If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you may have noticed that being a “successful writer” is no easy task. Writers and other creative types are noted for being more susceptible to discouragement, self-loathing, and even depression. I suppose it’s partly about how a creative person’s brain works and partly because putting your work out there for others to judge leaves you vulnerable to all kinds of criticisms. We also face more than our fair share of rejection. In fact, rejection comes with the territory, and if you don’t want to be wallowing in depression and self-pity all the time, you’ll discover that you’d better learn to deal with it or find a new profession.
I wrote this blog post to give six easy strategies aimed at helping you persevere in your writing goals. Take from it what you like, and feel free to ignore the rest!
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1. Write when you don’t want to – even when you’re discouraged and not inspired. Do you ever find you go long periods of time without writing? Life gets busy. Or writing just hasn’t been fun anymore. Sure, everyone needs a break once in a while, but if you want to be a serious writer, can you really justify giving yourself weeks & months off at a time for <insert random reason here>?
People debate a lot about when, where, how much, and how often a person should write in order to be most effective. Some believe that you should be writing everyday or dictate strict word counts to hit weekly. Those goals work well for many people, but I believe the most essential thing is that you make a conscious effort to write even when you don’t feel like it.
If you treat writing as a job that must be done, it may just end up feeding your family one day. Give yourself a number of hours or words that you want to hit each weak and force yourself to get it done. When you force yourself to write, you may find that you end up writing some of your best words.
2. Foster your expectations in reality. It’s not easy to get published or write a best-seller. The odds are certainly not in your favor. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched my three-year-old attempt the impossible, and then sob when he’s not successful. I can see he’s being a bit ridiculous as I attempt to calm his tears over failing to sink a basketball into the net towering above his head. But when my queries join the mass of others in famous literary agent’s boxes, I’m devastated when I receive back a “Dear Author, Thanks, but this isn’t for me.”
It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that they’ve read every word and hated it. When likely, some underpaid intern’s eyes were glazing over as they read the 100th query in today’s pile and marked it with a “rejection” bookmark. The fact is, most writers who attempt to get published get rejections letters, so any rejection puts you in good company.
When you are working towards something difficult, you should be commended for your efforts even when they don’t yield the results you want. And I’ve heard what seems impossible, becomes possible with a little bit of persistence.
3. Determine ahead of time that you will never give up. If you really want to be a published writer, then you simply have to decide that you will continue toward your goal until your last breath. If that work you spent three years writing gets rejected a hundred times, then you will write another. And if that second work that you lost sleep over because you have a full time job gets rejected a thousand times, then you will write another. And after the third, a fourth. And after the fourth, a fifth. And when your family thinks your chasing fairytales. And when your friends believe you’re out of touch. You will keep going because you decided a long time ago that this was your dream. And if you are successful at nothing else, you can still say that you never, ever gave up.
4. Finish your stories and start something new. I have watched countless writers get stuck in the loop of finishing something and then searching to get it published for long periods of time to no avail. I’ve been stuck in the loop myself. It goes something like – Finish novel – Query – Rejections – Revise – Query More Widely – More Rejections – More Revisions – Even More Queries – Even More Rejections – Even More Revisions… You get the idea. And somewhere in all of that rejection is a lot of self-loathing, discouragement, and maybe even despair. I’ve found starting something new right after I finish something helps me stay invigorated and excited about writing.
It’s a lot easier to stomach a big rejection on an old story, if you know you’ve got something new and fresh brewing at the same time. And besides, the more you write, the more chances you have in getting something published!
5. Surround yourself with uplifting people. Everyone reaches a breaking point after enough hardship and discouragement. There are times when you just need someone else to lift you back up.
Have you read Stephen King’s memoir ON WRITING? (Loved it!) In it, he tells the story of his wife digging his crumpled up manuscript out of the trash and encouraging him to finish it. That manuscript was CARRIE and went on to sell over a million copies and launch his career as a best-selling novelist. Without her support, Stephen King may never have written any of the books he’s now known and admired for.
Think of the people in your life who would be there for you should you reach the point of giving up. If you don’t have anyone, think of ways to make those connections. Online writing groups can be a great place to start. I’ve found the majority of my writer friends through Twitter (following and interacting on writing hashtags like #amwriting and #ontheporch) and Facebook (Joining writer groups).
6. Determine to write for yourself and appreciate the beauty of your work amidst no applause. If you are writing for yourself, you don’t have to worry about the crushing press of rejection. About the crushing press of judgment. You have one person to impress, and you get to control how critical that person is or is not. I strongly believe that loving your own work is essential for any artist to truly enjoy their craft.
Just like money won’t bring happiness, that major book deal won’t either. If you can’t find a way to appreciate your own writing when only your momma and your great aunt are reading it, then what makes you think you’ll like it once your novel is made into the next blockbuster film? The world is full of rich and famous, beautiful people who struggle with self-esteem. If you’re too self-critical now, you’ll be the same way then too. But then your problems will be magnified by the many people who enjoy throwing rocks at shiny objects.
So there you have it! I hope some find these six strategies helpful. After all that writers must overcome, it’s no wonder that we sometimes consider putting away the pen for good. But what if <insert favorite author here> decided to give up right before he/she wrote <insert favorite book here>! Not cool. And you’d better not quit either! You might be someone’s favorite author one day. I’d bet they’d be glad you didn’t quit too.
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Let’s Chat! – Did any of these points push a button for you? What do you do when you start feeling discouraged? Leave me a comment in the box below!
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