As writers, we struggle with many aspects of our career that we don’t have control over. We can’t make agents or editors like our story. We can’t force readers to buy our books. We can’t will our way to success.
So we’re always faced with lots of uncertainty no matter what we do. Add in the worries of life, family, day job, etc., and anxiety can surround us.
That’s a problem, as anxiety can make it hard to concentrate, tap into the writing groove, or feel creative at all. So what can we do to not let our worries hold us back?
Christina Delay’s here to help me out during NaNoWriMo, and she’s sharing her insights from her past year of struggles and how she’s learned to move forward despite her worries. We can’t avoid the issue of not being in control, but maybe we can reach a point of not letting our anxiety about our situation get in our way.
Please welcome Christina Delay! *smile*
Lessons from a Year of Forced Growth
by Christina Delay
At the end of 2016, my critique partner and I made a promise to each other. 2017 was going to be our year. We were going to take 2017 by storm, things were going to go our way; publishing contracts, personal success, all the things we’d lined up over the years were going to finally fall into place in 2017.
What happened instead was a year of, what I like to call, “forced growth.”
Can You Relate to “What Doesn’t Kill Us…”?
I don’t know if we can blame 2017 on Mercury, Trump, or El Niño, but I’m not the only person I know to experience a year of forced growth.
Just a quick breakdown of my year:
- 22 editor rejections between two different manuscripts
- A surprise pregnancy (which, awesome! But also, ack!)
- Cancer in the family… round #4
- Pregnancy complications which included the words “Each New Week is a Win”
- Taking a newborn home the day Hurricane Harvey hits Houston, then watching floodwaters rise and rise to less than five blocks away in one of the hardest hit communities in Houston
- Managing a writing cruise departing from Galveston, three weeks after Hurricane Harvey and the day Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida.
If you can believe it, there’s more, but I’m going to stop there at risk of sounding like I’m whining. I’m not. It’s been not just a hard year, but an anxious year.
Anxious? Don't miss these 6 lessons on how to write through it. Click To TweetI’d love to say I handled each of these moments with grace and maturity. *snort*
But I did learn. And hopefully, if you’ve had a year like I’ve had, or if you’re experiencing moments of anxiety because of NaNoWriMo or rejections on manuscripts you’ve poured your heart into or personal tragedies or personal attacks, maybe some of the lessons I’ve learned will come in handy for you too.
6 Lessons on Overcoming (or at least Working Through) Anxiety
Lesson #1: Breathe and Count to Ten
It seems simple, but the benefits of deep breathing have been well studied and documented.
- Feeling stressed? Breathing deep releases endorphins into your system to help you better handle the stressors.
- Feeling pain? Those endorphins also act as a painkiller.
- Feeling angry? Breathing and counting to ten gives you a momentary respite, allowing you to keep your cool and think more clearly.
- Feeling panicked? Breathing deep helps you to remain grounded.
Another technique to release stress is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation which, when done properly, is more relaxing than a day at the spa, and cheaper too.
Lesson #2: Ask Yourself “What’s the Worst that Can Happen?” and “What’s the Probability of that Happening?”
This one’s hard, and it may not work for everyone or in every situation.
For example: I played this game with the writing cruise. What’s the worst that could happen? The cruise line cancels the cruise, refunds everyone’s money plus gives them a credit for the inconvenience, and we reschedule.
See, not so bad. When I looked at the probability of the worst happening, I realized my super-high level of worry wasn’t reasonable to the reality and facts being presented.
I did not play this game with the pregnancy complications. The worst was too horrible, and too easy to imagine, and the probability too high.
Lesson #3: Lean into Your Belief System
Whatever your beliefs are, these are the moments to lean on them. And be honest.
I prayed many times about my specific worries. I got angry. I cried. But talking it out, leaning into my belief system, brought me comfort and peace in my worst moments.
And hey, let’s face it. This writing gig is a tough career choice, and it requires a great amount of faith in the future and belief in yourself.
Lesson #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Be Vulnerable
I tend to shut myself off from my support system when I’m going through crap. I don’t want to bother anyone with my troubles.
But what I learned this year is I’m not bothering anyone. Neither are you.
It’s okay to show people that you’re going through a tough time. If you don’t, how can they support you? And when we cut ourselves off, that isolation has the tendency to make everything seem way bigger than it is.
Vulnerability is a good thing. A scary thing, but a good thing. Rejection stings, but talking it over with your support group and hearing their stories can take the sting away.
Lesson #5: Practice Gratitude
This one is hard when you’re in the thick of it, but it has the wonderful ability to help refocus your energy.
- When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, think of three things you are grateful for. Be specific. Make each a statement:
“I’m thankful for my daughter and her creative spirit. I’m thankful for sleeping through the night and feeling rested. I’m thankful for the abundance of chocolate in my house.”
- When you find yourself on the worry wheel, think of three new things you are grateful for.
Gratitude is powerful, and focusing on what we are thankful for helps us to see that what we are worried about isn’t the only thing we have going on in our lives.
Lesson #6: It Will Be Okay
I know what you’re thinking. Sure, it’s okay until it’s not.
Okay, yes, true. But, the truth is, you’ll either find a new normal, or your worries will pfft go away.
The main thing I’ve learned this year is no matter how bad things seemed to get, my anxiety level was always higher than what actually happened. And you know what? Me worrying my way through this year didn’t change a thing.
It was going to happen as it happened, and all that anxiety did was make it worse. By the time the hurricane hit this year, I’d reached the level of it’s going to be okay. And if it’s not, we’ll get through it. We will get through it.
My critique partner and I have figured out what we did wrong at the end of last year. We asked 2017 to be our year. But 2018? We’re not asking anymore. 2018 is ours.
About Christina Delay:
Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and an award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she’s not cruising the Caribbean, she’s dreaming up new writing retreats to take talented authors on or writing the stories of the imaginary people that live in her heart.
About Cruising Writers:
Cruising Writers brings aspiring authors together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor together on writing retreats. Cruise with us to Grand Cayman next October with Kristen Lamb (Bestselling Author and Marketing Jedi), Rachel Caine (Bestselling Author of 50+ books), Deidre Knight (The Knight Agency), and Alex Sehulster (St. Martin’s Press).
Thank you, Christina! I can certainly relate to your year of “forced growth,” so I really appreciate your insights here.
Christina’s Lesson #2 is the one I most need to work on. I tend to worry about every little thing, and as Christina said, the “worst that could happen” usually doesn’t justify my level of anxiety. (As my family reminds me before we leave for a trip, “There are stores where we’re going, so it’s not a big deal if we forget to pack something.” *grin*)
Even if some of the really bad things I’ve worried about did happen, they still wouldn’t be the end of the world. Would they be awful and destructive to my current life? Absolutely. But they’d also eventually become, as Christina put it, “my new normal,” and then I could move forward from there.
Worries about things we can’t control just waste our energy. Worse, they prevent us from focusing on what we can do. *smile*
Have you ever experienced a period of “forced growth”? How did it affect you? Has anxiety ever gotten in your way? Will these lessons help? Do you have any questions for Christina?Pin It