The #AtoZChallenge 2017 Theme at Operation Awesome is the Publishing Journey.
Today's guest post is by Tabitha Bird.
Healthy Minds and Healthy Writers
What ballet has to do with nurturing your creative mind.
Writers, let’s talk for a moment about ballet. Yes. Ballet. It has everything to do with nurturing your healthy mind and no, I’m not going to suggest you take up pirouettes to improve your craft.
What I am going to suggest is that being healthy writers means learning to look after our minds when we are most vulnerable. It means embracing healthy thought processes. How we nurture our minds as writers has a massive impact on the quality of our work, and also on the direction our writing journeys may take.
To write is to be vulnerable. Writing is essentially the mining of our own emotions and experiences so that we might create life on the page complete with shades of darkness as well as vibrant color. And with that kind of honesty comes an extreme amount of vulnerability. Because, unless you are content simply reading your writing to your dog, there will come a time when you will have to let that writing go. And this is where writers may struggle with nurturing their creative minds.
Submitting work means rejection, waiting, more rejection, possible hope, dashed hopes, no hope, new hope, unspeakable joy, and then wait some more. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
So let’s talk about ballet. Go with me for a minute.
Dancing scared me.
One Thursday night for the first time I took an adult ballet class at our local ballet school. And I discovered something. I could not ballet. Nope. Not at all. My feet didn’t like first position much less third or, God help me, forth. I couldn’t spin. Yes, I know there's a French name for spinning in ballet. No, I don't remember what it is. I was too busy falling down. And you know what? That wasn't okay with me.
Mental health for writers means being okay with failing.
Let’s talk honestly about our mind set around failure.
I realized that I not only wanted to ballet, I wanted to ballet well, the first time. I did not want to go through all the failing. And what happened in this class is that I didn't try very well. I was too busy worrying that I was going to fail, instead of expecting I was going to fail and moving on. I wasn’t free to fail and learn. I was caught in an unhealthy pattern of trying to avoid failure.
But the real problem? It wasn’t failing at all. It was what failing screamed at me. Failure said to me, "You suck."
Suddenly, I was not only failing at doing something but I internalized the words, “I AM a failure.”
Failure became a global statement about me. Instead of failing being an event that I could simply move past and learn from, it became a label that I couldn’t stand to wear.
No wonder I was not free to try. No wonder I was holding back and shrinking.
And writers, this mindset can follow us all the way into our own work. Our books can become a reflection of our worth or value as writers and as people, if we don’t learn to look after our mental health.
Redefining Thought Process to Look After our Mental Health.
After that dreaded ballet evening, and a few more that followed, I began redefining ‘failure.’
Thoughts to consider instead:
- I am not what I do.
- I am not what I fail to do.
- I am me. I have worth simply because I am me.
- Failure is a likely and necessary part of learning.
- Failure is not fatal unless I give up.
- Unless I give up, failure is only a point or a moment on my journey to success.
In ballet class this meant that I was a beginning ballet dancer who from that moment on was free to have a marvelous time thumping around the room and falling on the floor. Free to enjoy the process of becoming.
For us as writers failure means we are merely on the path to our success. Writer friends, if you can embrace these healthy thought processes you will be free to fail because it is necessary, inevitable and no comment whatsoever on your worth as a person or even a writer. You will be free to write that first draft, free to receive feedback on your work, to polish and submit your work, to wait on that agent who requested a full, to read rejection letters and to submit your work all over again. Free to enjoy the process of becoming.