#ROW80 Checkin – Learning Resilience (Book Review)

My ten year old daughter has several areas on her  school records and curricula which attempt to (somehow) teach and quantify resilience. Resilience is a necessary trait for humankind, but it beats me when it became such an issue as to be put onto several nation’s educational agendas.

But nowadays we have so much more pressure to perform, are so adverse to risk, and there are just so many distractions. Our children, it seems, are being brought up in a society that doesn’t let them grow and experience their own boundaries.  Or how to break through them when those boundaries get too small, or too many.

That’s my daughter’s excuse anyway. Not mine.

But somebody forgot to tell me that when I was younger, and at this tender young age of forty-(ahem)-something I am yet to grow that thicker skin. This is a story of my own failure.

People tell me that all the time, especially when talking “writing”.

‘Oh’, they say- ‘you’ll have to learn to grow a thicker skin, you will. Readers won’t like your work, writers won’t like your writing, publishers will reject you, family will reject you, it’ll be you and only you, boob-boob-be-doo’.

This is probably all true. But those people haven’t seen how thin my skin is already. I can see veins in it, I can.

But I’m prepared for some further exfoliation.

Just a little, mind.

Last week I took a big step towards this thicker-skinned me. I walked away from a writing course.

The teacher and I just weren’t getting on. I’m not sure why, I was the only person at the time bothering to actually add some comments onto her posts, and attempt the exercises. But she started picking apart my first attempt at a script, by telling me off for auto-inserting capitals at the start of a numbered list (the copy paste into a forum did that, but I still can’t comprehend what a script actually should look like format-wise based on the sparse example I was led by).  She did it with exclamation marks, and when I asked her for further help against the one example I’d basically copied from her, she re-entered the conversation with more defensiveness.

My impressions of the course and the communications going on are one person’s only. I was mindful that for other students taking the course perhaps this particular tutor was okay, and they were getting a lot out of it. I was also aware that the teacher herself was unaware of the issues she was raising with me in her communications. And the dark thoughts of doubt.

Being so mindful of others, however, meant that for a solid day I pushed down my own feelings and kept trying to learn and better myself in that environment. I openly thanked the woman over and over, asked for her help, used as many examples as I could to explain my confusion…to no avail.

But, then it came to a Friday evening and the realisation that I didn’t want to write EVER again, because I was so obviously useless at it, and…and…bleh…then… Then things broke.

I deleted my next comment attempt to get through to the woman with the realisation that she’d managed to strip me of something nobody should have the power of getting from me.

No, that’s not right. I’d allowed somebody else to strip me of confidence, it was my responsibility, not hers.

I didn’t go back to the course work for several days, and shielded my slightly wounded ego from the world over the weekend. When I did go back later this week I found that things hadn’t really progressed that much with other students. One poor girl had attempted her very first book trailer and was met with criticism and no encouragement for the attempt. When she explained why she couldn’t afford some of the elements needed right now, she was met with a further critical analysis of what she had managed to do. Her second attempt got her little further. I will give her huge brownie points for persistance if not resilience through the course. She has a thicker skin than I.

My decision to preserve myself and save my writing for a healthier course appears a good one, in hindsight.

So, why did I stew over the conversation and stripping down last Friday? Why did I allow her to get to me? Why did I even hesitate to share this sorry little story of mine with this blog?

Because, minus the stupidity over autocaps, lack of examples to go on and certainly lack of encouragement, that course teacher had a point.

My first attempt at a script for a book trailer wasn’t good at all. In fact, it was pretty shocking. But out of the 25 lines I put up, there was a good half that offered some workable visuals. And another half that just didn’t get it. She had the power to make it better or dump on me. Unfortunately, she obviously didn’t have the energy or reserves to help me improve, so she chose the later. For both of us, I believe it might have been a loss, because I’m usually a pretty good student to have around, and one of the few who does all the exercises, submits them on time, and likes to – wait for it – participate.

