Wednesday, February 9, 2011

State of Mind

I remember something my Dad said to me when I was a freshman in high school.  I very much wanted to be a great tennis player but somehow I couldn't get beyond mediocre, despite lessons, practice, and banging the side of our red-brick garage with my forehand swing for endless hours, breaking all the window panes on the garage windows in the process.  Of course my motivation at the time for being a decent tennis player had nothing to do with the massive crush I had on the great Swedish tennis player, Bjorn Borg. *wink*  Anyway, one hot afternoon when I was getting royally pissed off at myself, Dad said to me, "You're psyching yourself out.  You can do this.  Don't you know everything is 90% mental?"  In other words, Dad was trying to tell me that if I wanted something bad enough, I could do it.  I just needed to change my attitude.

My Dad was like that, always telling me what I needed when I needed it most.  Anything important that I've ever learned, I've learned from him.  But Dad was absolutely right: Rather than getting better at tennis, I was telling myself all the reasons why I sucked at it.  I was sabotaging my progress, whether I realized it or not.

I've had periods like that as a writer too.  When the rejections were coming in fast and furious, I let myself wallow in all the reasons why I thought my writing skills sucked.  But then I'd hear my Dad's voice somewhere in the back of my mind, and somehow I'd figure out a new way--write in a new genre, improve my craft, take another writing class, submit to different agents, publishers, etc.  Always moving forward, never backwards.  Never giving up. 

Who do you reach out to when you need a mental reality check? How do you put yourself on the right track during periods of doubt?  Bigger question: Who remembers the adorable Bjorn Borg?

14 comments:

Donna Cummings said...

This is great advice. Really great. I think it's way too easy to point out where we think we're deficient, but as you say, it doesn't improve our skills. Thanks for this--I needed this perspective today. :)

Candyland said...

I reach out to other writer friends. We all *get* it and it helps.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Bjorn Borg? It was the head band right?

Actually the blog community has been great. I had all but packed up my laptop after my last rejection letter.
You guys all showed up and had my back. Reminded me that I'm not alone. Encouraged me to keep at it. I still don't know what my path is but you guys helped me out of my self doubting ditch and I feel lucky to be a part of such a great group.

Angelina Rain said...

Great advice. Success is really a mental thing. I know this one guy who is a self proclaimed computer expert and he fixed a lot of computers for people I know (although soon after those computers would break down) and one time I took my own computer for him to fix. After he fixed it, I had to buy a new one. But other people still took their constantly breaking computers to him. I learned that it wasn’t his skill that got the clients; it was his being overly confident in his skill (or lack-of). So now, why don’t we all close our eyes and say “Million dollars, million dollars, million dollars”.

Elena Solodow said...

It's so important to work on something new, give yourself some distance from whatever's getting you down. The hardest part about querying and submitting is that you only need one person to love it, but it takes a lot of people to find the one. It's frustrating, yes, but has nothing to do with your abilities.

Nas Dean said...

Hi Liz,

This is great advice. Always moving forward, never backwards. Never giving up.

That's my mantra now. Thanks.

Liz Fichera said...

@Donna - Glad it helped! My Dad will be happy too. :-)

@Candy - Reaching out to the writer community is like reaching out to a best friend. They never let you down.

@Heather - Oh, I totally HEART his head-band. Still. Glad you haven't given up, either. You've got too much talent to give up. :-)

@Angelina - I'm still working on the million dollar part.

@Elena - So true!! All it takes is one, n'est-ce pas? ;-)

@Nas - Glad you found a new mantra! Mine for the longest time has been: "When you can't get through the front door, kick in a window." I'm pretty sure my Dad may have told me that one too.

Anne R. Allen said...

Timely advice for me. I'm going through one of those periods when I don't seem to be able to get out of my own way.

Yes, Heather. It was the headband. Of course, the rest was pretty cute, too.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Rejections are horrible. How do I survive them, and I've had lots and expect more?

I grumble (mostly to myself), but then I ask "Do you regret the time you spend/spent writing? Would you have done something different, better with it?" So far, the answer has been no. Despite the rejections, I love writing. It's become part of who I am.

And, being part of the writing/reading online community is a huge support.

Danette said...

LOL--I didn't watch a whole lot of tennis but I do remember those short shorts! And the advice is sound of course. You become your own worse enemy when all you do is tell yourself what a failure you are. Real criticism and critique is one thing but just being pissed off at yourself for being a "failure" is another. As a writer I have to be prepared to take criticism- so what if this sentence is poorly structured and needs heavy editing? It can be done! But telling myself I CAN'T write is a different thing altogether and gets me nowhere.

On the other hand, I wasted a lot of time trying to play basketball to please other people. I was lousy at it but did it because I was tall, other people expected me to and because my brothers did. I was terrible and it took a long time for someone to finally admit that I was not a good player. What a relief to finally have someone say that I was not cut out for basketball! Did I ever miss it? Not one bit!!!

Liz Fichera said...

Glad I'm not the only one who pined after Bjorn! BTW, he's still pretty cute!!

Rachael Harrie said...

Hey Liz, thanks for visiting my blog, and for your lovely comments about my Crusade! It is definitely a blast, and builds such a great network amongst the Crusaders. :)

Hugs,

Rach

Áine Tierney said...

I used to play tennis at school too - i remember a boy crying one day at being partnered with me in doubles I was so bad!
One step at a time is what helps me get through mental blocks about writing etc. But sometimes I need a push for that first step!

M Pax said...

Who can forget Bjorn?

I think back on encouragement along the way, talk to the Husband unit and some other friends. Never give up, never surrender. That's my motto. And for some reason I keep believing in myself.