There is a tricky situation that occurs in the lives of writers. To people who are not engaged in some kind of similar creative pursuit, explaining a difficult day can be met with expressions of disbelief. “You mean sitting in your seat and typing words was hard? Exhausting? Really?”
These people may also not understand why the words of others can hurt, whether that hurt was intentional or not. It can be anything from a bad review to a critique from a well-meaning colleague or beta reader that can make us doubt, stall, quit.
I’ve been on a bit of a Brené Brown kick lately. Okay, I gave away nearly a dozen copies of her Daring Greatly, have been listening to every talk I can get my hands on, and recount key points almost daily to my very patient husband. Most recently, I’ve been listening to The Power of Vulnerability, which has been great because it is a live recording of Brené and I get to hear that she is a lot like me in her resilience to this whole open and honest thing.
But it has got me thinking quite a bit about what it might mean to be a whole-hearted writer. To start with, these are the guideposts she suggests of whole-hearted living:
- Practice Authenticity
- Find Self-Compassion
- Cultivate Resilience
- Build Gratitude, Joy, And Sufficiency
- Trust Your Intuition and Faith
- Foster Creativity
- Protect Your Play and Rest
- Don’t Fear Calm and Stillness
- Pursue Meaningful Work
- Laugh, Sing, And Dance
(there’s a great visual of these you can print and/or color here)
While writers may be some of the most generous people I’ve ever met, we are also, by necessity of our craft, hyper-aware of the world around us. That is great when it comes creating characters and stories and settings and plots, but it’s less than great when the business and real world side of writing comes trickling out. To get a quick overview of where you might stand as a whole-hearted writer, consider how you’d respond in the following situations:
- Someone signed with an agent after you and got a good book deal before you.
- People who are not now (and probably never will be) writers ask why you aren’t done with a book yet.
- You find an error in the final final copy of your book.
- You are at a conference when an agent/editor says another genre is growing faster than the one you are currently writing.
- You send out another batch of queries or go on submission.
- You are told that is the cover for your book, thanks but no thanks to your offer for additional feedback.
- You are presented with a publishing deal that is not quite what you were hoping for with a company you aren’t sure is a good match.
- A call to your agent or editor goes unanswered. Two calls. Three calls. And emails.
- Someone who writes a similar genre to yours had their book sell in several foreign countries.
- A writer shares their victory in completing 10,000 words in a day.
- Every week, you come across an article that undercuts your genre or mentions that the interest toward what you are passionate about is fading.
What was your response? Did you feel shame or unworthiness even though the situation was hypothetical? Did you want to hide, dismiss what you were genuinely feeling, or downplay the stress that was very tangible and very real? Could you envision yourself squaring your shoulders, bringing out your greatest attitude and showing “them” that you weren’t affected?
In these kinds of situations when we feel like something we hold dear, something we are working on or through is being attacked, Brené Brown suggests the following mantra:
Do not shrink.
Do not puff up.
Stand my sacred ground.
Is your writing sacred? Is your writing time? Do you allow yourself to acknowledge that people may not understand or do you feel the necessity to downplay what you are passionate about because it is entirely possible that explanation won’t change the opinion or someone else, or worse, will give them the excuse to think even less about your passion than they already do?
Do you have the courage to put out a piece of work that is honestly and truly the best you could do, knowing there is a decent chance it will be attacked in some way by someone? Do you have the courage to respond with grace and conviction, to acknowledge there was a mistake and you and your work might not be perfect? Do you really feel better when you belittle the person who left the review, gave the advice, passed you on the career path?
The greatest takeaway from all this is that being whole-hearted IS NOT EASY. But when compared with living a life that is detached, false, insincere or unfulfilled, I bet it’s the option where most of us would really like to spend a little more time.
How have you practiced being whole-hearted? What tips or tricks have you learned when your first instinct is to respond in a way you may regret later? _________________________________________
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she also serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.