Author compartmentalizing strategies for bad writing days, query rejections, and other temporary writing setbacks.

“I have been truly blessed with the ability to compartmentalize the many competing agendas in my mind. Because of this I can shut it off and enjoy the moment.”

Arlene Dickinson

I believe that a big part of what makes some professional athletes elite in their respective field, is their ability to compartmentalize, especially after something doesn’t go well. 

When the quarterback throws an interception, when the receiver drops the ball, when the kicker misses the kick – they are professionally obligated to reset, and quickly. There is no time for wallowing in failure, feeling bad, getting stuck in imposter syndrome, or taking it personally. Athletes, football and otherwise, are trained to fall down, pop back up, and apply the necessary fundamentals and corrections to do better next time. I often marvel at the strength of mindset these athletes display in these situations. 

As an author, how can you do the same after a bad writing session, after receiving a poor book review, a query rejection, or other temporary setbacks?

Even without being an athlete, I’m quite sure it takes more than – get up, don’t worry about it, move on. I suspect it’s called compartmentalizing because athletes at that level have trained themselves, through repetition, to put the bad thing that just happened into a mental compartment, lock it away, and snap back to the present moment. All in mere seconds.

Like any other mindset strategy, this takes practice. You can’t simply expect your mind to compartmentalize failure just because you want it to. 

Author Compartmentalizing Strategies

Practice Being Present: Practice training your mind to return to the present moment. This does not have to be limited to meditation or other formal practices. Make it a game and challenge yourself to do it at various moments throughout your day. Build the neural circuits by repetition. This is an especially useful practice when your mind wanders into the fear and anxiety zones of the past and future. Nothing productive can occur in either of those zones. 

Self-Reflection Journaling: Dig deeper and look at the roots of how you react to failure in the moment. Explore what failure really means to you on a deep personal level based on past experiences with it. What does it mean to your overall identity? Engage in self-reflection when the sun is out, so to speak, so that when clouds form, failure is less likely to level you.

Act As If: Imagine that you are an elite, professional athlete. It is your job, no matter what happens, to compartmentalize failure, assess the lessons from it, avoid getting stuck, and above all, getting up again (no matter how wounded you’re feeling) and moving forward toward your goals.

Or in our case as writers, act as if you are a professional author, that writing your book is your job. Turn the tasks involved in writing a book into part of your identity rather than thinking of writing a book as an optional hobby. Your mind is a powerful thing. Feed it consistently with ideas like these, and it will follow your lead. 

Related Articles:

Mindset Tips Before Publishing

Write a Book and Publish It, The Mindset Angle

Fail Like a Sportsball Player


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