Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More Things I Learned From My 7 Year Old

So much about surviving in this business depends on attitude. Rejections, critiques, reviews...they can all get to you if you don't have the right attitude about them. Keeping a positive attitude can be anything but easy.

But it is possible to have a positive attitude about anything if you choose. Something that was brought home to me as I watched my 7 year old open his presents on Christmas morning.

He's a cute kid on any morning, but this Christmas, he was so flippin adorable I almost couldn't stand it. He didn't stop smiling once, not even when things didn't really go the way he wanted.

For instance, he and his sister received desks (she for her art, he for his science and art projects). They were both very excited about them, and about the presents stacked on top. Now, these presents went along with their desks (they were filled with office supplies, crayons, markers, stickers, etc). And since they both always get in my computer paper for their projects, I thought having their very own stash of paper would be fun.

My son unwrapped his paper (it was the first present he unwrapped) and when he saw what it was, he said, "Oh you gotta be kidding! Paper?"

Now, he could have said this as "Oh you gotta be kidding, paper?" *insert sarcasm and exasperated eye roll*

But it was said with a laugh and a smile. He put the paper to the side (instead of chucking it across the room) and moved on. Some kids would have reacted with a much different attitude. (And he has since had a lot of fun with that paper, so it's all good) :D

My favorite moment of the day came a few minutes later as he was going through his stocking. He found a box of those storybook lifesavers (which Santa forgot he didn't care for). He held them up, smile from ear to ear, laugh in his voice, and said "Awesome I hate these!"

Now, I think he was saying "awesome" and then realized what it was and switched to "I hate these" - but either way, he didn't throw a fit, he didn't even look disappointed, he just put them down and moved on. And gave the rest of us a good belly laugh at the same time :D

It got me thinking. How do we react when something doesn't go our way in the writing world? What do we do when a request that looked so promising comes back with a rejection? What do we do when a manuscript we thought was clean and polished and ready to go comes back from a critiquing with so much red you can't see the white of the pages anymore?

I realize everyone is going to have a moment where they want to quit, hit delete and never write again, or shoot off a nasty email to the person who sent that rejection or critique. It's natural and totally understandable to feel supreme disappointment. We pour our hearts and souls into our work and it hurts when it doesn't make it.

You can't do anything about how other people view your work. You can't make an agent sign you, or make that editor buy your book, or make your crit partners send your manuscript with a big smiley face and a "PERFECT!" rating.

But you can politely thank your crit partners and move on, even if you cried yourself to sleep over their comments, even if you'll never use one of their suggestions. They took time away from their own work to read yours. Just say thank you with a smile on your face and move on.

Got a bad reject? STAY AWAY FROM THE REPLY BUTTON. Resist the urge to tell that agent/editor that they don't know what they are talking about. Maybe they don't. Maybe passing on your book will someday be the biggest regret they ever have. I'm sure the people who passed on Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling and John Grisham give themselves a little kick every now and then.

But it doesn't matter. This business is subjective in the extreme. Everything depends on getting the right book in front of the right person at the EXACT right time - over and over again. You can't control any of that. But you can control your attitude when disappointment comes your way. You can have a minute of mourning for the shiny possibility that didn't pan out....and then put a smile on your face and move on. Bigger and better things will be waiting for you if you have a good attitude and keep on going. A bad attitude will burn a lot of bridges and wear you down.

If my son and thrown a fit over the paper or the unwanted candy, Christmas morning would have been miserable for everyone. There were much better presents under the tree, more delicious candy in the toe of his stocking. But he never would have found that out if he'd stopped unwrapping after the first disappointment (and to be honest, his attitude about that paper was so good I'm still not sure if he was disappointed or not).

Bottom line - you are going to wade through a lot of coal before you get to the good stuff. Having a bad attitude about it will make the journey miserable for you and everyone you are involved with. A good attitude will make even crappy candy and stacks of computer paper a lot more fun, and it will make finally finding that shiny new bike under the tree a much more rewarding moment.

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday! :) May our new year be filled with good attitudes and awesome rewards for hard work :)


Anonymous said...

My 7 yo reacted with the same sort of positive attitude this year (which was a surprise based on how he reacts to losing at board games). It just makes everything more pleasant. Rejection sucks. We can't control how other people act, we can only control our own reactions.

Thanks for reminding us, Michelle!


Mary Vaughn said...

Life is all about attitude. You choose.

You have such a beautiful family.

Best to you all in the New Year.

Stephanie McGee said...

Life is all about perspective, isn't it? Thanks for sharing the adorableness with us all!

Abby Annis said...

What a cute kid! Great post, Michelle! Exactly what I needed to hear this morning. :)

J.L. Campbell said...

That reminds me that despite everything I can choose what kind of day I'm having and I can choose to be happy or not. By the sound of it, your son has a great personality already.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I loved this post. What a good kid you're raising! I could definitely take a leaf out of his stack of computer paper. Positivity seems to be the key to all happiness. Thanks for the timely reminder. My resolutions will be laced with smiles and "Awesome! I hate exercising!"

The Golden Eagle said...

Attitude plays such a role.

He sounds like a great kid. :)

Corey Schwartz said...

So true. Makes me think of American Idol where contestants are PUBLICLY critiqued. Some get upset when they get negative feedback and others just smile and say "Thanks, Simon."

Anonymous said...

Good point! How you react to something can make all the difference. Yeah, rejections suck, but stewing in it is a lot worse. It's better to dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

Great post! :D

Faith E. Hough said...

Reminders like that are so important! My three-year-old totally made my Christmas by opening the hat I knit for her (even though she'd insisted for weeks that all she wanted was REAL WORKING FAIRY WINGS THAT FLY) and exclaiming, "Mama? You MADE this? This is so so beautiful!" Who could ask for a better present for me? ;)

Amber Cuadra said...

This is a good reminder. And also for life in general, not just with writing. Something I tend to forget. Gratefulness goes a long way, even if we don't get what we wanted or expected.