by Dee Davis
But what we sometimes forget is that those same concepts can be applied to us. Particularly when it comes to the idea of conflict within our careers.
There are three kinds of conflict in the world. Benign. Aggressive. And imaginary.
While there are marked differences between the three, all of them have the ability to not only affect our careers but also, in the most severe cases, to derail them.
Benign conflict comes about when we are thrown into a situation where our goals come into conflict with someone or something we care about. In our industry typically there are two sources of benign conflict. Family and workplace.
We all love our families but there are times when even the most loving family member simply doesn’t get it. They don’t understand the drive to tell stories. They don’t understand that when lost in an imaginary world, we’re probably not going to remember things like laundry and dinner. They may not understand why we stay up until three in the morning finishing a chapter. Or why we get up at five just to have alone time at the computer.
Additionally, for many of us, writing is not enough to provide our families with the financial support they need. Which means that with essentially two professions, there is often going to be conflict between them. Deadlines that coincide. Time management concerns. Expectations that don’t align.
But the key to dealing with benign conflict is finding balance.
A way to honor both yourself and the choices you’ve made as well as the people and things you care about. Simply by understanding that benign conflicts are bound to occur and by planning for them as best one can, these conflicts can be surmounted. And family, outside jobs, and the writing life can hopefully all live in some semblance of harmony.
Aggressive conflict is a little harder to deal with. It isn’t predictable, and usually comes without offering ready alternatives.
In our business the two most likely sources of aggressive conflict stem from within our own specific careers or from the overall industry.
Within our own careers, things like editors leaving, lines closing and production delays or difficulties can leave us reeling as sudden adjustments are needed in order to survive.
In addition, industry changes can also cause problems. Shrinking shelf space, visibility issues and changing marketing strategies are just some of the variables that shift constantly and can affect the ability of a writer to gain traction with readers no matter the pathway they choose to publication.
However, when a door closes, somewhere a window opens. And the key is to be agile enough to climb through the damn window.
It’s important when faced with a challenge like this to step back, take a breath, and figure out what alternatives are available, and then to make a reasoned response to the challenge one faces.
Finally, the most insidious of conflicts—imaginary. When you think about it, this is an area where writers excel. We’re good at imagining things. So good that we spend much of our time fighting the perception that everyone else is doing better than we are. We’re often our own worst enemies. And it’s important that we remember that just as there is no one right way to write a book, there is no one right way to have a career as a writer.
At the end of the day, we have to give ourselves a break.
We have to believe in our talent. And we have to persevere. To stand strong in the face of conflict, whether benign, aggressive or imaginary.