Everyday lessons in building resilience through the pandemic

Everyday lessons in building resilience through the pandemic

Everyday lessons in building resilience through the pandemic

“I have a great idea. I’m going to write and photograph a book documenting life throughout the pandemic of 2020.
—My diary, New Year’s Eve 2020

Just like that, I leapt headfirst into the new and lengthy process of writing a book. To this day, I still feel the strong sense of determination, belief and enthusiasm underpinning this project. A quick glance at my photographic documentation was all I needed to reassure myself that this book needed to be written.
Hindsight can be beautiful. The idea mulling in my mind was incredibly alluring but I could never have anticipated the reality that lay ahead and the important lessons I would need to learn along the way.
Writing a book is demanding and sometimes incredibly frustrating work. On countless occasions, when I considered a section to be complete, my editor came swooping in with a red marker indicating changes needed to be made, AGAIN. Similar to playing tennis, the manuscript travelled backwards and forwards many times. In the process a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ have been shed.
People often romanticise writing a book; I’m first to admit that I’m guilty of this. I felt certain that everyone would be super encouraging and love the story that Resilience tells. Why wouldn’t they love my book? Unable to see my naivety through the rose-coloured classes, I would soon learn that some people may not like my work while others would have suggestions for improvements. This particular hurdle was a game-breaker. I would either take advice graciously or jump to the conclusion I must end my idea forever. Accepting constructive criticism as different from personal criticism has been and continues to be excruciatingly hard. Despite this, I’m slowly learning to come to grips with reality in order to produce the best work I can.
The day came when my book dream materialised and I could hold it and hug it for the very first time. The arrival of my first shipment of books sadly didn’t pan out as expected in my dreams. I could never have anticipated how I would feel. My baby (the book) had arrived home, the source of countless hours spent staring at the screen of my laptop was in my hands. Yet, ripping the boxes open was like meeting a stranger for the first time. Unexpectedly, I felt little emotion; if anything, I felt indifferent. There were no bells and whistles, no big celebration, no one to scream at or jump up and down within hysteria. It was me and a book with my name printed on the front cover. Now what? Can I please call a friend?
Writing books had not been on my radar. I could never have foreseen what I would achieve in 2021. Pandemic aside, the mere suggestion that I could consider writing, plus producing all graphical content, and packaging it into a beautifully presented book would never have entered my mind. Now that the book is here, I’m faced with many new reasons to feel anxious! I question who will buy it? Will it sell? And the obvious concern, who wants to read a book written by me?
Referring to myself as an author sounds foreign and wrong. A month after the release of Resilience – A Year in Pictures, the achievement doesn’t feel real. I continue to await that imagined massive rush of excitement and pride in the product of my vision; the book I’ve spent many hours working on. So far, I’ve felt little more than incredibly vulnerable and at the mercy of the people who read it.

The bigger picture

I’ve been caught in a whirlwind of processes and seem to have lost sight of the significance of the achievement. With the upcoming launch of a feature profile in the GT Magazine (January 2022 edition of The Geelong Advertiser) I’m looking ahead at the bigger picture. I’m looking at the lessons, the hard truths and the glimmers of light yet to be discovered. Snippets of wisdom I’ve discovered so far include:
1. Writing a book is no easy feat. The process of writing, editing, coming up with a catchy title, the design and marketing is complex and time-consuming work. The good news? This means I can do hard things. The proof is in the book!
2. My gut feeling is usually spot on. Take New Year’s Eve 2020 when my intuition directed towards a completely new life direction. I listened, I trusted, and now I have a book.
3. Nothing worth doing is without its difficulties or setbacks. This is a mantra I need to adopt moving forward.
What next? There’s more to do to get Resilience – The Year in Pictures into the hands of readers. The work doesn’t stop here BUT, it is time to consider the future. Something profound within tells me there is more to explore in the story behind Resilience – A Year in Pictures. There is more writing to do.

