Yesterday on Mina Khan’s blog, I talked about the strategies I use to cope with the vicissitudes of the writing life. I thought I’d expand a little on one of my strategies: envisioning my setbacks as brick walls to climb over. In my guest post, I gave this advice for setbacks:
When I come across a setback (rejections), I picture that I’ve just hit a solid wall along with many others on the same journey. Then I picture myself scaling it and getting to the other side so I can keep going. It also helps to know that many don’t do this and they’re milling around at that wall too afraid to climb over, etc, BUT I also make sure when I see someone else I know hit that wall that I lend a helping hand to help them over, whether it’s words of encouragement or an offer to critique. The sad truth is, many writers give up way too early and don’t keep going forward.
This garnered the most comments, and so I thought I’d expand the analogy a bit here to talk about it as a great coping mechanism. I can’t take credit for the visualization, though. I first saw it mentioned by agent Rachelle Gardner, in her post What’s Your Brick Wall? She in turn had heard about it from Randy Pausch who talked about brick walls as obstacles to achieving childhood dreams and wrote that these walls ”stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” It resonated with her, because she’s often the brick wall to writers and their dream of being published. She said:
Each time I become the brick wall… each time an author crashes into my “no,” they are forced to reckon with their own dreams. They have to ask themselves once again, “How badly do I want it?” That can’t be a bad thing, right?
Thankfully, I read this post before I started the agenting process and it truly helped me, not only with that phase, but any time I had a writing setback. I cannot stress enough how much it truly helped to picture this. Honest-to-God picture it. As in, visualize it. See yourself hitting it, and then see yourself shaking your head, dusting yourself off, and scaling that wall. Then look around. There aren’t as many people aspiring to be writers around you, because they didn’t climb that wall! But as I said in the post yesterday, if you see a friend struggling behind a wall, lend a helping hand.
This can be taken further. That wall is only as thick and tall as you make it! Don’t let it stop you! It also could just be imagined. Is it fear making you think an obstacle is there and it really isn’t?
Do you let it define you as the writer who keeps hitting these walls at every turn and wear it as a badge of honor? And I don’t mean as one of the many aspects of our writing lives, but does this become the whole definition of you? Your excuse for not being where you want to be, and you nurse it, and point to the wall to anyone who will listen? Many aspiring writers find safety in the numbers milling around that wall and commiserate with them. But they never climb that wall, and they let that last obstacle define them. It’s fine to commiserate when you first hit that wall–lord knows it helps!!–but only aspiring writers stay there.
It’s also so apt, because often when we smack headlong into that brick wall, it can really hurt. We can feel bruised, our head can feel a bit dazed. But see it for what it is–an opportunity to go further than others have the guts to go.
Keep climbing those walls, my fellow writers!
What about you? Have you seen this analogy before and did it help? If this is new, did this post help? How else does it apply to our journey that I overlooked?