Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finding Your Zen

Breathe, relax, breathe...listen to the sound of water falling gently over your career.

It's been this sort of a month. The sort that has me thinking a lot about bad behavior and what drives people to thoroughly forget how not to be a douchebag, author-wise or not. Usually I blame lack of parenting, but that's probably because I'm a parent and, considering the prevalence of blatant rudeness today, I suspect not every jackass on the street was raised in an orphanage. Some of them must have had parents who told them to say please and thank you, to respect others and to treat people the way they wanted to be treated.

So where did it go wrong? In an effort to not sound totally hypocritical, I looked at my own behavior, good and bad, and it seems to me that most nastiness (yes, I have a lot of it) is the direct product of stress, pressure, other words, badly managed anxiety. Basically, when I get all "yell-y" it's because I need to get my Zen on. Breathe....and exhale.

Trying to get published, sell books, write books, write more books is a seriously stressful process. I'm not justifying bad behavior, nor am I going to advise rushing out to take a meditation class, buy some crystals and go on a retreat (okay, I like all those things, but this is not the place for it.) Since I like to believe that people are inherently trying their best, it helps me sleep easier at night to think that the douche-y-ness is accidental. With that in mind, I do think a little relax and breathe might go a long way toward combating bad behavior. In fact, I'd wager a deep breath can diffuse a lot of unpleasantness, and related to writer's business, I can think of a few tips to keep things calm and friendly-like.

1- Kill the pressure. The world will not end if you don't become a famous writer today. Your world won't even end. If your story gets rejected, if no one buys the book, if no one reads the book, or even the next book, nothing significantly horrid is going to happen. (I have to remind myself this when I'm trying to finish a book. If it doesn't happen, there will be no flooding and destruction, honest.)

2- Refuse self-imposed deadlines. There is and always will be another chance tomorrow. And the next day, and really, pretty much every day you have in your future. Nothing ever has to happen "this second."

3- Engage perspective. We all love books, reading, writing, publishing, story-telling. It's awesome, yes. But if we get honest, it's not life and death. It's not really, honestly all that important. That might rile up a lot of folks who love books, and I do too, but if the meteor was on its way and we were looking at our last few moments, I seriously hope you'd all rush to be with loved ones and family, not pick up a good book and kick back. Okay, maybe you would. I'm not judging, but any way you slice it, keeping your perspective helps attitude. This is fun. It's art. It is not survival, love, family, etc.

4-Eliminate Should. A therapist taught me this, so it has to be true, right? Should is an evil word. Taking it out of your vocabulary, in particular your self-dialogue, makes for a lot happier existence. Should has a tendency to carry implied shame with it. I should have been done already. I should have sold more copies. They should have accepted that. I should be farther along by now. Nothing that starts with "I should" can do you much good. (Unless it's, I should stop now and go get a big ol bowl of chocolate ice cream.)

5-Your navel might be the center of the universe, but so is mine. I like to ponder this just to freak myself out, in particular when I'm feeling very important. Go someplace really crowded and look around. Every single one of the people you see FEELS exactly as significant as you do. Their lives feel equally important to them. Their worries, their joys, their experience. When you deal with anyone, editors, readers other authors, reviewers, etc. remember that. Their opinion, to them, has the same weight that yours does. In fact, in their universe, they are the central player. You can't be the main character in someone else's story.

Personally, I wouldn't want to. I have enough trouble breathing through my own anxiety. The point is, relax about it. Relax about everything. Just relax. You'll probably be nicer, better behaved, and maybe a little healthier and happier too.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post. Now I want to see a cartoon of a meteor humming down to earth and someone stomping over their family to get to the library. "My BOOKS!"


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