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Writers, Make A Choice


I believe anything is possible.

Yet some people do not. It’s perhaps one of the hardest and surprising lessons I learned as a young adult. I didn’t understand why these people would resist. If they JUST TRIED to see it my way, they would be so much HAPPIER, surely??

Besides anything, can’t they SEE THE EVIDENCE: I didn’t have auspicious beginnings, yet I say we can – and I have!! MORE: I Am Not A Lucky Person


“It’s different for you”

How I hate these four words. Let me cite the ways it was NOT different for me, how I too started from a place that was just as problematic as the next person’s!!

But that’s the kneejerk reaction, because really, it IS different for me – and others like me. We think anything is possible, remember? We think this, despite the numerous failures, rejections and downright unfair shit that has happened to us, don’t we? In a society that insists pessimism is “realism”, we refuse to follow that path. Instead, we see something we want, so we resolve to get it. No. Matter. What.

But we are the minority. MORE: It’s Not About Luck And It Totally Is

Life can be painful and totally unfair

Someone (I forget who) wrote once that life is about pain: dealing with it, or avoiding it; our lives will always come back to this.

Personally, I don’t believe avoiding pain is healthy or even possible. I think pain is omnipresent, all around us; even if we manage to batten down our own pain and hide it inside tiny boxes inside ourselves, the pain of other people will envelop us as a reminder of what we’ve refused to face.

Dealing with pain is not automatically the healthy path, either – because it depends HOW you deal with it. Many people think they are, but in reality, they’re simply airing their grievances in a repetitive loop: blame is assigned; loved ones promise to do better and then it all happens again … and again … and again. In addition, some people may use this process as a form of self harm, punishing themselves for various reasons, whether real or imagined. Sometimes one person will do ALL of these things (yikes).

But rather than process the above, the majority will believe they have to continue – they literally have no choice:

Psychologists call it “learned helplessness”

Yet we DO have the choice to say, “No – I will NOT do this to myself … OR let others do this TO me.”

Of course, it’s not simply as easy as that in practice, especially if your problem involves other people. Unlearning the habits of a lifetime is more than simply difficult; what’s more, letting go of injustices visited upon you can seem an absolutely gargantuan task.

How is it possible to NOT feel as bad as this, always?

MORE: The Best Worst Year

But this will pass

As writers, we may deal with pain via storytelling. By translating our thoughts and feelings (note: NOT transcribing, unless it’s an autobigoraphy!) into characters and their journeys, this may help us heal – especially when our readers or viewers tell us how our work has helped them, too.

However, writing can also have an adverse effect on us, too. When our work is rejected in particular, it is easy to imagine this is PERSONAL, especially if we believe we are our writing.

In addition, if we have writing success, it might be easy to forget where we come from as well. Suddenly our humble beginnings might seem very far away and it’s hard to relate to others still struggling behind us. Everything might seem very **obvious** to us and our empathy or even patience goes out the window. In cases like both of these, I like to remember this story:

The Sufi tradition tells the story of a king who was surrounded by wise men. One morning, as they talked, the king was quieter than usual.

“What is wrong, Your Highness?” asked one of the wise men.

“I’m confused,” replied the king. “At times I am overcome by melancholy and feel powerless to fulfill my duties. At others, I am dizzy with all power I have. I’d like a talisman to help me be at peace with myself.”

The wise men – surprised by such a request – spent long months in discussion. In the end, they went to the king with a gift.

“We have engraved magic words on the talisman. Read them out loud whenever you are too confident, or very sad,” they said.

The king looked at the object he had ordered. It was a simple silver and gold ring, but with an inscription:

“This will pass.” (original text, HERE).

MORE: Another short story with a great lesson, Somerset Maugham’s “Death Speaks”, plus follow @VeryShortStory on Twitter.

Failure can help us learn

Every time anyone takes a risk, failure is around the corner, waiting. It may strike us this time or next time, but it is ALWAYS there.

We tell young people failure is the WORST THING EVER, but it’s not. Everyone who tries something – at some point – fails. Absolutely everyone. Name someone successful, someone you admire totally and look at their career and/or private life … They will have failed at SOMETHING.