A chance to share your story

One thought dominates and is difficult to ignore. It involves the production of a second edition to Resilience that encompasses the real-life experiences of residents within my home city of Greater Geelong and Surf Coast region, Victoria, Australia.
Everyone has a story to tell. Would you like to share your story? Perhaps you have kept a diary throughout the lockdowns, or perhaps you have vivid memories and would like to document them? Writing and sharing are highly therapeutic and can help in personal healing. Story-sharing can inspire others who may be struggling in silence and need a nudge in a more positive direction.
That’s where your personal experience counts. I’m looking for participants who are keen to share. Your writing doesn’t need to be word-perfect or grammatically correct; it’s your experience, your story, that counts.
To express interest or seek further information, send an email to:
Include a paragraph about the pandemic-related anecdote or experience that you would like to share. Indicate if you have diary excerpts you are willing to share, or if you prefer to complete a questionnaire.

More details will be provided when all contributors are chosen and regular updates will be given throughout the book-making process.
I look forward to hearing from you and sharing this new journey with you!


I’ve been guilty of deceiving people around me since childhood. Nobody could really know me because I didn’t let them get close enough. My eating disorder (ED) had reduced my personality, ambitions, self-confidence and life to nothing, and I believed I had nothing to offer. Like a child being punished, I sat in a dark, secluded corner for years.  Time wasted, never to get back.    

Fast forward to 2019, I surrendered to intervention for my ED.  After my discharge from a six-week inpatient program, the gift of a camera helped my fledgling self-belief to rapidly transform from a mere existence to fully embracing life. Through a camera lens, I began to see the world for the first time. These days, my ED struggles to penetrate my thoughts; I’m too preoccupied with my newfound zest for seeing life and speaking my truths.  My camera is my constant companion; if I’m not shooting, I’m learning or writing for my website. Throughout this time of finding my voice, I’ve contributed to other websites, developed my own website, The Picture Healer, and am currently completing an exciting project, to be revealed soon.  This new artistic endeavour will be just one of many in the future.

I also am a mother of two young girls. I’m determined to show them there is an alternative path; my ED journey doesn’t have to be their journey. Nor does it have to be yours.  You can see my journey of learning to take pictures and read my work at www.thepicturehealer.com

6 Responses

  1. Karyn Baltetsch says:

    Dear Sam, you are an awesome writer.
    I can totally relate to how you felt when your book was done.
    It has taken me two years to accept that my book is okay, and recently, that it’s not too bad, and even more recently, proud because it holds everything l believe in. I wouldn’t change anything now, once that negative inteuder gave up and l became bigger than him l am now able to continue to read more of my book and validate it for myself.
    My dream to be in print has always been there. I worked very hard to get it written, and now l am ready to have it outside of the box and displayed on my coffee table for ME to see and admire the courage and the cover…exactly how l dreamed, and even better.
    I was telling my son and daughter-in-law about your book and they were very interested and I would like to buy a copy from you, ever since the day I met you.
    I just waited until the time was right and I think that’s asap… well done dear Sam, on your wonderful, inspiring, hopeful, accomplishment. xox from Karyn

    • Sam Tench says:

      Hello Karyn,
      It’s lovely to hear from you again; I hope you’re keeping well.
      You’re incredibly kind-hearted. Thanks for sharing your piece of insight. It has been such an odd experience since having completed and holding the end product in my hands; certainly not what I had anticipated. It feels like any other book I might find on the bookshelves, not something I’ve worked tirelessly to complete. Your experience gives me hope that I might soon feel more connection and recognition of a job well done.
      Do you think you’ll consider writing again?
      Thank you again; I’m sure I’ll run into you again somewhere down the track.

  2. Sarah Bailey says:

    I’m in NSW and happy to share. Congratulations on your achievements!

    • Sam Tench says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Thanks so much. I noticed today you have purchased a book. It will be in tomorrows mail, I hope you love it.
      Regarding the next book, send me an email. I’m more than happy to consider your story.
      How is your website coming along?
      Stay safe and well.

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