I often hear from writers about the pain and agony of rejection. Of the many times failed and that one time succeeding. Or Maybe the wait for that one time of success is still being held in suspense. I have even heard my own voice sing this song before.
Some people would ask: yes, but are you measuring success correctly?
For me it is easy. I celebrate the small wins and in my mind, I still reach for the major goal. Why? Because each of the small wins are like positive reinforcement that you are heading up the right set of stairs and with each step you take you will even probably know at the time just about when you are about to step on to the platform.
How do I know this you ask?
Because it isn’t just about good writing, it is about knowing yourself. These steps are furthering knowledge of who we are as a person and every great writer has the ability to step out of themselves and see who they are. I believe this is why, in the same way, we writers can step in to other characters at any given time, play around in their mind and body for a while and then take off out that character, spend a bit of time in the in-between land and eventually land back in ourselves.
This is a very basic introductory explanation of the reason why I think mental illness is related to writing and creativity! You see, socially, it ain’t all that easy.
There are jobs to be done, people to see, appointments to make. If I could, I would spend my time in the in between world floating from character to character and occasionally back to my frontal lobe.
Sometimes I will visit one friend and be me: absolute down to earth Trace, light and bubbly, joking, flirty, up for a good conversation even if I am doing most of the talking, maybe even a small adventure. I could meet this same person a week later and be absolutely subdued, have no energy and be a great listener because I don’t want to talk about this version of myself for reasons that I am bored or I’m in a complicated relationship with one of my characters. Turning up to work can be a challenge if you haven’t quite got back to yourself after a day off of spending time in other peoples minds, in other people’s worlds.
It goes both ways: we can’t be stressing about a certain social situation when we are supposed to be writing and we can’t be battling dragons or emotional states of characters when we are at work or out with friends, can we?
Mastering a smooth transition between these states or frames of mind is important. Or is it? To them or you? Can we fake it till we make it?
A writer friend recently said to me: ‘Remember Tracie, there are no sane people, just people who hide their insanity better than others’. I think you are right Mat.
I read a wonderful quote recently on this topic and it reminded me to leave myself a little room while I learn the ropes:
“Many personality characteristics of creative people make them more vulnerable, including openness to new experiences, a tolerance for ambiguity, and an approach to life and the world that is relatively free of preconceptions. This flexibility permits them to perceive things in a fresh and novel way, which is an important basis for creativity. But it also means that their inner world is complex, ambiguous, and filled with shades of gray rather than black and white. It is a world filled with many questions and few easy answers. While less creative people can quickly respond to situations based on what they have been told by people in authority — parents, teachers, pastors, rabbis, or priests — the creative person lives in a more fluid and nebulous world. He or she may have to confront criticism or rejection for being too questioning, or too unconventional. Such traits can lead to feelings of depression or social alienation. A highly original person may seem odd or strange to others. Too much openness means living on the edge. Sometimes the person may drop over the edge… into depression, mania, or perhaps schizophrenia.”
I found the full article here:
But – if you think that fear and rejection are bad enough as a writer, I have news for you: try being a travel agent.
Becoming a travel agent is a psychology course in itself.
Every day I receive or am forced to actively seek feedback from colleagues, clients, managers, wholesalers, tour companies and worst of all, myself. For self improvement purposes we must listen to phone calls with clients either ours or a fellow colleagues: and, in the travel agent business, for most of your career, you are a novice, because you never stop learning and there are so many avenues that you are striving to be an expert at.
The teacher version of myself told me, Trace, don’t worry about it. Just work on a general set of skills that can be transferred in any area of the travel business. Eg. Being a good problem solver, be efficient with systems, stay above the line, keep good communication skills, if you can’t solve something – move on, etc. However, because selling travel can actually be like travel itself, you can easily become suspended in the present moment. Each client you spend time with is another character in another world traveling to a distant land such as South America and you are both present and planning a trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Then they vacate the seat at your desk, the next client walks in and tells you they want to go to Africa but your mind is still stuck on the Inca Trail! Once again, it is this smooth transition that needs to be learned.
And the battles that we face in regards to criticism: well, it isn’t just after every enquiry letter we’ve sent to a publisher, which I know is extremely personal and a product of our own thoughts as writers but still, as a travel agent, it is every minute of every hour and its not by the written word its screamed down the phone line or in your face or worse of all – evident through your own voice on the telephone call you are listening to to reflect and improve your sales skills. Every decision you make has a consequence. Every action you take has an impact.
I believe in opening up these alley ways for self reflection in order to improve. But I’m not and never have been as hardy as some other people in the business. This kind of shit can open wounds and completely spin me out of control.
But let me tell you, I need it. I hate it at the same time, but I need it. Because otherwise I would never learn anything about myself. And, exposure to this kind of criticism feels like exercising success for writing. If I can be a travel agent, I could write the best and worst book in the world, cop all the flack that the book deserves and still live to laugh and tell the tale.
And why is this important to me? Because when I write, I don’t write just to tell a story. I write to tell the moral truth. Whatever my version of it may be. Most of the time this is in aim of gaining an honest perspective of the world to break away from that whole ‘Santa is real’ shit that we were brought up believing. That is why you travel right? In search of meaning and truth? In search of a balanced perspective of the world? Of ourselves? After all, the worst person we can lie to is ourselves if we want to make a difference.
Well then, sometimes the truth hurts but there’s no denying its importance.
So, there you are: I am learning to handle the truth and to be truthful in person, not just in writing. Tell me, as far as your experiences go, can you handle the truth?