Failure is painful, especially when you’ve tried your best; it can be confusing as you try and work out what went wrong. But failure is NOT terminal. Failure can help us learn to do better next time. It is NOT time wasted. MORE: How Relationships And Teamwork Can Help You Succeed, plus Talent is great, BUT it’s relationships that get you hired

I believe life – and writing! – is the triumph of hope over experience

I have to believe this. Without it, I would be burnt daily and consumed by sorrow and rage. We teach young people we live in a meritocracy; that if you put the effort in, you will be rewarded. But we all know this is bullshit. There are millions of people out there trying their hardest and getting nowhere.

Besides, this can only be a Western, developed world thing anyway: have any of the millions of innocent people living in poverty and war zones done anything to “deserve” it? Of course not. What’s more, their “trying” can’t go beyond getting through the day ahead, a battle for their very survival and their families’.

So the world is NOT a level playing field. There are elements in place – some random, some on purpose, some a mad combo of BOTH – that means we can never ALL start at the same place. MORE: Lucy V’s Wager

So, I have conducted my life not with a “why me?” atttitude, BUT:

“Why NOT me?”

This works for the bad, as well as the good by the way. Just as there is NO REASON good stuff shouldn’t happen to you, there’s none either re: the bad stuff too. We all buy into this narrative where we will be rewarded for our good actions; sometimes we don’t even realise. When I had cancer, I will admit I found myself thinking, “Have I not been a good enough person? What have I done to deserve this?” But then that assumes anyone who is ill, disabled or afflicted must have “done something” (either in this life or “another”, as is popular, especially when children are involved) … And I simply don’t believe that.

Human beings like to find REASONS or PATTERNS where there are none. It helps us decode the world around us and yes, sometimes it helps us. But just as often, it can harm us too.

Sometimes, the harder route is accepting life is RANDOM and things don’t always work out the way we want OR need them to. Sometimes, you just have to start again, whether it’s fair or not.

So, if you want something? Go get it

You won’t regret it. Even if you fail, you’ll probably get something else … Better than nothing, right?

You got that already.

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11 thoughts on “Writers, Make A Choice”

  1. Hi Lucy, I can’t thank you enough, you’ve articulated exactly how I’m feeling. One minute I’m overwhelmed with a fear that I can’t do the next I’m overwhelmed with the fear I can. Looking back on this year I can see that I have made a great deal of progress both personally and creatively, I have also made mistakes, which thankfully I have learned from and so my mantra for 2015 is a Samuel Beckett quote “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” I can truly say I have failed better this year than the previous one and it is bringing me closer to my successful career as a writer. Why NOT me, I don’t have to compete with anyone other than myself, I have time, just breathe and keep going one day at a time. I can’t thank you enough for the encouragement, practical tips and advice your website has given me. I wish you and all fellow writers, subscribers every success and best wishes for 2015 xx

  2. Hi Karen, delighted the post resonated, thanks so much for letting me know. 2014 was a bit of a slog for many, you’re not alone; I had some great leaps forward, but just as many (if not more) backwards and it can be soul destroying … But we have to keep our goals in perspective and evaluate them too, rather than forge blindly ahead. So best of luck with “failing better” – it’s the way forward for sure and I’ll be doing the same – gotta practice what I preach after all 😉 Happy new year xx

  3. Hi Lucy! The temptation to give up is always there, but support to keep up the thrust is scarce. So many thanks for your article! May 2015 be a prosperous year!

  4. Great post with fantastic, no-nonsense, f___ feeling sorry for yourself mentality. I especially agree with the last part about trying to achieve something and although you might not exactly what you’d hoped for, you’ll something, which is better than nothing. I am hoping this is the case with my golf-and-mystery-adventure video-game idea. PARADISE CITY GOLF & MYSTERY-ADVENTURE GAME is a concept that began as the centerpiece of a movie script entitled “Stone’s Throw From Hell” that I wrote about four years ago. I haven’t sold the spec script yet but perhaps the idea of a spectacular golf course winding seamlessly through a seemingly urban utopia that hides ancient and deadly secrets may be a rewarding idea after all. Instead of selling a spec script, maybe I will get paid license fees for my video game idea.

    1. Thanks Lee and you’re totally right, sometimes we pursue one thing and end up finding ourselves in another place which we like just as much, if not more!

  5. ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them’ – Henry David Thoreau, American writer and philosopher. Time now to sing, I would add.

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