A good friend told me this recently and I’ve been trying to pass it on to everyone I know:
As writers, or people who work in any field, we have a choice to make. Either we see our work as an end or we see it as a means to a bigger end–something more significant, something larger about ourselves and the world we live in.
If our writing is the end, a bad review can destroy us. A rejection letter can make us skip a meal (or waste an evening of sleep on a devoured tub of ice cream–pick your grieving style). If someone tears our work apart, we might quit the work all together.
If writing is a means to an end, and not the end itself, then we can take criticism, no problem. Our story draft is a stab at something bigger. We write, we enjoy the process of writing, and then we close our computers/notebooks and call it a day. It’s a better day because we’ve written. Hopefully we’ve made a discovery or two in the process that keeps us joyful, or at the very least, inquisitive.
If our writing is a means, we don’t beat ourselves up or get discouraged because we didn’t hit a certain word count or time stretch that we’ve made for a day’s goal. We can say, well, there’s always tomorrow. Tomorrow our work will be waiting for us, that means to a bigger end.
Of course we should write the best we can. Of course we should put as much of us into our work as we can manage. But we don’t do this because the work itself brings ultimate satisfaction. We do this because the work brings us toward something bigger.
What is that bigger thing? Well, isn’t that what we’re all here to try and figure out?