We’ve all felt it.
That overly sour cocktail, frustration mixed with anger mixed with doubt and despair. We call it disappointment. It’s one of many things we try our hardest to avoid in our careers and throughout our personal lives, even though we’re well aware everything we do puts us in danger of experiencing it.
Creatives especially have to come to terms with their decision to pursue careers that can’t happen without bouts of disappointment along the way. Things happen. You finally let yourself hope that your hard work is going to pay off … and then it doesn’t.
How do you deal, when things don’t go your way? How do you get past feeling like you just want to stop trying to hard only to let yourself — or others — down?
Here’s my advice. I hope it eases your pain, at least a little.
You’re allowed to be disappointed. It’s a completely normal human emotion, just like anger, sadness, fear, and joy. Don’t feel like you have to pretend you aren’t feeling this way. Come on — you hoped for something and it didn’t happen. That’s upsetting, no matter how big or small this thing is that you dreamed of. And don’t let anyone try to tell you you’re not allowed to be upset. You are.
Sure, you can quit. Maybe you’ve tried one too many times, and you’re just done. No one should ever tell you that you aren’t allowed to choose that outcome. Should you give up on your dreams entirely? No. But maybe you’ve been trying to get a book published, and it just isn’t happening. There are other ways to get your work out there. You might just have to reframe the way you look at your future. Go at it from a different angle. It’s possible your disappointment can open up a new door for you.
You can’t fully rely on your expectations. Things don’t always go the way you plan, and that’s rough. Yes, you can — and should, as much as you can — be optimistic. You are allowed to hope that things go the best way possible for you. But remember, as a writer, that your imagination often takes things a little too far. That’s not your fault. Just lower your expectations. Not so much that you stop hoping for good. Just enough so you don’t forget it’s possible to fall.
It’s not the end of the world. That’s the last thing you want to hear right now. I know. But at some point, maybe you’ll be able to use it as fuel to power your next endeavor. Disappointment can wear you down, but you don’t have to let it break you. You can move forward, and you will. Rejections, failed projects — all of it can feel like a terrible ending. It’s not. It’s just an unfavorable outcome. There will be many more good and bad endings, but they always lead into new beginnings. Eventually.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.