Vision: A Resource f

 Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


It's Okay to Grieve

By Darwin A. Garrison
Darwin A. Garrison

Friends who write are wonderful creatures.  I happen to be blessed with one particular writing friend who possesses an ability to kick-start my brain (with hobnail boots, yet).

One of those kick-started pocket-epiphanies occurred recently during an on-line chat.  The realization stunned me so much that I thought I should share it as a snapshot object lesson on the reality of writing.

As I saw it, I had been experiencing some trouble putting together anything resembling decent prose. Of course, I am not a true professional yet, but I like to think that writing is one of my "natural" skills that has been polishing up nicely. Still, several months had passed since I had been able to string words together in anything resembling what I consider my "normal" mode. 

The situation did not feel like a case of writer's block. Rather, I seemed to view everything that hit the screen as lackluster and stodgy, obviously second-rate.  So, I found myself pouring out my troubles to my friend.

During the course of conversation, I tossed off a comment about feeling a lack of confidence since one of my submissions came back with a "thanks for trying" rejection. Now, I know that rejections are a necessary part of the game, and that taking them in stride is required if you are going to be a writer of any sort. The fact is, I thought I had handled it pretty well considering that, in my opinion, the story had been a better than average effort.

However, as my friend and I chatted, her probing questions made me realize something: I had suppressed my disappointment.

There were a couple of things that ran through my head at that point. One is another published writer friend's rule for rejection: you get 24 hours to be mad/mourn after a rejection, then it's back in the saddle, but those 24 hours are for being unreasonable, not for rationalization and "moving on." The other is a saying of Colin Powell's: "Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it."

Frankly, we all have heard expressed the dual reality that rejections happen and rejections hurt. You see it on all the writing boards and both published authors as well as aspiring authors say it all the time. Still, the temptation is to deceive yourself and say, "I can take it. It's all part of the game. A rejection of a story isn't a rejection of me." We try to accept the realistic necessity of receiving rejections but deny that those inanimate notices can cause us grief.

Thing is, though, our stories are reflections of who we are. We use our memories and experiences, our morals and ideologies, as well as our professional skills to create them. Plus that little extra, the inevitable part of "me," that we inject to create a real and engrossing tale.

With all that we as writers put in, is it any wonder that having it tossed back in our face can be a crushing experience?

In my case, I denied the pain, but my confidence wavered. I quit working on the collaboration with my friend, and other than a few paragraphs here or there, left writing behind. I no longer trusted my own judgment. The feeling of lingering inadequacy began to infect other parts of my life. My view of other efforts began to take on a decidedly negative tinge.

In hindsight, I should have allowed myself that magical 24 hour grieving period. I should have yelled, growled, and been a complete grouch about it. The feelings I had needed to be acknowledged and vented. Instead, I clamped down on them and they festered.

So, the lesson becomes "it's okay to grieve," with the added caveat of "for 24 hours." I am sure there are lots of folks out there with stacks of rejections who will poo-poo such a sentiment but I see it as a therapeutic necessity if I am to keep the flame burning at all.

As an addendum, please note that being grouchy, loud, and angry is not everyone's prescription for the 24 hours. Some folks need quiet time, tears, and chocolate. Some need exercise. The actual reaction depends on the individual. The key, I think, is to openly acknowledge the disappointment, and allow yourself to experience it; but at the end of 24 hours you move on. Like all things positive and healthy, the key is moderation.

And maybe a ready supply of Kleenex or a handy punching bag.  Ooh, lookie!  Chocolate!