Writers and parents seem to fall into this pit quite often. As parents, our kids fail a test, and we feel discouraged. Will they ever show how smart they really are? They get in trouble, and we feel discouraged. Haven’t they been listening to us? Don’t they know not to stick their fingers in electrical sockets by the time they’re twelve? They don’t make the school play or the football team when they try out, and we feel their pain exponentially by ten.
As writers, a harsh critique, a sour review, a rejection, hurls us into the depths of despair. It doesn’t take much. It could simply be a family member saying we’re wasting our time. Every writer has enjoyed a pity party at one time or another.
I remember about three years ago, I was down in the dumps about my writing. It seemed as if every new writer I read had a famous neighbor like Elizabeth Berg, Stephen King, fill-in-the-name-here-of-a-famous-author. The new author would profusely thank their dearest best friend or next door neighbor, that-oh-so-famous-author, in their acknowledgements for introducing them to their agent or editor. So, why didn’t I have a famous author living next door to me? The house next door was even for sale, it was all ready for a famous author to move in. I knew a couple of authors that met each other because they lived next door to each other, and they became fast friends and even critique buddies. They weren’t famous, but hey they got published!
One day, after wallowing in self-pity for a couple of weeks, I decided to complain about it to God. After all, he could move Elizabeth Berg next door to me if he wanted. After I’d poured out all my complaints, I heard a very gentle, tender voice (in my head, for those who think I’ve now gone looney!) say, “I’m published.” Okay, God, I guess you are published. With the book that has sold more copies than any book ever. And he was telling me with that gentle reminder that he is all I need.
This morning, I was reading the book by Joanna Weaver called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Ms. Weaver has some good advice for fighting discouragement. 1. Give yourself a break. Discouragement is often our body’s way of saying we need a rest. So take a nap. Go to bed early. Sleep in. Rest!
2. Get a grip on a new perspective. Often what looks like a mountain of a roadblock to us is only a stepping stone to God.
3. The ‘P’ word. Patience. For all moms who are struggling with potty training their little boys, patience is the key. Your little boy most likely won’t go to college wearing a diaper. (That’s my point of view thrown in there!) Ms. Weaver says in a more dignified manner that ‘if you’ve committed your concerns to the Lord, you can be sure he is at work, even when you don’t see his hand.’
4. Mingle. Discouragement often leads to isolation. We want to climb under a rock. But don’t. Get out of the house and go have some fun with friends. Some good laughter can chase away the blues.
5. Ding! Times up. Give yourself some time to grief your disappointment. Cry! Scream! Throw a pillow. But set the timer and when it ‘dings’ then dry your eyes, blow your nose, and get on with life. A little chocolate doesn’t hurt either (that’s my suggestion again!)
Everyone feels discouragement, but the evil one likes to make us think we are the only one who’s ever felt this way. We’re not. You’re not. Discouragement is a part of life, but it’s what we do with it (wallow in it or climb out of it) that defines us.