May Editorial: Growing Pains
This month, PHS Founder and Editor Trish Wylie, talks about personal growth and the effect it can have on your life and your writing...
It may be National Gardening Week in the UK but that's not the kind of growing pains we're talking about here.
Kids and teenagers aren't the only ones who have them. But I'm not talking about physical aches and pains. What I'm talking about is personal growth and how we all change as we get some life experience under our belts. Some of those changes are smooth and organic. We may not even realize they're happening at the time. Unfortunately, some aren't so smooth and getting through them can involve a combination of determination, acceptance and self-awareness. Just like the ripples in a pond when our actions can have an effect on other people's lives, what others do and say can effect us. We try not to let it happen, particularly when there's drama involved, but how we react to those situations says a lot about who we are as individuals.
I'm not just talking about the negatives here. You know me. I always try to have a glass half-full approach to these things! So, while some growth is painful, I like to believe it will have a positive outcome.
As writers, we all know the seeds of a fictional character's true identity are sown in childhood and formed, for the most-part, during their teens. The latter is when we all make choices about what we do and don't like, what we will and won't accept and the things we consider right or wrong. There's some flexibility in there and our views can change when we see more of the world. But the foundation is laid and we all build on that. What we don't always realize as we build, is how some of the bricks we lay on that foundation may later prove to be out of place or not quite fit right or must be moved to adapt to our changing needs. I'm not the same person I was at twenty-five or thirty-five or forty. Sometimes I'm not even certain I'm the same person I was last year.
Part of my problem, as I've mentioned before, is my resistance to change, which in turn make my growing pains, more painful. My teens were unsettled and, as a result, for several decades I was a rolling stone. I moved from career to career, relationship to relationship, house to house, in search of something I can now identify as security. I needed to feel safe and in control of my life. Knowing that explains a lot when it comes to the flip-side of my personality, where I hang onto things for longer than I should before letting them go.
Book contracts were a big part of that. There was a perception of security in them. And the more books my publisher wanted, the more secure I felt. When a contract for multiple books came to an end, I rushed into the next one and the one after that and the one after that, never considering the effect upping my output would have on my creativity until I crashed and burned. Even then, I fought through the pain and managed to squeeze out another couple of books. But they were harder to write than before. They wanted to be longer and have more secondary characters and push the boundaries. I was aware it was happening but didn't stand still for long enough to figure out why. Then, the line I wrote for closed and I lost my contract-shaped security blanket, which in turn forced me to take a step back, stand still for a moment, take a deep breath and think.
It never occurred to me that as I changed, my writing would too. The foundation remained the same. I still wanted to write romance-centric books. But the kind of romance-centric books I loved reading had been different to the ones I wrote for a long time. To a certain extent, they still are. Self-awareness means accepting what you can and can't do while, at the same time, striving to be better at what you do. Adopting a 'YOU CAN DO IT' attitude helps, too.
You have to believe in yourself. Even if it takes some persuading!
Resisting change doesn't just make your growing pains harder to bear. You also limit yourself to what you have in the here and now, ignoring the numerous possibilities which could appear on the horizon if you have the courage to open your eyes and your heart and embrace change.
No-one on this planet of ours gets it 100% right, 100% of the time. We all make mistakes and have flaws and insecurities and emotional baggage. We all have shit to deal with and tough times and days we don't want to get out of bed. But making excuses or telling ourselves lies to avoid making the kind of changes in our lives which, though difficult at the time, could enhance them in the long run, adds to our growing pains. And eventually, as it did for me, it may stifle your creativity.
Put it this way: Would you enjoy a story if the characters stood still and refused to move? Isn't reading about their growing pains part of the enjoyment? And don't you just love when they learn to bend a little, embrace change and are rewarded with a happily ever after?
Now ask yourself this: Don't you think you deserve that reward, too?
There's no solid written-in-stone guarantee it will be forever, any more than it's guaranteed in a romance novel. But the belief that it's possible, the hope it might happen and faith you can keep putting one foot in front of the other and survive whatever life throws at you can salve the worst wounds inflicted by growing pains. To get to the next chapter, you have to keep turning the page. Trust me. I know.
And if I can keep going and look forward instead of back, so can YOU.
Have you experienced growing pains? If you're a writer, did they have a knock-on effect on your writing? Are you resistant to change or do you embrace it? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on #GrowingPains on our Social Media.