Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Apparently the recent blog I wrote on publishing stresses hit home for many of you. One person asked me to offer more ways to de-stress.
I have survived decades of being connected to publishing, but I’m livin’ a high octane life, with stress levels rising daily. But, as I pondered the idea, I thought, Who better to write about stress than someone who is in the thick of it? So I’m raising my hand and volunteering, as a sufferer along with the rest in publishing, to write about what relieves stress for me and helps me to stay in this game long-term.
One concept that has stood me in good stead is recognizing that humans are amazingly resilient. We find ways to bend or stretch, to reconfigure our lives to fit “new normals” all the time. If you develop tendonitis, you wear a brace, learn to baby your hands, and avoid heavy lifting. Once the adjustment is made, life goes on. If you hurt your back, you move carefully, take pain-relieving meds, and do the stretches your physical therapist teaches you.
So, too, when you’re walloped with an unexpected deadline or a rejected but contracted manuscript, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and make a plan. I’ve learned that, when an emergency pops up in my work life, I concentrate on how to get the situation back under control, recognize my nicely laid-out to-do list should be tossed, and jump in with vigor. Working through the emergency rather than hoping it goes away constitutes a positive step.
Much of the stress we feel in our publishing endeavors results from the lack of control. We didn’t plan for rejection. Or to get stuck on some aspect of our manuscript. Or on our coauthor to miss deadlines due to a family emergency. Neither can we make an agent, editor, or publisher say yes to our manuscript.
For me, figuring out what I can control helps to keep me from fraying around the edges. The other night I watched the film “Bridge of Spies.” Tom Hanks plays an American attorney trying to save the life of a Russian spy. When Hanks points out how poorly the trial is going and that the man might be executed, the spy displays little emotion. Every time Hanks says something like, “You seem to be taking all this well. Aren’t you afraid?” The spy answers, “Will it help?”
Being so emotionally detached doesn’t come easily for most of us, but since watching the film, I’ve been pausing to ask myself, “Will being [angry, upset, sad, fearful] help?” Seldom do I decide it will. I don’t mean that we should shut down our emotional responses to distressing developments, but I do think we shouldn’t live in the shadow of that emotion. Give yourself space to feel. Then move on.
Take the Next Step
Avoiding finding a solution but instead basking in the hurt of it all isn’t productive. You might not hit upon the perfect solution right away, but figure out what your next move will be, how you’ll adjust to the wallop you just received. Often solutions present themselves as you move forward.
Sometimes, to the observer, it might look as though I’m not dealing with the situation immediately. But I’m plotting a strategy, giving myself enough time to decide the best next step.
This is seldom the time to act on a gut reaction. That simply makes you mercurial and often causes you to take several steps back to–offer apologies for words spoken (or written) without adequate thought; clean up a mess you made when you trounced in too soon; repair damaged relationships with colleagues.
To de-stress, remember you:
- are resilient,
- can adapt,
- do have control over you, if nothing else,
- should avoid belaboring the hurt of disappointing news,
- can figure out one–just one–step forward and take it. You don’t need to find ultimate solutions.
What’s the first step (after prayer) you take when life punches you in the gut?
How to de-stress over disappointing news. Click to tweet.
Handling #publishing stresses. Click to tweet.