Yesterday, in church, our Bishop spoke about being prepared to face the storms of life, when they inevitably hit. He based much of his message on a talk by Elder Kevin W. Pearson in the April 2009 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church). And as often happens, I found myself applying the message of this talk to my own life. (Isn't that what we're supposed to do?)
Elder Pearson talked about "Six Destructive Ds" that can harm our spirits, if we allow them to take over our hearts.
1. Doubt: "Doubt is a negative emotion related to fear. It comes from a lack of confidence in one’s self or abilities. It is inconsistent with our divine identity as children of God." - We are children of God!! We have so much potential, and we should not allow ourselves to wallow in fear and doubt. Instead, we should focus on our great gifts and immense potential, striving to turn each failure and setback into a learning experience, from which we can grow. Recently, as I've watched The Writer's Voice competition play out... as so many of my fellow writers have received multiple requests for their entries, and mine sat for the first day of the agent round without a single request, I began to play that devastating "what if" game. What if I'm only fooling myself? What if I don't have what it takes to be a writer? What if "Cupid" only chose me for her team because she felt sorry for me? - Being aware of my weaknesses is a good thing. It's important for me to be able to see where I can improve, and how I can make myself better. But this kind of "what if" thinking doesn't make me a better writer. It won't move me along the path to greater things. And luckily, I have some amazing friends and critique partners who are really good at slapping me silly when I start playing "what if."
2. Discouragement: "Doubt leads to discouragement. Discouragement comes from missed expectations. Chronic discouragement leads to lower expectations, decreased effort, weakened desire, and greater difficulty feeling and following the Spirit." - When we allow ourselves to wallow in self-doubt, it doesn't take long before we start wondering if it's even worth it to try. Because if I'm only fooling myself and don't have what it takes to be a writer, then writing will only lead to one disappointment after another, right?
3. Distraction: "Discouragement leads to distraction, a lack of focus." - As soon as I start travelling down that path of doubt and discouragement, I discover that I truly can't write. I pull out the video games to waste time. My to-do list of chores grows... I even find myself preferring to wash the dishes (a chore I absolutely hate) than sitting and staring at a blank page. Anything to distract myself from the negative thoughts swirling around in my brain. But the thing is, all of the distractions in the world won't eliminate the doubt and discouragement.
4. Lack of Diligence: "Distraction leads to a lack of diligence, a reduced commitment to remain true and faithful and to carry on through despite hardship and disappointment." - The antidote for fear is moving forward with faith. I'll never write anything while playing mind-numbing video games. I need to pick up my story pencils and notebooks and start letting the words pour out of me. And yes, many of the scribbled words will be crap. They'll take weeks and months' worth of revising before they're ready for the world to see. But I can't revise a blank sheet of paper. I'll never get anywhere if I don't take those important first steps.
5. Disobedience: "If not reversed, this path ultimately leads to disobedience, which undermines the very basis of faith." - In every aspect of life, there are rules and guidelines to follow for success. And though it's sometimes tempting, when I start following the destructive path of Doubt, Discouragement, Distraction and lack of Diligence, to adopt a "you can't tell me what to do" attitude, it simply won't help me to start sending emails to tell off every agent that's ever rejected me.
6. Disbelief: "So often the result is disbelief, the conscious or unconscious refusal to believe." - Luckily, I've never reached this stage. But I've seen others reach it. And it's nearly impossible to come back from. Because once you start refusing to believe in the good parts, the negative completely takes control over your life.
Elder Pearson observed: "Disappointment is an inevitable part of life, but it need not lead to doubt, discouragement, distraction, or lack of diligence." And when I look back on my own journey, I can trace every good and amazing thing that's ever happened to me (in every aspect of life, not just in my writing) directly back to a major disappointment. Often, I build up my expectations for one outcome, determined that "I'll be happy if..." only to discover that the Lord has other plans for me. And you know what? His plan is always better than mine. Because He sees the whole picture, and I'm only focused on a little piece of the puzzle.
So I went into The Writer's Voice with the expectation and hope that I'd get at least 3 requests... which would mean I could send my full manuscript to each requesting agent. I got one official request and one ninja request, which means I'll send the partial manuscript instead. BUT those requests were from JOHN RUDOLPH (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) and LAURA BRADFORD (Bradford Literary Agency)... and I'm beyond thrilled to have the chance to send my pages to these amazing agents! Perhaps, once again, a small dose of Disappointment is the key to something better than I dared to imagine.
Only time will tell.