Thursday, April 10, 2014

Being objective about subjectivity

In the last couple of weeks I've been helping my kids with science fair projects, and the process has reinforced something I need to remember more often: so many things we do in life are subjective.

My eight-year-old son is hugely competitive, which can sometimes be a problem. Especially in situations like the science fair, where winning can be a totally subjective experience. Luckily (?) for him, he won for his grade level at the school fair, and so last week we went to the district fair--where he did not place at all. Afterwards, he alternated between raging and crying about the unfairness of it all. I tried to remind him that I was proud of him, that he'd worked hard, but none of that seemed to matter. He hadn't won. (And if you don't believe me about his reaction, you can ask Tasha Seegmiller, whose daughter was along to witness his mini-hysterics and found it highly amusing.)

As embarrassed as I was by his reaction, it set me wondering. How often have I reacted like this? Not outwardly, of course--I gave up hysterics oh, at least ten years ago--but inwardly? How often have I felt hurt or rejected because an agent sent back a form rejection, or because an editor passed on my story, or because I didn't win that contest?

In writing--as in science fairs and so many other things in life--the only thing I have control over is what happens on my end. How much time I spend writing. How carefully I revise. How tightly I plot. Rather than squander my limited energy on things I can't control, I should spend more time focused on the things I can control.

I don't want to spend my life raging and grieving. I'd much rather enjoy my life--and my writing. If I win (or get published, or any other good thing), that's great. Celebratory, even.

But if not, I'll keep writing.

Because I love it. And because I can.

Anyone else struggle with subjectivity in writing? How do you deal with it?

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