13 Dec

When You Find Coal in Your Stocking

Posted in Process, Tips, Writing

The universe has a weird sense of humor.  You want to see your work in print but instead you get a pile of rejections.  You want to write something deep and meaningful that will reach people, and instead all that comes out is nonsensical garble.  You want to take the nice flat road and instead you find yourself pushing a giant boulder uphill like Sisyphus.

Like the song says:
“You can’t always get what you want.  You get what you need.”

No, I’m not going to get all new age-y on you, but I definitely think there’s something to be said about a greater construct that can see beyond my own myopic point of view.  Some people call that a divine power.  Others (like Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way) call it synchronicity.  I like to think of it as the universe having common sense.

Whatever you want to call it, I have seen proof that the universe knows what I need much better than I do.  Some time ago I took a writing class and really hit it off with one of my classmates.  After a couple of semesters in the same class, our lives took us in different directions and we fell out of touch.  A few months ago, I got an email from her out of the blue… only it wasn’t from her exactly; someone had hacked her email account and spammed everyone in her address book.  Even so, it reminded me that here was a writer I wanted to be in touch with and it inspired me to me to reach out and say hello.  Now, months later, she and I have become good friends and she’s one of the go-to people I consult with about writing stuff.  We still crack up about how our friendship was rekindled by a Viagra spam email.

My point is, sometimes the universe plays tricks on writers.  Sometimes a door opens and it doesn’t lead anywhere near where you want to go, but it’s the only open door so you take it anyway.  Sometimes Santa puts coal in your stocking instead of that iPod you wanted.  It happens.  Here’s how to deal:

Just remember 2 things about coal:

1)  You can burn it to make fire.  So you got a lump of coal (READ: rejection letter, nasty critique, door slamming in your face).  So what?  Don’t let it get you down.  Instead, think about how you can use it to light a fire in your writing.  Don’t let naysayers stand in your way.  Prove them wrong.

2)  Coal is basically the same as a diamond, only not as well put-together.  What can you do with the coal you’ve got in your hand to turn it into diamond-material?  How can you rearrange those molecules to make that dull lump of gunk into something sparkly and beautiful?

When you find coal in your stocking, think of it as a call to action, a BIG fat hint from the universe.  What you do with that hint is up to you.  After all, a lump of coal is just a lump of coal until you do something with it.


Comments on this post

  1. Ghenet says:

    I definitely think it's important to make something out of the "coal" that comes your way as a writer. It can be a long, bumpy road to publication and you have to be able to pick yourself back up and keep going until you make it.

    1. Catherine A. Winn says:

      I read somewhere, can't remember who said it, that a diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to the job. Thanks for posting this and reminding me about the diamond I'm working hard to create.

      1. Jennifer Shirk says:

        Now that's a cool story–all from a Viagra spam. Love it!

        1. Saumya says:

          What a great attitude! And so awesome that you reconnected with your friend that way. You are so right about the universe knowing what is better for us than we do. Remembering that can bring us a lot of peace throughout our journey as writers.

          1. Christine says:

            I needed this post today. A great reminder of why I keep slogging away at this writing thing. I tell myself that every R is really permission to grow as a writer. To learn more. To become better. To be ready for the right Yes!

            1. Carol Riggs says:

              Yep! kinda like getting served lemons in life, and making lemonade, as the saying goes. :o)

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