Jeanne Veillette Bowerman challenges the cup-half-empty writers to embrace the silver linings in life's obstacles to improve their craft and career.
This past week I had two separate writers approach me online, one in tears after a rejection, wanting to know what my secret is for taking the hits and still staying in the game. The other was questioning why she was attempting to launch a writing career in her 30’s. Both women were frustrated and fearful of their future.
Both focused on their cup being half empty.
I genuinely tried to help them get past their moment of doubt. Because I believe that is the trick to success of any kind… getting past the temporary moment of insecurity. But in my attempts to bring light into their worlds, I couldn’t help but think about how a person’s philosophy on life affects their destiny… both professionally and personally.
Is your cup half full or half empty?
Let me tell you, this past year my personal life has been hell. Happenings so crazy Charlie Kaufman couldn’t have invented them. Things my own therapist had never helped anyone through in her decades of work.
But I’m a survivor. I’m a cup-half-full gal. Despite the intense challenges in my universe, I kept waking up every day choosing to find a silver lining in this nightmare.
I was going to write about this topic on my personal website, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized our outlook is a part of our writing tools. We need the right attitude to survive the insecurities and doubts that come with being writers.
When faced with challenges, defeat, and disappointment, some people go for a motorcycle ride, a long walk, or become recluses in bed, crying for days on end until they can muster the strength to peek out from under their duvet.
I run. I run to clear my mind. I run to write. I run to brainstorm my stories and my problems. I run to survive.
On my latest run, I listened to Phillip Phillips. Love that dude. His song Tell Me a Story poured into my ears. What writer wouldn’t be curious about a song with that title? As I listened to the lyrics, I stopped dead in my tracks.
Hope is just a ray of what everyone should see
Alone is the street where you found me
Scared of what’s behind
You always scared of what’s in front
Live with what you have
Now I make the best of what’s to come
Phillips is clearly a cup-half-full dude too. For those who don’t know him, he’s last year’s winner of American Idol. When he first auditioned for the show, he was working at his family’s pawnshop, dreaming of success in between buying people’s discarded treasures. All along his Idol journey, he kept his cool. Stayed true himself. Refused to wear those “fancy” clothes Tommy Hilfiger tried to put on him. Instead, on show day, he’d come on stage layered in earth tones, something he was specifically told not to wear.
Man, I loved his spirit and determination not to lose who he was in his quest for a singing career.
Don’t lose who you are in pursuing your writing career either. And don’t lose who you are in pursuit of personal happiness. Don’t sell your soul… especially if it’s to please someone else.
Your cup is half full.
So they rejected you. Big whoop. Been there, done that. Many times.
Sure, I admit, when I get a major rejection I absolutely let the pain in. I feel every ounce of it. I’ve even been known to cry. But my cup is still half full… albeit of tequila.
After I down the shot and dry my tears I focus on that symbolic half-full glass.
Rejection sucks. It feels like you’re going to die. The truth is, you will survive. But if you wallow in the pain and don’t focus on the silver linings, you’ll be committing career suicide.
Your cup is half full.
What happens when it’s taking you more years than you expected to break in? A cup-half-empty person wants to throw in the towel, blame other people for his failure, or even quit. He’ll continually waste time and energy complaining instead of using that same energy to improve.
What if you looked at every obstacle as a possibility of being a silver lining?
If it’s taking you years to break in, guess what positive thing is happening because of it?
You are becoming a better writer. You’re becoming better at pitching. You’re learning what works and what doesn’t work. You are improving.
Your cup is half full.
I’ve had this discussion with Unknown Screenwriter numerous times, and we both agree it takes eight years to learn how to write… then another couple of years to get your script in the right hands.
I believe in the ten-year rule to becoming an “instant” success.
I encourage you not to look at that last sentence and let out a sigh. Instead find the value in the realities of becoming great at what you love. No one succeeds without sweat and pain. No one.
Your cup is half full.
Look at Ben Affleck’s Oscar win for Best Picture for Argo. He put it perfectly in his acceptance speech, “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.”
After winning his first Oscar right out of the gate fifteen years ago, he ended up as the box-office joke in Gigli. But he picked himself up, didn’t quit, and years later directed the Oscar-winning Argo.
I would bet anything Ben is a cup-half-full kind of guy.
The other day I posted this picture on my Facebook wall, along with the comment that I wished I had read this when I was 18.
One of my dearest friends of almost 25 years commented, “What would the 80-year-old you tell the you of today?”
Image yourself at 80 instead of 18, the light fading on your life. What advice would you tell the you of today? I’ll go first:
- Don’t waste your energy complaining about your problems. Do something TODAY to start fixing them.
- Change is never as hard as you imagine it’s going to be. Ever.
- Believe in yourself.
- Make a list of all the things and people who are draining you of your creativity. The sooner you clean that list up, the sooner you can free your mind to create.
- Love more.
- Talk less.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Do not own other people’s misery.
- You don’t need to fix everyone and everything.
- Fight for your stories.
- Say thank you… often.
- If you hold onto the negative, you’ll never be able to let the positive shine through.
- If you keep one foot in the past, you won’t have a future.
- It’s okay to ask for help.
- Learn to embrace “no” as a word of power over your happiness, not as a word that might harm someone.
- People are not going to always like you. It’s more important for you to like you.
- Love yourself.
- Learn when to walk away. Sometimes it’s what’s needed for your survival.
- Be happy.
Now it’s your turn. Make a list. Really look at that list and see what you need to change in your life to have a cup-half-full mentality.
Bottom-line: Think of your life as you think of your stories. Stories need conflict. Your life needs conflict. Your writing needs conflict. Your career needs conflict. Stop looking at all the conflict as obstacles that will lead to your failure. Look at them as a blessing. You will learn many more lessons from your obstacles than from your successes.
Your cup is half full. I promise you, it is. And with a little work, it could be overflowing.
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Breaking in Outside of Hollywood