Jenny* was running late. She grabbed the first seat inside the door, and acknowledged the teacher standing on the opposite side of the room. He welcomed her, unfazed by being interrupted.
We were sharing our homework. A 250-word piece on “Daring to Kick the Universe”.
We soon got around to Jenny. She prefaced her work by sharing that she’d experienced her first troll on her blog that afternoon. We invited her to tell us more about how she felt.
Shock, anger, and frustration reflected in Jenny’s response. I could relate having only the day before read a very unflattering review of Angelguard. It didn’t matter that I had a bunch of other really flattering ones; this one review had bugged me for a day or so.
Just like Jenny, I’m new to this type of negativity. She confessed what I too had contemplated: responding with a curt reply. Neither of us did.
It riled us and we were unsure what to do with the negative emotion it produced.
“You’re going to have develop a thick skin,”
“Don’t worry about it, its’ blah blah, blah,”
“Don’t these people have something more interesting in their lives than to openly criticise someone’s work.”
Encouragers expressed all of these statements and more. Our teacher reiterated the over-sensitive nature creative types typically have: they put their work out into the world without any protection hoping and praying it will be (and only) well received. But the well-wishers only served to diminish the flames, not extinguish them.
A few days later I read a few more such reviews and understood why many creative types refuse to read reviews.
My mind, as it can do, spiralled into a pit where I became fearful of what those closest to me would think having recently given them a copy of the book. I recalled the advice I gave Jenny: don’t let the negative emotions linger for long. Discouragement can quickly turn into a little seed of bitterness.
As I put my head on my pillow later that night I turned to the Lord. I sensed the question, “Is this that important?”
“No,” I responded.
“Then let it go. The only one holding onto it is you.”
So I let it go.
And prayed for all those who’d reviewed Angelguard, especially those whose reviews were negative. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7, says we should “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”(5:44). I’ve always found this douses the fire of discouragement in my heart.
The enemy is intentional in his strategies to unsettle us. Discouragement is one of his key weapons.
What strategies have worked effectively for you when you’re feeling discouraged?
* Jenny is a pseudonym for one of my creative writing classmates.
** I was drawn to a doughnut for the photo to this post as I read this quote from Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”:
“The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole. He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.” (Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, April 2003, p90)