“How’s the book coming along?” (Alt: “When will you be done with that thing?”)
“Why don’t you just sit down over a weekend and just finish it?”
“You should write like Stephen King!”
“You should put a vampire in it!”
“Why don’t you just go on [popular TV show]?” And, the ever popular,
“When are you going to get a real job?”
These are the kinds of (often, but not always) well-meaning questions, comments, and conjectures that bedevil writers. A little planning can help a lot in terms of coping, however. Below are strategies for: (a) increasing your tolerance for difficult questions; (b) maintaining conversational boundaries; and (c) dealing with hostility.
In a 2012 interview with Guy Raz of Weekend All Things Considered Chabon said that he writes from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. each day, Sunday through Thursday. He tries to write 1,000 words a day. Commenting on the rigidity of his routine, Chabon said, “There have been plenty of self-destructive rebel-angel novelists over the years, but writing is about getting your work done and getting your work done every day. If you want to write novels, they take a long time, and they’re big, and they have a lot of words in them…. The best environment, at least for me, is a very stable, structured kind of life.”
However, the effect is true only if it’s an avatar customized by you to look like yourself. I’m guessing that’s because, in the process of interacting with your virtual doppelganger, you’re also identifying yourself with that online persona and getting invested in the outcome. One can therefore reasonably speculate that perfectionists, who tend to overidentify with their work and get overinvested in their outcomes, are literally creating for themselves more of an uphill climb!
And the clever researchers, Sangseok You and S. Shyam Sundar, managed to demonstrate that literally. Welcome to the fascinating future, where we’ll see a lot more actual testing and quantification and delineation of heretofore untestable psychological, philosophical, and even historical precepts, thanks to virtual reality! Read more
*note also the catastrophizing: Fern imagining the event as being disastrous. (In fact, imagining Shakespeare attending your reading and dissing you is some world-class catastrophizing! I’m actually a bit worried about the writer who came up with that script!)
If I were Fern’s mom, I would remind her that:
She’s written many wonderful stories, and will no doubt write many more: that no one story is very important, even if it happens to be heard by a famous writer.
Most writers follow the same path: that everyone was a beginner once, and that most people find it hard to show their work, especially to strangers, and especially to more “important” people who might judge them.
That she’s not just a writer, but a wonderful person who has a lot of other interests and accomplishments.
That this will only be one interesting event out of many, in many arenas, in her life.
That, regardless of the outcome of the reading, I will continue to love and respect and admire her as much as ever.
I would also encourage her to have fun writing her story and not worry about how it will be received. But if she is anxious about the event, I would work with her to help her create options for herself. Maybe she can ask the teacher if she can:
Read a prior work she feels confident about.
Read an excerpt from the story instead of the whole thing.
Have the teacher read her story.
Have other kids read their work as well. (Takes the pressure off her as the soloist, and creates lovely opportunities for the others.)
Not read at all.
How about it, parents! Did I get it right? Did I leave anything out? How would you support your kid if she or he were in Fern’s situation?
So…check out this video of a mother duck forcing her ducklings to jump down a high ledge onto a concrete walkway:
Ouch! I found it painful to watch.
The Mom Duck is just doing her thing, but I’ve seen similar videos where a kindly bystander finds a plank or other mechanism to give the baby ducks safe passage. (Some perfectionists, and I’m not kidding, would call that “cheating.”) Here the bystanders don’t, and I wish they had.
Whenever you witness yourself or someone else being disempowered try to create additional options. Read more
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