Oftentimes, when things don't work out as planned, when we're sidetracked by some unanticipated event in our life, when the work itself presents obstacles we hadn't expected, we need to fall back upon our resilience. It's not a question of "if" you'll get stuck, but "when." And then an even more important question. What will you do to get unstuck, to get out of the quagmire?
I sit and think, reflecting on the obstacles in front of me and how to overcome them. Next, I go for a long walk and reflect, boosting my energy and re-framing my problem-solving perspective. If none of that works, I start talking to friends and family on the phone. I'll tell them what I'm trying to do, and what's getting in the way. If things are really bad, I arrange lunch meetings (of course I pick up the tab, they are helping me).
I'm lucky enough -- actually, it's not luck but the result of careful and constant nurturing -- to have good, smart, and caring friends who help me when I need it (and vice versa -- you need to help others to get help). Nearly always, the intervention of an objective third-party/friend (not the writer, not the client) does the trick and breaks the creative logjam.
Sometimes, by just allowing me to talk through what's happening, my friends solve the problem. They reflect back what I'm saying and ask me a few simple questions. Can you approach that in a different way? Have you considered moving that part or eliminating it? Do you really need that for the story? They help me re-map my journey, circumnavigating the obstacle that had blocked me before.
All creative professionals, and all people, need to develop resilience. No matter how brilliant, rich, smart, beautiful, deserving, generous, etc. you are, you WILL face obstacles that have the potential to harm you and the work you do. I often say that the most essential tool in any creative professional's toolbox isn't talent (talent is everywhere, actually) or "potential" (ex-Patriots head coach Bill Parcells used to say, "potential means you haven't done it yet, and might never"). It's the ability to overcome obstacles as they arise, i.e., resilience.
As I mentioned before, I have a process that helps me develop resilience. I do self-reflection while sitting. I go outside and walk in nature. I listen to birds or meditate or do things to empty my brain of the problem I'm confronting, I talk to friends about the issue. I also try to ask myself "what's at stake here?" and "what's the price of failure?" If not much is at stake and the cost of failure is low, I take my best shot to solve the problem and then simply move on. Life is too short to get lost in unimportant issues, like chasing a nickel into a quagmire. Why do that?
Develop resilience in your own way, dear reader, but you'll need it to succeed in anything in life. Not just at writing, but at work, at relationships, at parenting, at moments when times are toughest. My favorite people aren't the most talented, but the most determined and resilient ones. Grit may be the single most undervalued and most essential keys to success in life.
How do you react when you face obstacles, creatively or otherwise, dear reader? How do you develop your resilience? Share below . . .