Warning: this is an edit-free zone…
For every writer, there comes times in their careers where what had been working well just isn’t working anymore.
The causes are all over the board. You write historicals and readers just aren’t buying them. You lose a publisher. You lose an editor and the new one doesn’t get what you write, doesn’t like it, doesn’t want it. You work with an editor who thinks revisions is another word for him/her conjuring daydreams and having you write them only to change her mind again and again, so you wake up in a spin cycle that is stuck in revisions and never gets anything done. You are facing crises in your personal life and they just shut down your creativity. That can be anything from depression to grief to worry or financial troubles, or even a loss of interest or a spurred interest in something else.
It’s all about change.
And change is all about personal growth.
I have a theory that life teaches you lessons. Some lessons you learn easily–read that, without being knocked to your knees or slammed to the mat. Others hit you harder. Either because they didn’t get your attention the first time or because they got your attention, you resolved the challenge, and then promptly forgot the lesson. So a repeat is in order.
Even if you totally get the lesson and you remember it, you’re put in a similar situation yet again. The reason isn’t to make your life miserable, it’s two-fold. To test your reaction to be sure you’ve really gotten the lesson and so that you are consciously aware that you’ve gotten it.
Lessons are not free. We pay for them with time, effort, energy, emotion, and often money. We pay for them with bits of our lives. Sometimes with large slices of it.
I’ve been asked often, why does this keep happening to me? Well, my theory above is why.
I’ve been asked often, what is the purpose of these challenges? Well, I have a theory on that, too. As my friend, Phyllis Rowan, often says: It takes a lot of heat to temper steel.
People–their will, their determination, their persistence, their devotion, their loyalty, their substance–are all forged in steel. None of those things would be worth much forged in marshmallow, now would they?
Do life lessons ever get easier?
Uh, no. They don’t. Once you learn one, it’s upward and onward to more significant challenges that are more complex. Why? Well, think about it. Someone has to handle the tough stuff and a rookie can’t handle it. Nope, the rough stuff requires steel because only they can endure it and remain upright.
Sometimes we have partial successes and partial failures, and that seems to trouble many people. But the truth is, you can’t be an Olympian without training, right? Well, you can’t be a master challenge solver or lesson learner without training, either. You can’t skip straight from a tricycle to a NASCAR vehicle, either. So why should lessons be any different?
Now one thing that tends to confuse a lot of people when they see a repetitive lesson pattern in their lives is that they automatically believe they’re to stick out the challenge until the bitter end. That’s the only way to avoid a body slam repeat.
But that isn’t so. No, you don’t cut and run at the first sign of trouble. You do your best to remove emotion, you take as objective a look at the situation as is humanly possible, and you assess. Often, we repeat lessons not because we acted but because we acted too long and tried too hard to make something work when it wouldn’t. Because we didn’t recognize the signs or pay attention to the internal nudgings (gut instinct/women’s intuition/call it whatever you wish, you know what I mean) that our efforts were hitting brick walls and it was time to stop pouring constructive energy into something that just wasn’t going to work out constructively.
Now many times, there are interim steps that can and should be taken to determine whether or not you’ve reached that point. And be warned, often fear will pose as an internal nudge and you must really pull that emotion out into the bald light to make sure what it is. If it’s fear, face it. That drains its power over you immediately. If it’s a genuine nudging, listen and hear.
So you’ve made multiple attempts to accommodate and things still aren’t working. Actually, odds are good now that you’ve experienced overflow. Where this specific challenge has tainted other efforts or other interactions as well. That, sadly is a byproduct of being overly accommodating, which particularly women are wont to do.
Regardless, now you’re in a lose/lose situation. And you’ve got to address it to remove yourself from it. I don’t recommend cutting loose with your emotions. You’ll regret it later and live with it a long time. I do recommend keeping your wits and sticking to the facts and then accepting them. If you’ve done this and your gut is telling you that your time is done with this challenge, then walk away. That could well be the mark of success: that you recognize continuing would be more damaging and destroy more than could ever be gained.
Knowing what you don’t want is as important as knowing what you do want.
Knowing when you’ve been issued an invitation to submit elsewhere is as important as knowing when you’ve been issued an invitation to stay put.
Knowing when you’ve fought the good fight, given your all, and it didn’t work so it’s time to go is just as important as knowing when you’ve won that fight and your all clicks and you soar to the pinnacle.
I hope what you see is that it’s all perception. Your perception of what’s right for you and what you hope to achieve and do with your life and your writing. If you’re not working toward that goal, then you’re working against it. Hence, the lessons. To help you recognize what you’re doing so that you make a conscious choice on what you want to do.
I think this is one of God’s most loving graces to us. These lessons. They’re difficult because easy stuff doesn’t get our attention or spur us to act or get remembered. So the lessons are hard, they hurt, they vex, they test us to our limits. But in my life, I’ve found that when I thought I just couldn’t take one more thing going wrong, it always did, and I always dealt with it. Sometimes better than others, but it didn’t do me in. That, I’ve decided is success.
So is knowing when a lesson is occurring to signal you that you’ve reached a turning point. Sometimes those points are in your face and sometimes they’re subtle. Becoming a mother and then a gran was a major turning point. Listening to people’s thoughts without feeling compelled to tell them mine was a more subtle turning point. Yet both signaled significant shifts in me, the human being.
A lesson for today: sift through your life and see what your repeating patterns are. See what keeps happening to you over and over again. What’s the lesson in it? Each occurrence is harder on you–trying harder to get your attention. What is the message to you in that lesson, and have you addressed it? If not, consider it. Beats the socks off addressing it again.
It’s been a very rough three weeks, as I’m sure you’ve intuited from this post. Crises all around that were unexpected, unwelcome, and apparently unavoidable. But the pattern is there, and I’m grateful to have recognized it. Now, I can act with confidence on what I am to do.
And I hope that after reading this post, you will, too.
“Trust is earned, one book at a time.” –Vicki Hinze https://vickihinze.com
Note: I edit books and professional correspondence. But I do NOT edit email or this blog. This is chat time for me, so if the grammar is goofed or a word’s spelled wrong, please just breeze on past it. I’d appreciate it–and salute you with my coffee cup. 🙂
You are permitted to use the blog post above in its entirety, free of charge, provided you include the following text:
Copyright 2005. Vicki Hinze
Vicki Hinze is a multi-published author, who has a free library of her articles on writing–the craft, business and life–at https://www.vickihinze.com.