My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Facing Discouragement

Let's face it. We all get discouraged. Especially writers. Sometimes I think writers might be the most discouraged of us all, but then I think, THAT'S RIDICULOUS, we just hear about writer discouragement more because, well, they are WRITING about it. I read a quote this morning that inspired me in the warped way you become inspired by the fact that others suffer, too. "In spite of everything I shall rise again; I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing." Vincent Van Gogh One of the things that struck me about this quote is how harmful discouragement can be. As Mr. Van Gogh mentions, in his discouragement, he "PUT DOWN HIS PENCIL!" Yikes! When we put down the pencil, we always lose. Always. Imagine how many great artists (whether writers, painters, or other types of artists) DID put down their pencil. What a different world it would be if artists learned to address discouragement. I received a bummer of a rejection letter this week. The funny thing is, it wasn't for anything big, not a book or even a full magazine spread, but just some ideas for a new segment in a magazine. I had spoken with the editor personally and face-to-face. I had taken pages of notes. I spent weeks on the work (even though added up, the five subs were probably less than 250 words). It was fun. The results were fantastic, IMHO. I really felt great about it. But BAM. She didn't want ANY of them, and barely a note explaining why. OUCH. It wasn't like I'd put all my hope and dreams into this project, I'm working on much bigger things, but the fact that I'd read it SO WRONG really bothered me. And made me wonder, for the millionth time, SHOULD I PUT DOWN MY PENCIL? But I'm ten years in, and I'm ALL IN. I did not put down my pencil, but I might as well have. It got under my skin until I realized what I was doing to myself. What is discouragement, anyway? It is simply perspective. I CHOSE to react to that situation with discouragement (which is truly the AP version of disappointment, for you newbies out there). I should have merely been disappointed, then moved on to the next thing. I have a lot of projects going that NEED my attention, my focus, my energy, my creativity, my spirit. DISCOURAGEMENT doesn't need any of those things, but that day, I gave that damn DISCOURAGEMENT my focus, my energy, my creativity, and my spirit. How dare I? I am made of sterner stuff. Wallowing in self-pity is not an acceptable pastime. See, when I channel my energy, my focus, my creativity, and my attention toward a painting or a poem or a manuscript, it gets BETTER. The project comes closer to birth, grows nearer to claiming its rightful spot in the world, it approaches THAT WHICH IT WAS INTENDED TO BE. These projects NEED me. I am the worker bee with the great honor of transmitting the divine message through art. No one else can do what I must do, so I must do it. If I don't product this piece, it will never come to life. Ever. But discouragement? Sadly, it will live on no matter what I do. Did I make it stronger for a day? Oh, yes, I did, and shame on me. Next time, I will say, "Thank you, wrong tree, for the feedback. Now excuse me while I bark elsewhere." And bark I will. With a renewed energy and spirit because THIS MANUSCRIPT is still bathed in a huge bubble of hope. I dare not pop that bubble with my own self-doubt and misplaced insecurities about a piece of writing that had nothing to do with it. What if I were a plumber, and I thought I fixed a toilet, but the customer called to tell me that it was, in fact, still broken. I was already on the way to fix a washing machine, but screw it! I give up! I couldn't even fix a stinking toilet. The washing machine is bigger, I will probably ruin it, too. I will just go home and eat a bag of cheese puffs. A professional doesn't quit or give up or stop because of setbacks. In some weird way, people like plumbers and doctors DEPEND on setbacks. They are needed because of setbacks. If writing flowed out flawlessly, the world wouldn't need me or any other writer. The beauty and the satisfaction is in the process, the trial and error, the learning from that trial and error, and realizing that sometimes you might need a brand new toilet. So while I loved the rejected work, I will not toss it. As a matter of fact, one of them gave me an interesting picture book idea...so who knows? Perhaps, that rejection will allow the idea to live an even bigger life than I thought. Or maybe it just taught me about DISCOURAGEMENT. I love that scene in PRETTY WOMAN, when Julia Roberts, as the prostitute, says, "I say who, I say when, I say who..." We all need to know that we are in some kind of control. And we ARE always in control of how we react to something like discouragement. For example, I was in a little car accident this week. I car hit me, I hit the car in front of me. The guy who hit me, took off. I stopped to check on the car of the person in front of me. She screamed obscenities at me, broadening my vocabulary in a way I hadn't previously thought possible. (Talk about functional shifts? Profanity must have more functional shifts than any other area of the English language--English majors, weigh in). She didn't even notice that the other guy had hit me. She didn't care. She was just mad at me. Obviously I hit her because he hit me, but I just nodded along as she had her crazy rant. I could have let her have it, but she seemed a bit unstable, possibly on drugs and driving a stolen vehicle from a bank robbery (which is the only thing that could explain the extreme reaction of being bumped while sitting at a stop light with not a scratch on your car). I CHOSE to be agreeable, and thus, possibly, saved my life. (or at least an hour of my life) It's not so different from a reaction to a set-back in life. I can be thankful for the lesson and move on, or waste time resisting it and be miserable. So like Julia Roberts, "I choose who, I choose when, I choose who..." Like her prostitute character, I may not have much control over some situations, but I can control how I respond. DISCOURAGEMENT---you're going down.

No comments:

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman