How to Get Through Tough Times

I’ll never forget staring out the window of an Amtrak that was traveling from New York City to Richmond, after submitting the final manuscript for my first book.

I’d been waiting to exhale that particular exhale for a long-ass time.

As the roads, bridges, and trees blew past in a blur, a profound level of gratitude came over me—not because I wrote an entire book, but because at one point in time, I’d convinced myself that I could.

Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the kinds of accomplishments that we can see, touch, taste, and smell—like a promotion, house, car, or boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong; I’m proud as hell that I put my entire life on hold and lived, ate, breathed, slept, and typed my way to 75,000 beautiful words that are changing moms’ lives.

But I’m even more proud of the fact that whenever I got down in the dumps about whether I could complete this herculean task, I made the conscious decision to believe that I could.

It wasn’t always like this, you know.

When I left my very first meeting with my big-time literary agent, let’s just say the meeting hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. I thought he wanted to get together so he could shower me with congratulations, well wishes, and plans for our future success together.

However, he’d invited me to NYC to let me know that while he believed in me as a person, he wouldn’t be able to sell my book proposal to a major publisher as it was written, because it wasn’t strong enough, unique enough, or sharp enough.

After sweating under the collar, stripping off my blazer, and repeatedly asking, “Is it hot in here?” (I’m certain it was not), the two of us came up with a brand-new theme for the book proposal, and 90 minutes later I was on a train back to Richmond.

Crying my eyes out.

Why? I was terrified. I didn’t know if I could do what this dude needed me to do. Truth be told, I thought the book proposal I had submitted to him was very interesting. It was my best foot forward, my A-game. And now, somehow, I needed to start from scratch, dig deep, and find an even better foot to put forward.

So, what did I do? The same thing I think you should do when trying to tackle what seems like an insurmountable mountain, perhaps right now.

  1. Get your fear out. The second I sat down on the train back to Richmond I cried. I mean, ugly cried. There’s no doubt the passengers around me thought I should be hospitalized. But you know what? I didn’t care. Holding back doubts, fears, and insecurities will do nothing other than turn them into poison that eventually rots your soul. When you see a mountain ahead and have no idea how to summit it, do whatever you need to get your fears out. Cry, scream, yell, or beat the crap out of a pillow. Just don’t keep them inside.
  2. Phone a friend. The first person I called was my business partner, Lauren. The only words I could muster while hyperventilating were, “I don’t know if I can do this. What happens if I fail?” First, she told me to put on my sunglasses, because she could tell from the sound of my voice that I looked like a train wreck. Then, she reminded me of all the hard things I’d tackled before—listing them slowly and surely, one by one—until I could finally breathe again.
  3. Decide that you can do it. Nobody decides what you’re capable of achieving except you. I’m not afraid to admit that I cried the entire six-hour train ride home—begging for compliments and confidence via phone calls with my husband, parents, and former boss. And when we finally pulled into Richmond, I left all that toxic baggage behind on the train. I took a deep breath and decided (yes, it’s a choice) to move forward from my fear.
  4. Surround yourself with positive mantras. Before typing a single word of the new book proposal on my computer, I found a desktop wallpaper that read, “Actually, I can.”  It became my life force. I’ve always believed that mantras need to be seen and not just etched in your busy mind to improve the quality of your life. What mantra can you put in front of your face every day, until you achieve the goal that looms in front of you?
  1. Stop expecting hard things to be easy. When I was in the throes of writing the new proposal and eventually the book itself, I stuck a Post-it on my computer screen that read, “I expect this to be hard.” I needed a daily reminder, because every time I couldn’t think of anything to say or felt overwhelmed by 50 edits to a single chapter, it kept taking me by surprise. In other words, maybe if I were smarter/brighter/better, it would be easier to write a book. But, with my Post-It in place, I wasn’t caught off-guard when something felt difficult. 

Was writing a book easy? Nope. Are your challenges going to be a walk in the park? Not a chance. But the greatest gift you can give yourself is to make the conscious decision to believe that you can and will make it to the other side.You’ve done hard things before; you just keep forgetting. Let’s stop with the selective memory. Whatever you’re battling today is a fight worth fighting because your happiness is worth winning.

Katherine Wintsch