Resilient Writing

According to Psycology Today: Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise.

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make a person resilient, such as a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Research shows that optimism helps blunt the impact of stress on the mind and body in the wake of disturbing experiences. And that gives people access to their own cognitive resources, enabling cool-headed analysis of what might have gone wrong and consideration of behavioral paths that might be more productive.

Resilience is not some magical quality; it takes real mental work to transcend hardship. But even after misfortune, resilient people are able to change course and move toward achieving their goals. There’s growing evidence that the elements of resilience can be cultivated.

Writers are no strangers to adversity in their work process. Yes, I called it work. In our aspirations of getting it right, the art and craft called writing becomes work, at some point. This is the reality which can cause ‘some’ beginning writers to either give up, eventually, or never complete any of their endless stream project ideas.

Truth is, most will do both, but instead of completing the ‘giving up’, hanging on to the suffering artist identity – in FB writing groups talking and complaining about writing, but not actually doing it.

I understand it because coming up with cool story ideas is fun. Thinking of the perfect book title is entertaining and important – like naming a baby. Creating or even “interviewing” potential characters is a heck of a good time. And writing those first few creative, worry-free storytelling pages, pure delight to the imagination.

But when the cogs of logic begin to connect with the wheel of creativity,  you realize there is a bit more to this whole writing thing than your free spirited flights of fancy first realized. This thing called writing is more than flowery rambling that magically turns into something noteworthy, it actually needs to have cohesion, needs to make sense and take the reader to interesting places in their heads.

Once this realization strikes we need to learn how to bounce back. A portion of us will by forging a new and determined path, buckling down day after day with the full intent of writing a story from beginning to end. Sounds like a pretty simple thing to do and it would be, if we were robots. Instead we are human beings existing in a time of fast and furious data streaming from phones and computer screens into our brains, everything instantly changing and drawing our attention from one thing to the next in a click and a flash. We all seem to suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, these days. It’s a wonder we can focus on anything longer than five minutes. Our only hope for a writing future is to build the foundation of writing resilience.

But how?

First, we must know what, or rather who, our writing adversary is. At the very core, the villain of your writing struggle is you. Subconsciously, you will be sabotaging yourself much of the time you are trying to write.

The good news is you can also be your own hero by strengthening your resolve and reinforcing your efforts against the onslaught of frivolous distractions and negative input that will work to tear down your ability to write and drag you out of the writing zone by the hair.

There is no one perfect anecdote in your quest for writing success but there are some strategies that can help. My tactic is through proactively diminishing my probability of sabotage. By acknowledging the existence of certain types of writing pitfalls, consciously preparing or circumventing them, it is possible to learn to improve focus and potentially rebound more quickly if they do occur. They will not hold an unexpected power over you.

1) Plan to write. If you can, look ahead in your daily or weekly schedule and identify open windows of writing opportunity. When “free time” crops up, have some kind of writing tool at the ready and get to it. It might be easier and more fun to take a nap, scroll social media, or play candy crush than to figure out how to have your hero escape an eight-foot, bullet proof swamp monster, but it is also never going to make you an author. So, set a word count goal and give yourself the nap as a reward once you’ve earmed it.

Getting organized is a super idea that helps. The ringing of the new year has brought with it a hubbub of advice about creating your perfect writing space and having all the pretty colored markers, slickers and post-its. Purchasing special calendars, journals, and supersonic laptops. Others will even post beautiful images of their wonderfully staged, picture perfect, writing spaces and tra-la-la tools and accessories (oh, don’t forget the perfectly placed cup of coffee and the cat!) Oh, that stuff isn’t going to make you a writer. Don’t buy into it or you will be sitting in a corner crying. Do not set yourself up for failure by believing that romantic b.s. Great writing can and is being done everywhere you can imagine and not always comfortably!

2) Write down the basics. There’s no faster way to get stuck in writing quicksand than not to have a vision of where you want the story to go or how the characters will move through it. You will eventually lose interest in your fantastic story idea or become overwhelmed and frustrated with it, if you don’t develop a baseline.

