5 Ways to Shake Off Desperation

On Monday morning, I opened my office door and something felt off. I had just returned from two days at a writing conference and I felt a fresh sense of desperation about my writing career. Doubt nibbled at my fingertips. Thoughts of creative and financial disaster swirled in my mind.

Then, it hit me: desperation can be contagious. As I thought back to the writing conference, I recalled the fun I had running into old friends, the talent of the students in my writing classes, and the enthusiasm of the agents I pitched. I also flashed on the hundreds of writers I’d been surrounded by, many of them desperate to be published. I feared I had “caught” some desperation at the conference.

So, I began the week shaking off desperation that wasn’t mine. I have enough of my own, at moments, and I don’t need anyone else’s. Have you ever had an experience like this? It doesn’t only happen with desperation, I’ve noticed. It sometimes happens with happiness, joy, doubt and grief and other emotions too.

These are my five tips for getting back your groove when you’ve absorbed something that isn’t yours after a writing conference or other similar gathering:

  1. Shake it off. Literally. Take your hands and shake them as if you were shaking them dry. Breathe in peace. Breathe out desperation.
  2. Send emails and snail mail notes to people you met who inspired you.
  3. Review your notes from the conference and throw out the ones that aren’t helpful.
  4. Thank the organizers who hired you.
  5. Get back to your own work.

After I did all these things, the desperation lifted like fog when the sun comes out. Then, a few days later, I received thank you notes from people I’d met at the conference and all I could remember was what I'd learned at the conference that helped me as a writer and a workshop leader. And I got back to work.

Writer Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin, by Ilya Repin, 1884, oil on canvas, 89 x 69 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.