The ability to take a positive from a negative is the delineating factor between being a victim and a survivor. Way back in the nineties, when I was intrigued by chatrooms, I caught hell for positing that if you can take something positive out of even the most horrendous loss, you lessen the power of that loss, the sorrow, the anger, whatever negative reaction it is you’re feeling. I recall one woman saying, “Even the murder of a child?” And I responded, “Yes, even the murder of a child.”
Did you wince?
You can imagine the uproar that statement sparked. Ah, how everyone loved to argue! (Maybe they still do, but I haven’t been in a chatroom in a decade.) The thing is, most overlooked what that statement actually said in favor of misinterpreting it as:You can find something positive in the murder of a child.
Taking a positive from something so unspeakable means creating things like Amber Alert, Megan’s Law, the Adam Walsh Act. These are the positives taken from their negatives. They empowered those most affected by the tragedy, and allowed them to be survivors taking action, protecting other children from suffering the same fate, rather than remaining victims forever mired in their tragedy.
What has this to do with writing?
Like the chatroom brouhaha, it’s a matter of taking the direst circumstance to make one’s point. My point is this: Rejection. Marked up critiques. Bad reviews. These things hurt. They’re negatives we desperately need to find a positive to counter. I recently read a flister’s blog entry about a critique she received from an agent. It was rough. She hoped to hear, “This is brilliant!” and instead got, “You have something here, but it still needs work.”
Plummet! Kersplat! But what did she do? Rather than keen and tear at her clothes, she licked her wounds, and got over it. She took the good with a smile, the bad with grim determination, and she’s moving forward. I am so proud of her I could spit sparkles.
It’s easy to wallow in the despair of negative comments made about our writing. A bad review of a published work cuts deep, because, well, you thought you were there! And so does that marked up copy of the story you thought you nailed. And so does a rejection letter for a story you believe in. Find a positive. Take it out. Hold it to your chest and say, “I’ve learned this. It’s a lesson I might not have had if not for this experience.”
Gut-crushing tragedies can bring good changes into a system still and always fine tuning itself. The same goes for writing. Take a lesson out of every rejection you get, no matter what form it comes in, and you’re a survivor. You’re stronger. You’ll grow.