We live in a competitive world.
Nowadays, there is heavy competition for just about everything. Especially for writers. Jobs are highly sought after, agents are overwhelmed by the number of queries in their inboxes, publishers refuse to even look at your manuscript unless you’re represented, and blog views are scarce simply because there are a million blogs and one you.
For some people, the competition is exhilarating. They enjoy the challenge of making their voice heard and attracting attention in a crowded room. They have a knack for making people laugh and for presenting themselves in the best possible light. If that’s you, more power to you!
I, however, am not one of those people.
My problem is that I am not at all competitive. I can play a hundred games of chess with my father, lose all but two of the games, and simply enjoy the fact that we were spending time together. Promoting myself as the best option for prospective readers, agents, and publishers is very hard for me.
And yet, for those of us determined to present our stories to the world and reach our readers, it is incredibly important.
Books are powerful. Stories are powerful. My book, We, the Deceived, which is currently being pitched to agents, was birthed from my time in Cambodia working with women escaping from prostitution. It’s a hard hitting, impacting story of redemption, the realities of slavery, and the worth in a single soul. I’ve put nearly seven years into this book, and I fully believe in it. I want to get it into the hands of a publisher, and even more, I want to get it into the hands of the readers who need it.
So, I keep pushing, despite how overwhelming the competition can feel.
But sometimes, just pushing doesn’t feel like enough.
We all know that feeling, don’t we? That moment when all of the hard work we’ve done feels pointless, and we feel like the last person in line. The runner who gets to the finish line when everyone else is gone and the volunteers are cleaning up.
I have walked through moments like these. More than I care to remember, and yet, I’m still walking. Discouragement is never the signal to put an end to a project or a dream, and I have learned a variety of ways to keep myself sane and moving when it begins to feel impossible. Hopefully they will help you as much as they have helped me!
Realize that there is no deadline to your dream. If it takes months instead of weeks, or years instead of months, it will not lose its value. There is no hurry. Agents will not stop accepting new authors after 2019. Publishers are not going to stop printing books. The world is not going to stop reading.
So breathe, dearest author. Take a moment, calm your anxiety, and breathe.
2) Do the next thing.
Waiting around, bewailing our inability to ‘make it happen’ is not going to get us anywhere. And neither will grinding to a halt because we’re so overwhelmed by the huge obstacle in our path.
Take one step. Just one. Focus on that one step, and don’t worry about the next one until you need to.
Finish writing the book. (If you haven’t already.) If that’s still too far off for you to even think about, write the next chapter.
Add one social media account with your official author name.
Draft a query, or jump online to find some instructions on how to write a professional query.
Get feedback on your book, and adjust accordingly.
There are a million little steps in the long journey toward holding that book in your hands, so take the next one in front of you. Do the next thing. A little progress goes a long way toward fighting off discouragement.
3) Celebrate the victories.
Pop that champagne cork. Or open that bottle of wine. Or sparkling grape juice. Something. Don’t save all your celebrating until you hit that mythical moment of ‘success’. Because honestly, that moment will keep being pushed back. It will change depending on where you are in your life, and if you don’t celebrate your wins now, you never will.
So do it. Take yourself to dinner, or to that movie you’ve been wanting to see. Get your nails done, or buy that game you’ve been wanting. Celebrate your milestones. They might feel small now, but when you add them all up, they’ll be the ones that got you where you’re going.
4) Don’t make important decisions while you’re discouraged.
Just don’t. Tossing that manuscript in the trash, deleting your blog or social media accounts, or blowing up at the people who are supporting you might feel satisfying in the moment, but you will always, always regret it later. If you really are considering throwing in the towel, wait. Talk to people you trust. Give yourself time to change your mind, and to think it over when you’re not frustrated. The worst decisions are always made in a hurry.
5) Do not tie your value to your work.
You are not more or less important because of the number of hits you have on your blog.
The likes on that one post do not define you.
The rejection letter that agent sent you is not a rejection of you. They do not hate you. They do not think you are stupid, or worthless. They have simply decided that this particular project is not right for them at this particular time.
You are waiting for your book to be published, or your blog to make money, or to land a job as a writer.
You are NOT waiting to be valuable.
You are NOT waiting to be loved.
And you are NOT waiting to be important.
So whatever the problem, whether it be a rejection letter, or a scathing review, or simply a day of not being noticed, remember that you are still an incredibly brilliant human being with endless potential and a mind that cannot be replaced.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.