Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Developing Mental Toughness
I'm perusing a book at the moment called Cure Your Cravings by Yefim Shubentsov with Barbara Gordon. He discusses the idea of developing mental toughness as part of the journey to end compulsive behaviors like smoking or overeating.
What does this "mental toughness" entail? Shubentsov explains that it revolves around the phrase "What you're thinking, this is what your life will be." He says our thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, the more you think "I can't resist the temptation of donuts (my personal weakness!)" the less control you have when donuts come within 100 yards of you. I have to admit that seeing the "HOT NOW" sign at Krispy Kreme has me salivating like Pavlov's dogs.
The author goes on to say that mental toughness is built through examining our thought processes and counteracting them with the truth when necessary. Essentially by learning to think for ourselves rather than just accepting whatever random thoughts pass through our minds, including negativisms, public opinion, and easy excuses.
Though he's talking about this in the area of curing addictions, I found it fascinating because it correlated with a phenomenon I've noticed within myself as a writer. When I first trembled with the thought of writing a book for publication, I took any knowledge given to me at face value. I actively sought any advice I could get my hands on in books, magazines, online, and through other writers. It was only through maturity and trial and error that I learned to weed out the chaff from the wheat.
With maturity comes a certain degree of discernment. Not that I'm claiming to be a master at this writing thing, but I began to see where some advice or critiques came with questionable motivations, squashed my budding creativity or enthusiasm, or just plain didn't apply to the story I was writing. I learned to trust that small part of me that either completely rejected or relaxed upon receiving suggestions. That small loosening sensation usually meant this gem applied to me or my story in some way, even if it wasn't obvious how quite yet.
Though I know I've got a long way to go, I think my growing mental toughness is a good thing. As someone once told me, I'll never be able to make everyone love my stories. There are people out there who won't like my work for whatever reason-be it personal preference, dislike of my voice or subject matter, or just plain grumpiness. I can't change that, so I better get used to it. And let's face it, author's get rejected in a hundred ways by editors, agents, readers, other writers. If I've heard it once, I've heard it one thousand times: If you can't handle the criticism, this is not the business for you.
Developing mental toughness can help authors take to heart what they need to and leave the rest. Mental toughness (along with some really good friends) can keep you sane in the face of rejection after rejection. Or keep you humble when the praise keeps pouring in.
Now if I could just apply this lesson to my obsession with donuts. Bet I'd lose 20 pounds by Nationals. :)