blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
It may seem counterintuitive to consider the priceless role of disappointment, or that disappointment could bear any positive role, much less priceless. But many veteran authors–none of whom (NONE) have escaped disappointment–attest that lessons learned at the feet of defeat or unmet expectations bring untold value.
The role of disappointment? Builds character.
Few things in life use ease as a springboard to growth. It’s the stretching, reaching, sweating, doing the hard thing that builds a person physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. We don’t improve as a pianist by resting our hands on the keyboard and waiting for our fingers to one day magically engage with the music. We learn in the struggle. Some say learning ONLY happens through struggle.
Rearranges our priorities.
When disappointment or difficulty hit a writer, it can become a catalyst for change…of attitude. Is it more important that I sell lots of books or that I impact people? Is fame a goal worth aspiring to? What costs am I willing to pay to pursue this career? Will it be worth it if I gain NYTimes Bestseller status and lose my family in the process? (It was a rhetorical question.)
Disappointment humbles us.
In a good way. If disappointment devastates us, paralyzes us, incapacitates us, then we have given disappointment too much control. But if it reminds us that we are human, fallible, and that the universe does not as purported revolve around “me”; if it gentles us and builds empathy within us; if it makes us patient with others and willing to leave our “the world owes me” sash tucked in a locked drawer, then it has accomplished good.
But what now?
What practical steps can we take if we are faced with mounting writer disappointments (no contract, no second contract, faint or fading sales numbers, great project but no one seems interested, a measure of success but unrepeatable, or anything from a bad book cover to an egregious typo to hateful reviews)?
- Ramp up your prayer labor, if prayer is part of your life practices.
- Rest. Is exhaustion doing the talking and thinking for you?
- Regroup and/or group if you never did in the first place.
- Retool. What haven’t you tried, or have resisted, that could make a difference?
- Revise your patterns and plans.
- Redream. Has all this been to set you up for a more fulfilling dream?
- Revitalize your resilience. As the health-conscious would boost their immune system, so do the disappointment-conscious.
- Recommit—to your career, rather than to someone’s definition of success.
- Reset your mindset. Attitude is everything.
- Research—What’s selling and why? Do my gifts intersect with any of those answers?
- Reorganize. Change up how, when, where, and why you write. Reorganize your environment and see what flows from it.
- Redefine success. “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm” (Abraham Lincoln).
- Rebound. Charles Lindberg said, “Success is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the opposition he encountered and the courage he maintained in his struggle against it.”
- Resist impulsiveness. Never make a permanent decision about a temporary situation.
- Redeem lost ideas. They may have been waiting for this moment.
- Rejoice that you were given the privilege of writing…no matter what comes.
And what if?
What if we changed the language of our disappointments? What if we made word trades? How would that affect not only our attitude but the atmosphere around us?
Trade “I don’t have a contract” for “I’m currently between contracts.”
“My book sales are so disappointing” can become “My sales numbers are lower than I and my publisher would like, but I am grateful for all the readers who have responded.”
Trade “I feel like I’m spending more than I’m making” for “I’m investing in my writing.”
Exchange “The editor said no. I’m devastated” for “The editor said no. I’m moving on, looking for another opportunity.”
Trade “Writing is hard” for “Writing is hard, and that’s making me strong.”
“I’ve waited so long. I’m losing hope” becomes “I’ve waited so long. I’m well practiced at it.”
Trade “This isn’t fair” for “Nothing in life is truly fair. My goal is not being treated fairly, but treating others fairly.”
“Why doesn’t anything work out the way I want it to?” can become “The secret to contentment is adjusting expectations.”
Trade “One disappointment after another!” for “One opportunity after another. An opportunity to mature, to grow, and reconsider what’s next.”
If disappointment has drained you as a writer, consider that you are not without options for reclaiming your joy. It may mean laying your writing down. Setting it aside. Or it may mean readjusting your expectations, your approach, your genre, and perhaps even your words.