Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I am a ruminator. In fact, I have been called the “Queen of Rumination.” For those of us who grew up on a farm, we all know that cows ruminate their cud, over and over and over. No, I am not sitting here chewing; I am sitting here thinking, over and over and over.
I ran across an article in the Huffington Post by Robert Leahy, PhD., which explained a lot about thought processes. He discussed the problem of rumination. It seems that some of us (mostly females) keep going over and over a problem trying to figure it out. Most of the problems are negative thoughts, i.e. a past conversation, a slight, something that is bothering us. Instead of saying that it is in the past and there is nothing I can do about it, we ruminators tend to go over and over it, applying different angles and trying to solve the problem in another way than the way it was handled. I have been accused of taking a situation and turning it inside out, upside down and sideways in order to figure out exactly how it went wrong.
According to Leahy, that is okay if you actually have a problem to be solved. If there is not a problem to be solved (it’s pointless and you can’t change it) and you are constantly going over it, then YOU have a problem. He suggested that you look at the subject of your rumination and see if there is a solution and if there isn’t then you need to let it go. Going over and over the same thing with no solution can lead to depression. Rumination is focusing on goals that you cannot achieve, like changing the past. You should instead focus on the here and now. Live in the present.
Being a ruminator did me a great service when I was practicing law. I could take a problem, examine it, go over it and keep going over it until I had an answer. So maybe if I didn’t have an answer, I was at least prepared for whatever Red Herring (legal term – means SURPRISE) I was going to get sideswiped with in court. It gave me all the options and I could anticipate the way I would react. Not so true as a writer.
As writers, we are all subject to rejection (I’ve had quite a few of those – lol). I think that as a group we are all driven individuals – we have a need to get those stories out there and we work furiously doing just that. When we are rejected, we tend to ruminate: what was wrong with the story?; what did I do that didn’t sell it?; and how can I make it better? We take the thing apart, examine it and go over it and over it in our heads. Sometimes there isn’t a problem to be solved – the editor or agent just didn’t like it (you can’t make someone like something). Sometimes there is a problem with the story and by ruminating you can fix it. Sometimes I just feel like taking a gun out and shooting the problem. At any rate, the moral of the story for all of us is quite simple – we need to learn to let go if there is nothing we can do to fix the problem. Sitting and thinking about it over and over is not going forward. Going forward is when you get that fresh new page and you start to fill it with your next masterpiece.
Do you ruminate? Over your work? Over a social slight? Over anything? Have you caught yourself doing this? What do you do to distract yourself from sitting and mulling the would-ofs and could-ofs over and over? Have you learned to let go?