Coping with a setback

This week I’d planned to post about how well my writing has been going recently, but in keeping with the laws of ‘pride comes before a fall’ I then suffered a setback this week.

It wasn’t a major setback but was health related and so I had to take the decision to ease off on the writing for a couple of days. Without realising it I’d been frantically working on a new project for at least two weeks – without really any idea of where it was going – and had probably overdone it. Usually having to take an enforced break would drive me mad and completely put me off my stride. But instead I seem to have coped with it well, and I think this is because I’ve learned my lesson from previous setbacks. Instead of allowing it to plunge me into a gloomy mood, I’ve found a way to deal with it.

Here are my recommendations for dealing with a setback:

1. Acceptance – I’ve managed to accept that these setbacks are not my fault. Yes, I may have overworked a bit and got myself overtired which could have exacerbated my condition but in reality setbacks will always happen and it’s best to just accept that life is not straightforward.

2. Resting – Usually I try to fight back against the setback but this time once I’d accepted it I just took my foot off the gas and concentrated on getting myself better. This means I’ve recovered from the setback much more quickly and feel like I could return to writing already.

3. Prioritising – Yes, I love writing and I’m working on several projects at the moment, but when my health is suffering that has to become my first priority. I’m still very motivated to write and I know that I’ll be able to slip straight back into what I’m doing once I’m feeling better.

4. No guilt – It’s also very important not to let re-prioritising away from writing to make you feel guilty – writing will always be there and taking a couple of days off – or a week/month if your setback is bigger – will not matter. Last year I had to take 6 months off after a major setback but my writing muscles were still there when I needed them.

Remember, a setback is not the end of the world. Yes, you may have to take a step back from writing for a while but, like a devoted dog outside a supermarket, it will still be there waiting for you to come back. Don’t try to force yourself back too soon; come back to it when you feel ready and you’ll soon find all is well.

How do you cope when a setback interrupts your writing? Do you have any advice for getting back to your writing work? Or, do you find that writing helps you to cope with setbacks? Please leave your comments below to help other writers.

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5 thoughts on “Coping with a setback

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  1. A useful list for sure.

    My writing is usually setback by purely motivational issues, my mind will be creating walls I cannot climb. A piece will seem too hard to edit, or even something dumb like plugging my external HD will be some kind of hassle.

    I find the most useful thing to ensure I get back writing is to have the next section of the story planned even if very loosely, so I can sit down and make the scenes come to life without worrying how I’m going to continue.
    I also like to have multiple writing projects on the go at one time, that way if I feel a little bored or unmotivated to do my main piece, I can divert my attention to another world and recharge the batteries for the old one while still being productive.

    1. It’s a very good point about having multiple projects on the go – that way if you have a setback with one, you always have a back up to work on. Good luck with the writing, hope it keeps going well.

  2. You are spot on, I think. I have health setbacks too, usually because I’ve overdone it, and it’s taken me years to realise those four things you’ve listed – accept that it’s not your fault, rest so you can get better, prioritise your health, and don’t feel guilty about it. Because when you get all that right, you get back in the game a lot quicker! Great post.

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