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How to Get Over Professional Disappointment
In these easy steps
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Sorry for the slightly downer ~content~ today, but this idea has been in the hopper for a bit, and now left like as good a time as any. We’re talking about disappointment today. Maybe you’re doing your year-end analysis (get ready for some CHARTS from me in a few weeks! Wait, you don’t do end of year charts?) and you didn’t do the thing you wanted to do. Maybe you didn’t finish your book, or you didn’t read 100 books like you set out to, or you didn’t get an agent or a deal. I know. It sucks. But here are some things to help you deal with your feelings (because they’re just feelings!) so you can move on to 2021 with renewed vigor.
A year is arbitrary. Time is meaningless.
March was 9 months ago, but it was also 400 years ago, know what I mean? Right now, time is meaningless. Which means just because you didn’t do something in 365 calendar days, well, so what? Yes, goals are important in many ways, but also? It’s ok if you revise those goals to accommodate your lived experience. So go read 67 books in 467 days. Who cares!? Time is meaningless.
It’s also meaningless in terms of “I have to publish a book by the time I’m 30” or whatever. I also thought that! Over 20 years ago! I have not published a book as an author! And here I am, still writing, still working on that goal. It’s ok! No one cares how old you are when you publish a book. NO. ONE. CARES. Free yourself from this thinking.
You are not your work.
It is hard to separate the personal from the professional in writing. So much of ourselves goes into our writing, regardless of genre. But. BUT. You are not your book. Your book is a thing you created but it is not YOU. If it gets rejected, it is not YOU getting rejected. (Yes, I know that’s what it feels like. Don’t think I’m immune.) You are the same person regardless of what or how much you write and if that gets published or not. This is a fact. Yes, even if you are writing memoir! I promise! Practice distancing yourself from your writing in this way and you will reap the benefits of it for years to come.
You might have noticed 2020 was shit.
Uhhhhhhhhhh, this year sucked. Everyone experienced setbacks at best and devastation at worst. If you were not as ~~productive~~ this year as in years prior, well cut yourself some fucking slack. EVERYONE is in the same boat. Even if you’re not comparing yourself to other people, don’t try to measure this year against other years. I read 76 books last year. This year I read 54. Who cares! I read basically a book a week this year! THIS YEAR. That’s amazing to me. 2020 is a mulligan. You’re allow to count it as an outlier or ignore it all together.
Productivity does not equal self-worth.
Another thing we’ve learned this year, as capitalism continues to eat workers alive just to drive profits for 1% of America, productivity does not equal self-worth. I have to learn this one anew everyday. I constantly judge the quality of my day by how much I got done, and ascribe no value to relaxation, rest, fun, or serendipity. This ends now! I love working and making things, but I am not better when I make more things. I am still me, every day, regardless of what work I accomplish. This is true for you, too.
If you did it once, you can do it again. Or if you can do a half, you can do a whole.
Maybe your novel didn’t sell, or you didn’t get an agent. You have this whole novel and it’s just stuck there, in limbo or on the rejection pile. And, well, that sucks. There isn’t much I can say that takes the sting out of that. The small consolation I do have, though, is that if you did it once, you can do it again. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but if you wrote a novel once, you can do it again. You learned so much from writing that novel—I know it—and you can use that knowledge do it again. Maybe even better! Just because a novel is long, doesn’t mean it isn’t practice.
Further to this, if you wrote half a novel and stalled out, don’t worry. My triathlon buddies in college used to say if you can do a half, you can do a whole. If you can run a 5k, you can run a 10k. I don’t exactly know why this is true, athletically, but I have found it true for me, both athletically and writing-ly. Even if you have to start over, with something new or not, if you can write half of a thing, you can write the whole thing. You just have to keep going.
Take care, my little bunnies. Keep wearing your masks, please. Keep warm, and happy holidays. Chin up.