Rolling with the Punches

Life taught me a great deal about rolling with the punches when dealing with the boxing match that is professional writing. I have worked on projects and plays that have tested me to my limits. Take a certain play I did in Spring 2017. It was one of the most challenging production phases on my entire career and has taught me a great deal about my resolve, my ability to improvise, my patience, and my willingness to keep moving forward.

I won’t mince words. It’d been unusually difficult mounting this production. Things have ranged from turbulent weather, scheduling conflicts, medical emergencies, flu outbreaks, actor irresponsibility, last-minute change of plans, and personal grief. So many of these things were out of my control that, for an almost compulsive planner and organizer like me, I felt completely at sea. That’s life though. Things happen. Things change. Things don’t go as planned. And sometimes the amount of “things” can be very high. It can feel like an avalanche. You start to wonder if you’re strong enough.

As I said before, that’s life. It will most likely happen to a lot of our writing careers. Rejection letters. Publishers going bankrupt. Agents quitting. Sales dropping. Contracts ending. Any number of things. Is that scary? Absolutely. Can it be overwhelming? Without a doubt. Does that mean you should–?

–Ah…but wait. What should you do? It’s something I’ve had to ask myself during the course of this production. What should I do when it got very difficult? Sure, there were times I considered quitting. I’m only human filled with human emotions. But would quitting mean that things got better? Was that actually what I wanted?

To me, the thing to help me through really rough patches in my career was to try and gain some perspective on the situation. I’d ask myself questions. Does this moment define me? Is the work I’m putting out really the pinnacle of my achievements as a writer, or do I believe I still have room to grow? (Spoiler alert: I know I have greater stories within me. I’m not perfect.) Could I let go of any of the feeling of responsibility I held for some these events? Well, I can’t control the weather or a flu outbreak or unexpected tragedy. So that lightens my emotional load just a little. I’m gaining perspective.

It’s not going to be easy. No one said it would be. So if you find yourself overloaded with stress about all these changes–whether by misadventure, deliberate malice, or just plain old bad luck–stop and breathe. Close your eyes. Ask yourself these questions. Will this moment define you as a writer? Or is there more to you than just a run of misfortune? What will it be? Gain perspective on life, and thereby gain perspective on yourself and your work. Things happen, but that’s life. And living is one of the most rewarding and most frightening experiences we can do.

To quote my hero–Agatha Christie: “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

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