That being said, I am not very good at developing highly detailed or strict plot outlines. I do like to have an idea of the beginning and ending of the story with several scene ideas jotted down, adding more as I progress. You can create your story map or outline as fully detailed as you like, but leave some space for the creative river to take you to fun and surprising places too.

Write some solid background notes about who your characters are to help them become more real, more human. They should possess an interest, two core values, one character flaw, a strength/power and a goal. Don’t spend too much time on looks or clothing, just enough so your reader gets the gist.

Recommend getting a copy of:

Save the Cat Writes a Novel.

13 Steps to Evil (Sacha Black).

10 Steps to Hero (Sacha Black)

3) Ignore your inner critic. This is the mean little voice inside your head who says your first draft is crap. Of course it is crap! It’s a crazy, squirmy, mind dump of story scenes, dialogue, descriptions and characters. Your mission is to write the basic first draft of the story, beginning to end. It will be messy and full of flaws. Later, you will go back and start to make it prettier, stronger and faster. Kind of like building your own personal bionic woman or six million dollar man! (Never mind) Anyway, it’s like building a being of some kind, starting with putting together the bones, then adding the tendons, ligaments. Beefing it up with some muscle and a touch of juicy fat (not too much) and smoothing it out, tightening it up with a layer of cohesive skin. Later, adding the pretty frills, curls and lipstick.

It will take several edits to bring your darling to life just the way you want it. Your inner critic will be yapping at you the entire time, tempting you to give up. You must find the strength to stuff them in a box, slam it shut and lock it.

4) Share with care. Writing your book will be so exciting that you may become overwhelmed by the desire to share it with others. I have witnessed a lot of heartache suffered among writers sharing either too soon (before their work is polished) or sharing with the wrong people (negative influencers). The problem is we often cannot easily identify when our work still needs work or who the wrong people to share with are.

The best and safest route to take is to find beta readers (interested in reading your type of story/genre). If they are good betas they can give you some very helpful feedback about your story and even identify any problems you may not have noticed yourself after not only writing it but reading through it a hundred times. Getting this type of unbiased feedback will be far less crushing and more relevant than letting your mom and sister read your work only to tell you that it sucks or “you’ll never make money writing that kind of trash”. Ouch. Hard bounce back.

5) Keep learning. To be okay, to good, to a great writer requires being a student all your life. The day you think you have learned everything is the day you have failed. So, bounce back up and go read a book. No matter what you chose to read, you are bound to learn something that will benefit your writing in some way.

Being a writer is a wonderful thing, which realistically is hard work as it is rewarding and fun. It takes determination. It takes passion. It takes pushing through and typing words on the page no matter how hard it is. We must battle against the negativity of our own minds and the words of other people bringing us down instead of supporting us.

But remember, even if something you write really is a stink bomb, it is only the beginning of something better. Get up and write again, because you are a real writer, a creator, and simply can not, will not, waste that fire inside of you.

Keep bouncing,


2 thoughts on “Resilient Writing

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  1. I am a very old (in age) aspiring writer who has taken six different writing classes, watched more that I can count Youtube videos and read all the books on writing from our small, very small town library. The one overwhelming and hardest advice from all these learning avenues is “Write, Write, Write.” The best writing that I have come up with are very short stories. Usually about my youth on my Grandfathers farm or my time in the Army stationed oversees in Germany during the Viet Nam war. I liked your article and it was filled with lot of useful advice I just would like to put some of the at advice into practice. Your style of writing is very informative and I liked the way you presented your thoughts and ideas. I clicked the follow button and I hope to read more of your posts.

    1. Thank you for stopping in to read my article, Hal. I agree with you that the biggest drum banging about writing is to “write, write, write!”. For the most part, it is a truth. Writers write. But we also need to shift gears and take time doing things that enrich or inspire us. It sounds like you have some interesting experiences to share! Thank you for following🙂

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