Friday, October 12, 2012

How Not to Become a Literary Dropout, Part 8

  One word of caution: never let writing become your path to bitterness. There are thousands and thousands of other writers out in the world. Some are going to become more successful than you, however one measures success. Some are going to be less successful than you. Some are going to get where they’re going faster than you. It’s easy to grit your teeth at the success of writers whose work you don’t admire that much.
But it’s a short step from there to becoming the literary version of the Grinch, to feeling neglected, underappreciated, and ignored. Feelings like that can overwhelm your literary life, and make the thing you love so much—writing—become the source of your greatest gall. But I believe that writing should never become your path to bitterness.
How can you prevent this? It’s not always easy. For one thing, you should celebrate your own moments of triumph, even your small triumphs.
If you’ve given yourself a writing assignment or set yourself a writing goal, and you’ve completed part of it to your satisfaction, even a first draft, enjoy that moment. Give yourself a virtual pat on the back. Pause to enjoy that accomplishment. Then get down to the hard work of revising.
If you get a poem or a story or an essay accepted by a publication, that is an event worth celebrating. Tell someone. Eat a favorite sweet. Jump up in the air.
If you get a book accepted, do all of the above and break out the champagne, or whatever you consume to mark an incredibly special day.
If you’re lucky enough to get nominated for a literary prize and there is an awards ceremony associated with the prize, do everything you can to attend the ceremony, even if it’s on the other side of the country.
Make sure your own successes are sufficiently marked so you feel rewarded, acknowledged, valued, fulfilled, and energized.
When you do a reading, face the audience. Look individuals in the eye. Take in fully their appreciation of your work. When your reading is done, make eye contact with the audience. Acknowledge the applause. Bow. Smile. Do not sit down or leave the podium until the applause starts to subside. Make sure it registers on your consciousness, and on the audience, that you have understood their appreciation. When you receive positive comments afterwards, savor them, the way you would a slice of dark chocolate torte, one morsel at a time.
The more deeply you feel appreciated as a writer, the easier it is to empathize with the success of other writers, and to share and enjoy their successes with them, and to praise your peers.
We’re still human, we’re still going to feel jealousy, but if taken in the context of gratitude for a career as a writer, those jealous moments become more comic than tragic.

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