RESILIENCE Bouncing back

Welcome to Kate Mallinder’s brand new series for Word & Pictures on RESILIENCE!

We often hear that we need resilience as creators, but what actually is it, what does it look like and how can we get it? Over the series, we’re going to be looking at how to survive waiting, how to be kind to yourself, find your travelling companions and keep focused – all part of a resilience toolkit.

But first up, a look at the meaning of resilience:

1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. the ability of a substance or object to bounce back into shape; elasticity.

[definitions from]

It was this last definition that particularly hit a nerve with me. Bounce back. Bounce back from what? Obviously in the context of the definition it’s about rubbery substances that return to their original form after being pulled out of shape or squashed, but what if we apply that to creators? How do we bounce back after being squashed?

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up. This is not a wonder-fix. Cultivating resilience is not an easy thing, but it is possible. You can be that person who bounces back.

Sometimes the emotion of the moment, the rejection, the plot hole, the re-write, whatever it is, can all feel too much. The pressure is too great to bear and in that moment your head screams at you to give up. Why bother carrying on when it does this to you? This is the squashed moment. We all have them. When I feel like this, looking at it in three different ways helps me to get perspective.

First of all, look back. 

See how far you’ve come. Dig out old first drafts, first sketches, check out your first tentative steps into the world of children’s literature and acknowledge that you have moved forward. That you have improved. Take that moment to smile to yourself, pat yourself on the back and say ‘well look at that!’ You have done that.

Next, look at the larger scale picture of where you are now. 

Move away from that one sentence in the rejection email that has just killed you and see more. Is your story still out with other agents? What good feedback have you had? Look up from the plot hole and see your story as a whole, acknowledge that your characters are wonderful even if they still have a variety of names because you haven’t picked one yet. This is a world you have created; conjured up from nothing, out of nowhere. Yes, there may be some fine or not-so-fine tuning but that’s part of it. You are where you are supposed to be on your journey.

Then finally, look to the future. 

Where do you want to be? Don’t put timescales on it, as you have little control over the ‘when’. What can you see? An agent requesting a full? Some great feedback – an email from a friend screaming how much they love your work? Maybe further on a book, with your name on the front, maybe seeing a child reading that book, maybe seeing it on a shelf in a bookshop nestled in with the others. Some say this is like the Mirror of Erised – something that shouldn’t be messed with; that longing to be further on than you are can eat you up. And true, too much of it probably isn’t good. But every now and again, getting out your dream, dusting it off and sharpening up the image is where you’ll get your drive from. Your desire to strive harder, to try again, to bounce back.

Looking at these three facets of yourself will remind you of who you are, where you’ve come from and where you’re heading. It will remind you of your shape – the shape you want to bounce back to.
Of course the extra thing to consider is what that future might look like if you did stop now. What would happen? For me, my dreams would vanish in a puff of smoke. I am driven by my fear of not having given it my Very Best Shot. I don’t want to look back in ten years’ time and regret my decision.

So on those bad days, when creating stories for children seems hard, take time to reflect. Allow yourself time to bounce back. Nowhere in that definition does it say that resilience is an instant bounce back. Sometimes it’s a slow, purposeful recovery, a realigning of your aims. And while you’re doing that – or perhaps to guard against it happening too often – try some of these:

• Chat to other writers or illustrators – SCBWI is awesome for finding your tribe.
• Write or draw something just for fun – take the pressure off and rekindle that love.
• Set small targets – don’t overstretch yourself. It isn’t a race; there isn’t a deadline.
• Go along to a critique group – constructive criticism can spark ideas.

And remember, even the most resilient looking people have their off-days. It’s how you frame those days that counts. One off-day is not a disaster, one off-week isn’t either, or a month. And (to mix all the metaphors) it’s about finding out how to bounce back, brush yourself off and get back on that horse.

Kate Mallinder is author of the upcoming Summer of No Regrets and a writer who keeps bouncing back no matter how squashed she feels.

If you want to read more, Kate's writing blog is or you can find her on Twitter: @KateMallinder and Instagram: kate.mallinder

Header image credit: ijeab/Freepik

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Kate! If only we didn't have to fail sooo many times to develop resilience. But I guess I should think of it as mental scar tissue...


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