When the Going Gets Tough by Mary Kennedy

DeadAirFront92I’m really lucky to have with me today my friend and fellow author Mary Kennedy. Mary is a national best-selling author, and a clinical psychologist in private practice on the east coast. She has sold forty novels, all to major New York publishers, and has made the Waldenbooks, BookScan and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists. Her early novels included middle grade fiction and young adult fiction for Scholastic and Penguin.

Mary is currently writing an adult mystery series, The Talk Radio Mysteries, which is set in a fictional town in south Florida. The first title, DEAD AIR, will be released in January, 2010, and the second, REEL MURDER, in June, 2010. The Talk Radio Mysteries was pitched and sold as “Frasier Meets Murder She Wrote.” The heroine is Maggie Walsh, a psychologist who closes up her Manhattan practice and heads to sunny Florida to take a job as a radio talk show host. And, yes, she solves a murder in every book!

Please join me in welcoming Mary and I hope you enjoy this very inspirational blog about resiliency!

When the Going Gets Tough

“When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.” This is the Cliff Notes version of a concept known as “resiliency,” the ability to bounce back fast from adversity. As a practicing psychologist, I try to build resiliency in my clients, helping them to withstand the stresses and disappointments of daily life. All of us possess resiliency, but how much? A lot depends on genetics, learned behavior patterns, personality traits and life experience. I’ve seen patients make a remarkable recovery from traumatic events; the death of a spouse, chronic illness of a child, even financial ruin. And I’ve seen other patients in tears over a bad haircut or a thoughtless remark by a relative.

Why is resiliency so important for writers? Because rejection is part of the game. Like all artists, writers put themselves on the line every time they send out a manuscript, leaving themselves open to judgment from editors and agents. So much of our identity is wrapped up in “being a writer,” that rejections are brutal, and go to the heart of who we are.

How can you build resiliency? I’d recommend four simple steps. Let’s take the example of an editor rejecting your manuscript.

First, take a cold hard look at the situation and determine if your first impression is accurate. Artists tend to “catastrophize,” meaning they put the worst possible spin on a situation. Does the editor really dislike the manuscript as a whole, or can you tweak it a little and resubmit it? Re-read her comments when you’re feeling calm and reflective. Panic can lead to cloudy thinking.

Second, ask a close friend for feedback. It’s always good to at least consider a situation through another set of eyes. Since your friend is less emotionally invested in the outcome, she may have a totally different–and more realistic–impression than you do.

Third, try to reframe the situation. Yes, the editor may not like this particular manuscript, for whatever reason. It may have nothing to do with your talent, or the quality of your work. It may be she’s just bought a book with the same theme or that the market is flooded with similar books. Let’s try reframing the situation in a more positive light. She’s not interested in acquiring this particular manuscript at this time. But is it realistic to say she never wants to see anything else from you? Ever? This is known as “depressive” thinking, or looking at something in a negative light. Reframe the situation and you realize that you can submit other projects to her, down the road.

Finally, immediately take action to seek a solution. Ruminating and drowning in negative thoughts will not help. Taking action will. List three things you can do–today–to get back on track. You can polish up another proposal, start something new or spend two hours in a bookstore, checking out the new releases. All these are positive steps you can take. Action leads to power, and a sense of control, which makes for a happier outlook. You will find that you are more resilient than you thought!

Mary Kennedy
For more information on Mary, please visit www.marykennedy.net
DEAD AIR (Penguin, January 5, 2010)
The first of the Talk Radio Mysteries.
“Frasier meets Murder She Wrote” in this entertaining new series by a real-life psychologist.”

Mary Kennedy

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38 thoughts on “When the Going Gets Tough by Mary Kennedy”

  1. Fabulous advice, Mary, and congrats on your new release! To succeed in any area of life it is important to be resilient, but it is absolutely essential for writers. Thank you for the great post!

