Writers need encouragement.
Can I get an amen?
Writing is hard, it’s lonely, and above all, it’s slow. Slow to finish, slow to see progress, and slow to get any kind of notice. Writers do a lot of work behind closed doors, we spend a lot of time alone, immersed in our worlds and puzzling over plot holes, sentences we may or may not like, and characters who sometimes really don’t like to do as they’re told.
On days when we’ve stared a little too hard at the blank screen, argued one too many times with a stubborn character, or—sometimes hardest of all—had to swallow a nasty comment or negative review, discouragement seems inevitable. And, if we depend on other people for our encouragement our moods will go up and down and all around.
And believe me, you will notice the negative comments much more than the positive ones.
It might seem a little backward to tell you not to depend on other people for your encouragement, right? After all, encouragement comes from other people, doesn’t it?
Actually, it doesn’t.
Yes, positive comments are encouraging. People who come to stand alongside you and help you along are incredibly helpful, even necessary.
But, if your journey depends on other people’s opinions, you will end up discouraged, empty, and too frustrated to continue.
Writer, you are the master of your journey and your mind. At the end of the day, it is you who will keep discouragement at bay. So, today, here are five tips to staying encouraged on your journey as a writer.
1) Find your balance.
Writers spend a lot of time writing, yes? Or, more specifically, staring out the window, scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, researching obscure facts, and doodling on scraps of paper while we wait for the words to come.
We’re all guilty of it. In fact, I like to think of those moments not so much as procrastinating, but more as giving our unconscious brains time to mull over the problem. In fact, I think a writer does their best work while they’re looking out the window.
Still, our entire lives cannot be spent writing. Balance is the key to everything, dearest writer, so go outside, go to a movie, make dinner for a few of your friends, read a new book, or go to the zoo. Live your life outside of your writing, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll come back to that blank page with a little extra perspective.
2) Celebrate yourself.
It took me years to realize that I could buy flowers for myself.
Isn’t that ridiculous? I love flowers. I love having flowers in my home. The very presence of them lift my spirits. And yet—I never bought them. Because people don’t buy flowers for themselves.
Or, at least, I didn’t think they did.
Now, I buy myself flowers. I celebrate the small things. When something exciting happens, I make the most of it. Milestones are important, dearest writer, and they do not have to be huge, once-in-a-lifetime events for you to celebrate them. Did you finish a chapter that’s been bugging you for ages? Did you finish a draft of your novel? Did someone read your work and love it?
Celebrate. Buy yourself flowers, or your favorite snack or drink, or even just pause for a moment to be still and think I did that. Be proud of yourself, and celebrate the small moments.
In the end, they’ll be the ones that mattered.
3) Don’t talk trash about your work.
I’ll be going into this subject in more depth later, but I want to put it here, because I see so many writers knocking themselves down and talking trash about their work.
Could you write every single day with someone standing at your shoulder, making snide comments and telling you that you’re never going to make it because you can’t write?
Stop doing it to yourself. You are learning. You are doing what so many other people wish they could ‘find the time’ to do. You may not be perfect, but you are trying, so don’t laugh off your efforts or bad mouth your own work.
It’s not cool. It’s not humble. It’s toxic, and it will discourage you faster than anything else possibly could.
4) Look at how far you’ve come.
Every page you’ve written, deleted or not, is progress. You’ve learned, you’ve grown, and you’re developing in your craft. Take pride in that and be encouraged. All your work has not been for nothing.
5) Remember why you started.
Remember that you love what you do. Remember that it was the story first that drew you into this crazy, beautiful journey. Remind yourself of the dreams you had for your writing, for the book you want to hold in your hands and the characters that haunt you.
You are a writer. You create worlds from thoughts and stories from pen and ink. You have a wealth of imagination and characters at your fingertips, and if you take care of your mind, enjoy the journey, and stay encouraged, you’ll make it through the bad days.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.