Change is part of life. Anything that is living, should be growing (or even healing) which means it changes. Only dead things remain the same. This is true with people as well as industries.
Last post, we talked about the darkest moment, what it is and why it is so critical to story. It is at the darkest moment that the protagonist finally lets GO of the old self, the old ways, the old thinking and embraces the new.
Now, here is a critical point. Not ALL stories have a “happy ending.” Unless one is writing romance and a “happily ever after” is part of genre canon, our story does not have to have a happy ending, BUT it must always have a satisfying ending.
Yet, what does that mean? What is the critical component of the darkest moment that transforms the protagonist into a hero?
Any other person would resign themselves to whatever fate, whereas a protagonist-turned-hero, accepts what has happened, that “all is lost”…but presses on anyway with the hope that a) everything was lost for a good cause/reason b) the stuff that was lost needed losing c) what lies ahead will more than make up for what was lost.
Acceptance vs. Resignation
We all have “stuff” we don’t like. Maybe it is a personal flaw (out of shape) or something in life we dislike (unemployed or underemployed). It might be a crazy family we love but struggle to have good boundaries with. Whatever.
They key to positive change in anything is acceptance. If we don’t get to a state of acceptance, then by default, we are in denial. If you are unfamiliar with the Kübler-Ross, 5 Stages of Grief, I recommend checking it out. There is a LOT of applicability to dealing with all forms of loss, not merely losing a loved one.
***For the record, change implies some kind of loss.
According to Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, we go through five stages whenever we are hit with bad news (a death, a bad diagnosis, a heartbreak, losing a job, natural disaster, major upsetting change, etc.)
According to Kübler-Ross’s idea, we won’t neatly scroll down these stages one by one. We could get stuck on one, like anger. Or, we might vacillate back and forth from, say, depression back to anger to acceptance, then slip up and be right back in depression. So on and so forth.
Yet, note we must make it to then through acceptance in the final stage. Until we accept the situation, we cannot move on, and, until we move on, there is no room for new hopes and dreams.
This last bit, to me, is the kicker. We need to make room for new hopes and dreams. That is where acceptance, to me, differs from resignation.
Resignation is the shadow-side of acceptance.
In fact, if we look to a lot of villain origin stories, they fell prey to resignation whereas the hero takes up the mantel of acceptance.
Be the Hero in Life & Career
All change involves death of something.
When I chose to become a career writer, by default, the dream of being an attorney died. I’d applied for law school while I was fiddling with the idea of going pro. Somehow, I didn’t get the letter I’d been accepted into the class of 2005 at my law school of choice. I’d assumed I had NOT gotten in, and so I accepted a job as a technical writer…the DAY I got the letter for freshman orientation.
I could have reasonably gone back on my word. But, that isn’t me. I felt it was a sign that being a writer was the right way forward.
Theoretically, I could have managed both (I still could have accepted a slot in law school). But could I? Really? No. I was at a crossroads. I needed to accept that, while it was amazing I got into such a prestigious school, I really wanted to be a writer.
***For the record, y’all make me SO grateful I became a writer.
I had to let one dream DIE for another to LIVE.
No sooner did I decide to get into writing as a career that I realized everything was changing. While it was an exciting time to be an author, it was a terrifying time as well.
And yes, I had times I thought that maybe I should just hang it all up and go to law school. OMG, I chose wrong! What did I DO? On and on. But to be locked into that kind of double-mindedness is maddening.
I’d decided to be a writer, and, as a writer of the 21st century, that meant I had to accept that the publishing paradigm was not only going to change DRASTICALLY, but the pace of change was only going to accelerate.
I still have to accept this. It is never easy. Yes, I wanted the dream where all I did was hide in my little dream cottage and write novels fans adored. My agent, editors and PR people would handle everything else. But that is not reality (and never really has been).
Change and Learning to Pivot
IF I want to keep this writing dream, then I need to accept all it entails. Because if I don’t, it only sets me spiraling back through anger, depression, denial, and on and on.
Pivoting sounds like such a pretty and painless word, doesn’t it?
Um…yeah. All fun and games ’til someone takes out a knee.
