February 3rd, 2012

ppbk cover

Do Not Panic: Life and Critiques

I'm trying to learn to be more Zen about life, to take what comes without judging it or freaking out about it. I seem to be a slow learner in this area. When I was a kid and played board games with my brothers, I confess, when I lost I would often fling the game off the table. It wasn't so much that I minded losing as much as I minded one of my brothers (I won't say which one) making me feel like I was a Loser (capital L). This is a feeling that stayed with me into adulthood -- which made receiving critiques of my work painful. It meant that when fault was found with a manuscript, I pretty much threw it in the trash bin. It made it hard for me to understand that problem areas did not mean the work was unsalvageable.

And who knows, maybe I can't blame my brother for making me feel this way. I tend to react intensely to most things (okay, maybe not quite as much as Kristen Bell, but still.) My initial reaction is usually red alert -- adrenaline pumping, breath shortening, stomach lurching panic. To be fair, to look at me, you'd never guess. People think I handle things well, that I stay calmer than they would in a similar circumstance. It's only on the outside.

Yesterday I was leaving my house to go to the gym. Let me be clear, I am not a fan of gyms, and the only way I can get myself to go is by scheduling an appointment with a trainer for which I will be charged regardless of whether or not I show up. So, I was running a little late and rushing out of the house. I hit the garage door button and grabbed my shoes. Well, as fate would have it, the garage door broke, the emergency release wouldn't release, and I literally had no way of getting my car out of the garage. Naturally, I went into instant panic mode. OH MY GOD! The door is broken! I can't get out! I can't go to the gym! Adrenaline pumping, breath shortening, etc.

Um, seriously? Panic? Cause you can't ... go to the gym? *Giggle, snort* Ah, darn, I can't go to the gym. I'm stuck waiting for the repairman and I don't want to get too involved in working on something because he could show up at any minute. I guess I have no choice but to read for fun (!) I don't usually read for fun during "work hours."

Once I caught my breath and calmed the #$!@ down, I started to realize how much I do this in my life and in my work. Freak out, that is. And I vowed to do better. Can a high-strung, moody, sensitive, neurotic Jewish girl do that? Learn not to freak out and jump to conclusions?Yes! I can, because -- believe it or not -- I'm way better than I used to be -- even if that only means realizing what I'm doing sooner than I might have in the past. I know I've learned to take criticism on my work, to understand its value, to use it to improve the story I'm trying to tell.

Part of embracing all of life is learning to accept what comes our way -- which, of course, isn't always what we want. This is also true when receiving critiques of our work. In any of these situations, whether it's one of life's curveballs or whether it's a biting critique, there is a simple and straightforward process to take:

Step 1: Do not panic.
Step 2: Give your body time to calm the #$%@ down after it ignores step one without your permission.
Step 3: Let whatever is before you be okay -- whether it's the garage door breaking or a critique that stings. Know that you can handle it.
Step 4: Get to work.

If I can do it, you can too ;)