  2. What a great blog Mary. You are so right –particularly about writers catastrophizing (made me smile) – my husband and I are both writers and we seem to lurch from high drama to high drama. I can’t wait to read DEAD AIR–!

  3. Hey Cris, your persistence paid off! A big congrats on seeing it through. Only a fellow writer realizes how tough it is to sit in front of a computer and grind out a book, often on spec, with no guarantee it will find a home, much less a mass audience. It take a “strong sense of self,” as the shrinks are fond of saying. I really feel as if we have to re-invent ourselves with every book, every time we change genres, every time we hand in a proposal. We put ourselves on the line every time…why do we do it? We could have been accountants or dentists? (actually,some of are!)…an interesting question and after 40 books, I still have not discovered the answer.

  4. Hi Mary
    I just finished Dead Air and it was great. I,m not
    a writer(the thought of trying to write fills me
    with dread). Consequently I read everything
    that winds up in front of me, and, not always
    finishing them. Not only did I finish Dead Air,I
    found it difficult to put down. The combination
    of mystery and humor was terrific.
    Many thanks. I look forward to the next book.
    Bob

  5. Hi Mary I just finished Dead Air. I thought it
    was great. I’m not a writer (The thought of
    trying it fills me with dread). I do read most
    everything that falls in front of me and often
    find I can’t or don’t want to finish it. Your book
    certainly didn’t fall into the last category as I
    found it difficult to put down . The mixture of
    humor and suspense kept me up.
    Many Thanks, I look forward to the next
    book. Bob

  6. Hi Mary I just finished Dead Air. It was great.
    I’m not a writer ( the thought of trying it
    fills me with dread) . I make up for this
    by reading everything that comes in front
    of me, some of which I can’t make it through.
    I found your book very satisfying in both
    it’s humor and it’s ability to keep me from
    putting it down Many thank.

  7. Thank you for a thought-provoking post, Mary. I know all about rejection – it took me about 14 years to get my first book published. And today, after all the 5-star reviews my DANCE series for Ellora’s Cave has gotten, I still feel as though no one will like the one that’s in the editing process right now. I need to do more positive thinking!

    Cris Anson

    P.S. DEAD AIR is on my to-buy list. Sounds great!

  8. Hi Mary, Hi Caridad!
    Great interview and great advice. I know it must be hard putting “your baby” out there and have it shot down. Just a little tweeking and then you have a masterpiece! Writer’s have terrific patience. Bless you all!
    Congrats on your new release! Best of luck!

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa G. I’m afraid patience is a quality I need to develop (along with about a zillion others). Type A people tend to be impatient…a lot of writers are Type A–driven, always seeking new challenges, never stopping to savor their successes. Never stopping for a single second, on to the next project, the next adventure. Personality types might be an interesting blog topic. Everyone has heard of Type A personality, but did you know there is a new type that’s been identified, Type T? Type T stands for thrill-seeking–the kind of person who constantly seeks out adventure, relishes new experiences, always searching for the next challenge. Sound like anyone you know? It’s an interesting idea…I think a lot of us are creating “Type T” characters even if we don’t have the time to engage in “adventure” ourselves.

      1. A big thank-you to Caridad, for inviting me to guest-blog. Did you ever wonder what Freud had to say about writers? Why society needs them? Freud said, “We pay them to dream our dreams for us.” An interesting concept!

    1. Hey Becke, thank you for saying DEAD AIR is going to be a hit, from your mouth to god’s ear! Love your remarks about developing a “mental mantra”–that’s actually one of the techniques I use with my clients–we work on developing “positive self-talk.” Sounds a little touchy-feely at first, but it’s really a valid strategy, and helps to counteract those “negative voices” we all hear in our head from time to time.

  9. Hi Mary and Caridad! Sorry to be so late, it’s been one of those days. I’ve been busy all day but don’t feel as if I’ve accomplished much. Boy, can I relate to Rejection-based Resiliency. As an unpublished fiction writer, I sometimes think I limit my submissions just to keep the rejection pile to a manageable site.

