We live in a world of instant noodles.
I know, that’s not the way that statement usually goes, but I like this way better. No one likes to be stuck waiting for noodles or wifi or the next season of our favorite show. Instant streaming, Netflix, and Amazon Prime have spoiled us with their quick solutions to our every whim.
It’s great, isn’t it? Two-day shipping is the best. (My wallet doesn’t agree, but that’s beside the point.)
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for us writers, there is no quick fix, make-it-happen kind of shortcut for writing a book. The publishing industry, and writing in general, is a long-term project, and one that requires a great deal of patience and longevity. Writing a novel takes a long time, and getting it published takes even longer. To me, writing is all about faithfulness. It’s about little steps, day-by-day consistency, and continuing to believe in a project long after it has lost its novelty.
But sometimes, in the middle of a project that seems to have no end, discouragement hits. All those everlastingly long days and months seem endless and empty, and in that moment, it seems impossible to continue for one more minute without some kind of breakthrough.
And, in this industry, breakthroughs don’t come just for the asking.
Discouragement can too easily end with hasty decisions, burned manuscripts, hurt relationships, and damaged dreams. It’s easier to take steps backward than forward on days like this, and the last thing any writer needs is to do everything twice.
I have hit these moments many times in the last seven years, and the five best tips I have for coping with them in a healthy, productive way are:
Hasty decisions are almost always the ones you regret later. So walk away from your computer, leave your query letters for tomorrow, and let your characters be on their own for a few days. It is my belief that the only way to fail as a writer is to give up. Rejections come and go, stories come and go, but the only person that can really kill your dream is you.
So don’t give up. Pause, breathe, and make your decisions intentionally and not out of emotion or fear.
2) Remind yourself that there is no deadline.
Writing is one of those odd and wonderful occupations that has absolutely nothing to do with age. You can start writing at thirteen or thirty-five. Some books are finished in two years, some in ten. There is no set method, there is no formula, and there is no law that says that after you’ve worked on a story for five years, you have to dump it because it’s going nowhere.
Writing takes time. The world may not always understand that, but we as writers should. Our stories are worth the time we put into them, and they are all the more valuable for the years of constant devotion and love.
3) Have an encouragement box.
On my window sill, I have a box filled with index cards. On these cards, I have scribbled bible verses, prayers, encouraging quotes, and little notes to remind myself that even when I feel awful, there is still a reason and a purpose for continuing on.
The important thing about this box is having it together and at my fingertips when I need it.
Looking for encouragement when you’re at the end of yourself is a recipe for disaster. Either you can’t find it, or you don’t have the energy to look. Write the notes when you’re encouraged, when you’ve had a good day, and you can feel that steely determination keeping you on the right path. Trust me, you’ll be glad to have them on the bad days.
4) Have a person.
Someone you trust. Someone who is going to champion you. A friend, a family member, a mentor. Someone you can call, or get coffee with, or simply sit on your bed and cry with.
Someone who will listen to your million reasons to give up with sympathy, then give you a million reasons back to continue on.
I know, this is a hard one. Writers are very often (but not always) introverted, and it’s hard to reach out to someone and admit you are struggling. But this is a long journey, and you were never meant to travel it alone. You need people to love you, encourage you, and keep you smiling. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, feel free to shoot me a message. I’ve been where you are, and I know how hard it is. But I also know how very, very worth it all of this work will be.
5) Let the time pass.
Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
~ Earl Nightingale
Dearest writer, it is really the small steps that make the most difference. The ones no one sees. Overnight successes do not happen overnight. They are always proceeded by years of invisible, tiny, step-by-step faithfulnesses that no one ever saw or cared much about.
The time will pass.
Your story will grow.
You will make progress if you continue to work and be faithful.
Those small steps seem to be getting you absolutely nowhere right now, but one day, when you look back, you will be amazed by how far you have come and how much you have grown.
And in the end, you’ll discover that it was really the small days that meant the most to you. The finish line is a beautiful thing, but the journey is what matters the most. So sit back, let the time pass, and enjoy the moments that you won’t be able to get back later. You’ll be glad you did.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.