Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
I’ve found when dealing with long-term stress that the best posture for me to take is one of hopefulness and optimism but not unrealistic. In other words, it’s a waste of energy to just wish the situation would go away, or that the tooth fairy can solve your problem. But you need to believe it can be solved and to feel optimistic that it will be.
I recently saw a television program that was so scattered in the theme I can’t even remember what it was, but certain aspects of it were fascinating–and memorable. One segment told of a Vietnam War POW who, during eight years of imprisonment and torture, mentally created plans for building his family’s dream home. He didn’t just work on the big ideas of how many rooms, but he figured out how many nails were needed, how many bricks, etc. Then he would decide to move a room to a different part of the house, which would affect the rest of the design and keep his mental gymnastics going.
His preoccupation with the minute details kept his mind off of his present, horrific, and seemingly endless situation. The house plans also kept him hopeful, optimistic that he would live to build that house, but not unrealistic, thinking he would be freed tomorrow. The good news in his story is that eventually he did build his dream house, and he gave the camera crew a tour through it, explaining that he probably decided on lots of windows and open space because he dreamed up the house when he was in a small cell with no windows.
How does that translate to the writing life? It takes that hopeful, optimistic but not unrealistic stance to stay strong through the stresses of each phase of a writing career. Before you’re published, it’s the optimism that keeps you going, but the reality is that publishers have relatively few slots for an overwhelming number of writers. When you’ve gotten a few books under your belt, your challenge is to remain hopeful and optimistic as you observe that your publisher is leaving the building of your readership mostly up to you. Then, when you breakout from the pack of other writers, and your star starts to shine, you’re not lacking friends or colleagues who all have ideas about how you can help them. Meanwhile, you need to find ways to remain hopeful and optimistic that your good run is going to continue, but realistic enough to realize you need to make good choices for that to be the case.
In what other ways have you dealt with the stresses of publishing by finding hope and optimism while remaining realistic?