‘09 or the Twig of 2010?
I want to hear from you!
And, to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention WANA in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel.
Until next time….
In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.
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