Some of the problem was lack of explanation in the course content itself. Some was the personality of that particular teacher. And mine. Conflict happens.

But ownership of this failure sits on my own shoulders – I wasn’t thick-skinned enough to go back and have a fight with her again, or adjust myself to just shut up and put up. A tiny egobaby of mine hoped that my absence from the forum might have gone noticed, but it just wasn’t. I cowered away, licked my self-inflicted wounds and let it affect my writing for a couple of days.

I let the criticism, and failure to communicate get to me. And badly. This makes sense, given writing is in all senses, communication, and if we as writers, have a failure in communicating then it bashes our writerly egos. So, yes, it did get to me.

Only for a weekend, mind. That’s actually a growth for me. In the past something as small as that run-in could have taken me out of business for several days of stewing and worrying –  it’s in my mental makeup to be a worrywort and overly sensitive.

So, I may not have much thanks for that woman and her course, but she’s taught me something about myself, and my growing self-preservation. I’ve learned that I won’t put up with a hostile environment when fostering my writing, but I can still take something away from it. I can always learn, with or without an encouraging teacher.

My course story is an extreme. When I say there were no words of encouragement, I’m not kidding.  But that’s my personal viewpoint only. Others may see the course completely differently. In different circumstances, on a different day, I may well have loved the course also.

There’s always going to be the derisive comments from anonymous readers or reviewers that I must deal with. Some of them will be fair, some not. This I know on an intellectual level.

It’s the living it that’s the difficult part.

I know my skin will need further exfoliation. But from this little story, mine has grown just a little thicker. One layer at a time.

Resilience, the Book

Mark McGuinness has a new ebook out this weekend on exactly this topic, titled ‘Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success’. I’ve been reading my copy over the last weekend, and taking tips from it. Mark may be known to some of you for his Lateral Action website, and six month Creative Pathfinder e-course.  He coaches in topics like creativity from the U.K.

I could have done with the Resilience ebook a week earlier, but went down the same route myself anyway. The book is full of tips and techniques to help us all, as writers, entreprenuers and artists, build our own resilient thick skins.

I read or whomped through the book in one sitting (admittedly, I was home sick in bed with a headcold, so had a good few hours where everyone stayed away from me for fear of contagion). There are several areas in the book that made me sit up and cough (yes, pun intended) – the sections on whether it’s a matter of life or death, and whether our dreams are worth dying for made it into my cold-reduced pysche anyway, as did the techniques helping me to roll with the punches, and doing it better next time.

On the downside, Mark also goes on about finding our tribe. I’ve always been a relatively tribeless person. I’ve always liked to think of it as finding my hobbit hill and hunkering down in the dirt. But I’ll keep trying to wash off the hobbit in me and build my tribal skin.

resilience by Mark McGuinness is written for the promoter, writer, artist entrepreneur and creative souls that we all are.

Read it.

ROW80 Update

Building a thicker skin wasn’t one of my writing goals for the month. Perhaps it should have been. I got back on track, however, and am now getting ready for NaNoWriMo.

Doing the course was in actual fact, a ROW80 goal. I failed at that particular course, although have taken the content away with me, and will play around with it sometime else. The other courses for October have been successfully negotiated with a big check off my goals list. Yay, me.

Other ROW80 goal-setters, successes and possible failures are shared with you here. This story was mine.

2 thoughts on “#ROW80 Checkin – Learning Resilience (Book Review)

  1. I was a trainer for almost twenty years, and I know that there are times when students and teachers simply do not connect. It’s neither the student’s nor the teacher’s fault. I’m sure that, given the material and some time away from it all, you’ll get it. I bought the book, by the way, and will read it when I get the chance.

    1. Yes, that’s exactly it, John. A missed connection, and I find that from time to time in real life and virtually – harder virtually, of course – you can’t see their face and take the nuances from that.

      On the other hand, I don’t have a great poker face, so perhaps not seeing me was for the best.

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