Braving Storms: Deborah Glenn on Five Ways to Build Resiliency into Your Creative Life

Now that we’re all defrosting from the 2014 Arctic Vortex, it struck us as fitting to give April the theme of “Braving Storms.” Here are some great stories from people weathering the worst that life can rain down at the worst moments–and how they lived to see the sun come out again.


I’ve spent the majority of my career as a writer and editor, but this was—well, is—my second profession. My first one was civil and environmental engineering. I used to investigate toxic waste sites and design schemes for cleaning them up. (Insert joke here re: parallels between my former and current lines of work.)

Construction of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., June 28, 1892

                                                          Construction of the Library of Congress, 1892

And though it may seem counterintuitive, the education and training I received as an engineer—learning how structures and technologies work, following a process to design them, looking at a design from (literally) different angles, iterating on problems till a solution is reached, embracing multiple solutions for the same problem—can work wonders when applied to non-scientific, non-engineering endeavors.

When I think of the storms that people in creative fields must weather, I think primarily of the moments when a project we’re working on is, at least in our own minds, not going well. Maybe you feel stuck when writing a first draft. (I don’t believe in writer’s block, but that’s a whole other story.) Maybe a looming deadline or revision has you feeling overwhelmed. Maybe a project that once excited you now fills you with dread or boredom (hard to say which is worse). Creative people can, and should, build themselves a few metaphorical structures (and maybe even literal ones) for working through these challenges. This week I’ll be sharing five ways I’ve done this myself. I can’t claim that any of them is original, but based on experience—my own and that of others—they work. A bit of concrete action is often all that’s needed to settle our minds, enabling us to delve into a project with renewed energy.

unnamedA recent transplant from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Deborah Snoonian Glenn is a former senior editor of This Old House and Architectural Record and was the executive editor of the eco-lifestyle magazine Plenty. Her freelance writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Dwell and other publications, and she’s made dozens of guest appearances on The Today Show and other national programs.

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