What Is Your Dejection Plan?

It’s Bookmarkable Friday Saturday!

As someone who does creative work, how do you handle inevitable periods of dejection?

  • Write your way through it?
  • Ignore it until it goes away?
  • Re-visit your goals?
  • Focus on gratitude?
  • Sit with the feeling in a mindful way?
  • Take some planned time off (different from giving up in exasperation)?
  • Seek advice or encouragement from a writing buddy or group?

While all of the above strategies have worked for me at one time or another, for this week’s Bookmarkable suggestion, I want to share just one link that is, in my opinion, the best Dejection Plan ever: Literary Citizenship, a guest post by Cathy Day for Rebecca Rasmussen’s blog, The Bird Sisters.

photo of book mosaicCathy is a creative writing teacher and author of Comeback Season (Free Press 2008) and The Circus in Winter (Harcourt 2004). She writes:

“Lately, I’ve started thinking that maybe the reason I teach creative writing isn’t just to create writers, but also to create a populace that cares about reading. There are many ways to lead a literary life, and I try to show my students simple ways that they can practice what I call ‘literary citizenship.’ I wish more aspiring writers would contribute to, not just expect things from, that world they want so much to be a part of.” Read More

Her post brought me back to a childhood spent reading and writing, the thrill of the weekly Bookmobile visits at my two-room grade school, the first high school teacher who introduced a naive farm girl to the worlds of Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner, my decision to go to college (as a first-generation college graduate, not a small moment in my life), my choice to major in English and do graduate work in literary studies, actually getting paid to talk about ideas and books and writing with young adults, my good fortune to be married to a husband who has read Pride and Prejudice over twenty times and to have a son whose favorite family outing is to go to book stores and libraries, and, through it all, a compulsion to write as a way to be a part of the world, even when the words are for my eyes only.

Cathy Day’s purpose wasn’t to buoy dejected writers, but her words gave me something I hadn’t even known I’d needed: a reminder that I love being part of a literary world, and that reading, writing, breathing, living a life of words is part of what makes my life meaningful. This big picture quickly expands my vision and puts in perspective any momentary lapses in confidence or doubts about my own writing. In the end, it’s just all part of something bigger, a community independent of geography.

Cathy and Rebecca, thank you.

“Learn your craft, yes. But also, work to create a world in which literature can thrive and is valued.” ~ Cathy Day

12 thoughts on “What Is Your Dejection Plan?

  1. I feel as if I am visiting all of your points to some extent at the same time while I hadn’t even been conscious of it. It is reassuring during this lull to see that I am actually working even when my project is not progressing in words typed.

    Thank you for another thought provoking post!

    • Aligaeta, isn’t it wonderful how we think about and experience the same or similar things so much of the time? I think it’s a sign that what we are worrying about and hoping for is more universal than we might realize. It’s a wonderful feeling of community. Thanks so much.

  2. I have been following your posts and I really enjoy them. Thank you! I also liked Cathy Day’s blog.

    I guess I pretty much tried all the techniques that you mentioned when I felt dejected. What else I tried was to speak to someone who is really motivated. Motivation and dejection are both infectious and as long as I don’t show my dejection to the motivator I am talking to I don’t spread the dejection but rather kill it in myself.

    • Viji, what an insightful comment and thoughtful idea for not spreading dejection around like a cold virus! Thank you very much.

  3. I didn’t know I was practicing “literary citizenship,” but yes, I guess writing reviews, editing, or commenting on another author’s work is still writing. It was nice to have the validation.

    So, Lisa, you’re a fan of O’Connor and the venerable Faulkner? I went to the annual Yoknapatawpha conference at Ole Miss a few summers ago and did my senior project on the experience. I love Faulkner, and Southern Lit in general. You’ve inspired me to pull out a few favorites for a re-read.

    • I think that a lot of readers will find Cathy Day’s post to be validating (and a reminder to keep up with our literary citizenship–what a terrific phrase!).

      I do love Southern writers! I owe it all to my high school freshman English teacher, a man from Texas who somehow found himself in South Dakota, determined to introduce us to his favorite authors (he didn’t find many takers, but I was hooked). The first literary short stories I ever read were “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People,” and the first novel I read that really stretched me was AS I LAY DYING, all during that freshman year. It’s no exaggeration to say that without that teacher, I not only wouldn’t have studied English, but I also may not have gone to college.

      Your comment has shown me that I want to do some re-reading, too. πŸ˜€ Thank you. I’d love to hear more about the Yoknapatawpha conference.
      .

  4. Lisa,

    Yes, I loved that post by Cathy Day as well.

    For me, I try to write through those feelings. Sometimes I sit with them. Lately, I’ve taken a few breaks. Small ones, though, since long breaks can be dangerous πŸ™‚

  5. Yes, I know that feeling, too …
    Whenever I get a short story published, I always hear that creepy voice inside my head that whispers: “What if this was the last one? What if you won’t be able to write something that is only half as good as this story?”
    And then I’m always afraid that this is true.

    What helps me, are two things: Writing on(morning pages and/or handwritten notebook notes) and talking to a very good friend of mine, who draws, paints and writes and with whom I’ll discuss everything I write (and vice versa). Until now, she has always convinced me, that there WILL be the next good story to write … πŸ˜‰

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