Writer are vessels. So much of the time we have to be wide open to let the muse shine in, to let the beautiful peculiarities  of life wash over us so we can re-create them on the page.

But specific aspects of the writing life make us want to pull up the drawbridge and shutter ourselves away. Things like rejection, poor reviews, unfavorable critiques.

ca. 2001 --- Girl Preparing to Pool Dive --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
ca. 2001 — Girl Preparing to Pool Dive — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

It’s natural to want to protect our hearts and contract away from pain. But the natural reaction is not always the best reaction.

Imagine getting a shot. The doctor says, “This will pinch for a second or two.” We brace ourselves but as promised, the pain is temporary.

Contrast that with what happens when we get bad news in our writing life. Instead of feeling the pain for a few seconds, we spin off into mental dialogue that lurches wildly from, “Who do they think they are?” to “I’m an awful writer.”

We continue to feed the pain for minutes, hours, sometimes days. It’s not the rejection letter that’s making us suffer. It’s our resistance to the pain of it.

The next time you’re confronted with an unpleasant writing event, instead of contracting away, take a few seconds to fearlessly feel its sting. Don’t tense up or spin off into avoidance mode. Walk directly into its gaping, needle-toothed mouth.

Let it bite you and allow the pain to pass through you.

When we resist the pain, we close down. We think we’re protecting ourselves but instead we’re prolonging our suffering.

Also when we close down, we close ourselves from all the joys of life. So don’t contract into yourself. Throw back your shoulders and stare pain in the face. Say to it, “Bring it. You can’t hurt me.”

And that’s true. Rejections and bad reviews can only hurt the thin-skinned, hand wringing ego. But that’s not who you are.

You’re so much more than the voice of the fearful mind. You’re the observer who watches the drama of the ego from afar. You are an impenetrable writing warrior.

This takes practice. We’re not accustomed to walking on the hot coals of our own pain. We’ve been contracting inward and protecting ourselves since we were small children, and that’s why we miss so out on so much of our lives

The more we stare down pain, the better we become at it and eventually we’ll wonder why we ever feared it. The tiger becomes a kitten.

To be a writer is to say yes to all of life, to be clear-eyed and fearless in face of everything that comes our way. True  creative and spiritual growth occurs when you give up on the idea that you need to be protected from failure.

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