Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mental Preparation—Or, Expecting the Worst

blog98 Right now, even as I type, we’re having our upstairs and downstairs a/c systems replaced, along with our furnace.

In my blissful ignorance, I thought this wasn’t that complex of a job. Actually, I don’t think I thought anything much about it at all. I was a little surprised when I heard that it was going to take Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to do the job…but I didn’t really think about the why behind the length of the job.

Then, a few days ago, I spoke to a friend of mine and mentioned the upcoming work. “Ohhh,” she said. “That was the craziest, most invasive thing I’ve ever had to go through when we had ours replaced. They were in every room of the house and the garage and attic, too! It took days and they kept running into problems during the installation.”

This was an eye-opener.

So when the guys showed up Wednesday morning and were in and out the door with all kinds of materials for the HVAC installation, I had the cats squirreled away in a quiet place where they wouldn’t be too freaked out. When they ended up having to take the attic door off because the new furnace was too big to go through the door, I wasn’t too surprised. When I was told the upstairs wouldn’t have any air conditioning Wednesday night, I had the downstairs bedroom ready for us to sleep in.

So far, the process feels like it’s going pretty smoothly—even when it’s not—because I’m prepared for the possible outcomes.

This same approach works well for writing, too. I think, sometimes, when we prepare ourselves for rejection or criticism or bumpy spots in our manuscripts or writer’s block then when it happens (as it inevitably does if we write for a long while) that it’s easier to deal with.

We’re still going through the bad patch…but we’re better equipped to deal with it because it’s not a surprise.

Jody Hedlund, who writes an excellent blog under her name, wrote a post Wednesday called “The Pain of Rejection Never Gets Easier.” She’s right—it doesn’t…whether it comes from agents, publishers, editors, readers, or reviewers.

But I think we can steel ourselves against it a little. And while we’re at it, we can also expect that there will be places in our manuscript where the muse will give us the silent treatment. There’s a point, obviously, where this attitude becomes pessimism, but I think I’m one of those people who likes to be pleasantly surprised instead by good news instead of sucker-punched by the bad stuff.

How do you prepare yourself for problems—whether they’re bad writing days, manuscript rejections, or poor reviews?