    An agent blog talked about how writers should be able to promote their stories with full confidence, but that can be hard to do in the face of a rejection pile.

    Mary and I were talking about Imposter Syndrome yesterday, something I once thought was a disease that only infected unpubbed writers. It’s a little scary to find out it can hit even NYT best sellers, but I’ve been told that it’s so.

    I recite a mental mantra when I get rejections, to remind myself that J.K. Rowling and Agatha Christie got a lot of rejections before being published. Not that I’m comparing myself to them, mind you, but it’s a reality check. Rejection is just a part of the writer’s life.

    Is it resilience to develop thick skin, though, or do we just become numb? Personally, I think a nice rejection is preferable to those scary reviewers on Amazon.

  10. What great advice, Mary. I wish I’d read it in the years I was struggling to get my first book published. It sure would have helped then, but it’s still valid and useful today. Thanks for the generous reminder.I’ve sent the link to our local writers’ group too!

    By the way, I can’t wait to read Dead Air!

    1. Hey there, MJ, thanks for stopping by! And thank you for the kind words about the blog. Maybe success is sweeter when it comes after a long struggle? I’ve heard a few writers joke about being an “overnight success” when their first book hit it big after they’d been writing for eight or nine years. But I always find myself wishing there was a magic wand I could wave, and all of us would finally jump into the winner’s circle with our novels. As a shrink,I know struggle builds character, but I secretly would like a little less struggle and a lot more fun in my life! Here’s hoping all of have a successful (and easier1) 2010.

    1. Mariah Stewart, I am thrilled you stopped by! Thank you so much. Can’t wait to read the Chesapeake Diaries, I know COMING HOME will be out in March,and HOME AGAIN in August. Beautiful covers, btw. Gorgeous! All your fans are waiting for this exciting new series! I know it will be fabulous…

  11. Congratulations on your latest release, Mary. I enjoyed your post. You’ve offered some worthwhile information here about life’s little snags as well as how we view the submission process itself. By the way, I learned a lot from your workshop in NJ this year.
    Best of luck with your new series. What a great way to start of 2010!

  12. Elizabeth, thank you so much for stopping by, and Bonnie Hearn Hill,love the mantra “quitting is not an option.” Sometimes I wonder how all of us keep going…but somehow we do, book after book, year after year.

  13. Chris, thank you so much for stopping by and for reading the blog. I think writers are a particularly resilient bunch–either the profession has made us that way…or it is just our nature, not sure which. I always feel inspired when I talk with other writers and hear their stories, their obstacles and how they’ve overcome them.

  14. Excellent advice, Mary. I see it time and again with my writer friends. Our mantra: Quitting is not an option. Thanks for the useful tips, and best of luck with the book. It sounds fabulous. Can’t wait to read it.

  15. Hi Carol and RK, thank you so much for the kind words–it means a lot to a writer. This is my first adult mystery (after 34 teen novels!) so it’s good to get positive feedback…

  16. Hi Mary :)
    Thank you for the excellent post.
    I really appreciate the advice.
    Dead Air has intrigued me & I must read it now!
    :)
    Here’s to a magnificent 2010!
    RKCharron

  17. Hi Mary,

    Your suggestions for coping with hard times are very sensible. Good advice, especially for writers. I can’t wait to get a copy of your new book. It sounds wonderful.

    Carol Kane

  18. Hi Mary, welcome and happy to be here to welcome you and read what you have to say. I retired last year and always looking for new authors and books now. susan L.

  19. Thanks for visiting Mary. The information you bring is very good. I am not a writer but you can apply this to any life situation. I guess I have a born in resiliency as I have rebounded from a lot of things in my life. It seems every adversity makes me stronger. I will be looking for your books when they hit the shelves. Have a great day.

    1. Thank you so much, Fannie. DEAD AIR hits the shelves today, so it’s an exciting time for me. After years (okay, decades!) of writing teen novels and middle grade novels, I finally switched to adult mystery.

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