I don’t know about y’all, but I JUST about figure out, say WordPress…then they New and Improve it, and back to the beginning. It feels as if I am constantly having to reimagine, rethink, reinvent…because I am. In ways, this is good because it prevents stagnation. At the same time? I feel like I need Digital Dramamine from all the ups and downs and twists and turns.
When I came back from presenting in Idaho, I posted, Aspiring Writers Need to Quit, Now! Why? Because I was blessed enough to hear a lot of speakers who completely turned my thinking on its head (which doesn’t happen that much).
When I arrived at the conference, I was in a terrible state of burnout. Why? I needed a paradigm shift.
I’d gotten stuck, which happens.
Remember that list? Bargaining? Depression? What had gotten lost—other than ME—was my why. WHY did I want to be a writer? Then, once I remembered my WHY, I had to accept that IF I still want to be a writer in the 21st century, that can look a zillion different ways (unlike pre 21st century authors).
In the old days, I had only a handful of options. Now? There are so many options I actually think my brain vapor-locks daily.
Say Yes to Acceptance, No to Resignation
When we fall prey to resignation, it makes us angry, bitter and rigid. When we are rigid, we don’t bend, we break. Or, for us overachievers/drama queens…we shatter.
It was really hard to blog for a while, not only because so much was happening on the family front, but my career felt like it imploded with the pandemic.
Did it? Yes. Did it really? No.
My career didn’t DIE, it merely changed. I was in a different season. In autumn, the trees aren’t dying, they are preparing for winter. This is when they’ll rest and drive their roots down deeper so they can be stronger in the future, thus be able to weather spring storms and summer droughts.
We don’t CRY in autumn, most of us LOVE it! If we don’t cry for the trees, why do we cry for the me-me-mes?
I had to grieve the old, accept that the changes keep coming, and that I have to stick-and-move if I want to remain in the game and see the SPRING.
If I DON’T? That is totally okay, too.
Writing CAN Change BACK into a Hobby
Not everything we love has to be monetized. It also doesn’t need to be permanent.
If you get a chance, go check out that post I mentioned earlier. Also, grab the book, Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, that inspired the post.
Also, since it is FRIDAY, I am going to leave y’all with an interview with ME. I know, it feels so self-serving, but it really turned out very funny. I hope it’s the shot in the arm y’all might need as we press into a new school year (I can see y’all sniffing the school supplies).
If you ever want to feel really brilliant, just know I did all the dumb things so you don’t have to. I met Carissa Andrews at the same conference in Boise and just WOW! I was floored when she asked to interview ME over at Author Revolution Podcast.
Psst! Carissa runs the Millionaire Author Manifestation.
Carissa is an internationally best-selling author with 15+ titles. She’s reached the status of millionaire author, and so she took what she learned and now uses that to help other writers.
Unicorns DO Exist (I met her)
Y’all can go check out her website for all her testimonials and classes. Suffice to say, I was very honored and humbled she cared to interview ME.
We talk a lot about the ups and downs of this industry. The podcast IS long, so maybe listen on your phone. I can be FUNNY or I can be BRIEF, so I choose funny.
Anyway, when we accept that YES, being an author is amazing…but it is also crazy as a bag of frogs? We can then move forward, get UN-stuck from the Feedback Loop of Despair, and open up to for fresh dreams and new roads untraveled.
What are YOUR Thoughts on CHANGE?
Do you struggle with change, and telling the difference between acceptance and resignation? I did. People were always telling me I had to accept whatever and I took that for giving up (resignation). Only recently did I hear a podcast that pointed out the difference.
Do you struggle with acceptance, too? Get stuck back in the other stages of grief? Is change overwhelming? Am I the only one who wishes we could have a PAUSE button for the CHANGE?
I LOVE COMMENTS! Would also LOVE y’all top check out the interview. If you don’t want to listen via Youtube, I linked to all the places y’all can subscribe to Carissa’s podcast.
To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat.
I actually have landed agents for people who’ve won this contest. Agents like me because I make their lives easier.
If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. For those who listen to the PODCAST, y’all get THREE times in the hat.
What do you win?
The unvarnished truth from yours truly (and maybe even time with an agent).
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). People with superlative writing, I (with your permission) have been known to pass you onto an agent.
Anyway, I look forward to reading your comments and your writing!