I’ve been writing for seven years.
During that time, I’ve hit many, many low spots. The worst were moments of discouragement.
I’m never going to make it.
I’ve wasted my time.
This book is never going to be published.
Thoughts like these hit and hit hard when writers are burned out. It’s as if they know we’re tired, they know we’ve been working too hard, and they know we’ve just been rejected, and they gather like vultures.
And writer, it gets ugly.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Moments when nothing makes sense, when the books we’ve poured life into for months and sometimes years seem flat and uninviting, and we’re just ready to give up.
Discouragement doesn’t just kill stories . . . it kills dreams.
Dreams of a bestseller. Dreams of your book in your hands. Dreams of having something to teach younger authors. Stories wither in the face of discouragement, creativity dies, and slowly—if it isn’t curbed—your dream dies too, because who can write with someone standing at your shoulder constantly telling you you’re a failure?
And if that someone is yourself, it’s hard to get away from the condemnation.
How To Make It Happen
Writer, this doesn’t have to be a reality. Discouragement hits and hits hard, true, but we don’t have to succumb to it. We’ve fought this battle before, and we’ll fight it again. Writing is that kind of job and life is just that way.
Writer, I hope no one has ever told you that you wouldn’t have to fight for your stories. Because you will. Again and again and again.
And by the end of it all, it will have been so worth every scar and every weary, battle-stained night.
You can’t dodge the fight, but you can make doubly sure that you have the weapons you need to keep yourself—and your stories—on the right path.
Writer, here are mine. I do it with two truths, three tricks, and a daily choice.
Discouragement is built up over time . . . the more you think about it, the worse it gets. Allowing negative comments from yourself and others, spending time wondering if you’ll ever ‘make it’, and worrying will poison your thoughts. It will start with ‘maybe not’ and build and build until you’ve trashed your manuscript and changed a ‘maybe’ into a ‘definitely’. So spend more time on hoping and dreaming than you do on naysaying. They’ll get you further.
Prevention is easier than recovery. It’s easier to nip a discouraging thought out of your mind the moment it appears, instead of waiting for it to grow into something that will need to be dug out with a backhoe because the roots have gone so deep.
Taking three months to recover from burnout is much more difficult than making a habit of pausing in your thoughts and saying, “That’s not truth.”
- Have a person. Someone you can talk to about all of this in a safe place. Someone who isn’t going to tell you to give up or laugh off your concerns or spend more time giving advice than they do listening. Someone who will listen patiently and simply say, “I know it’s hard. You’ll get there.”
- Have a box of encouragements written by yourself on your good days. Keep it by your bed. Or on your writing desk. Somewhere you can always get to it. Fill it with favorite quotes or bible verses, with notes from yourself that are goofy and funny and serious. Notes that encourage you to keep going to and explain why you still do this. It will be pretty hard to remember this stuff when discouragement comes knocking.
- Have a policy that you never, never make decisions on a bad day. Never. Ever. Because the worst decisions you will ever make will be the ones that are made with a headache, eyes red from crying, and an anxiety-knotted stomach. Those are the decisions that end with burned manuscripts, hurt relationships, and a damaged you. Any decision can wait until you’ve slept, eaten, and showered.
A Daily Choice
Discouragement isn’t the sort of trouble that you can cure once. It doesn’t go away with a few feel-good quotes and an extra box of chocolate after dinner.
Sometimes, it takes months.
It takes choices.
It takes getting out of bed and doing the things that you know are right even when you don’t feel like it.
Writer, this journey is long. It is discouraging. It’s rough to see your work rejected, it’s rough to spend hours on a plot hole that will just not go away. It’s maddening to write a chapter six times and still not like what’s on the page.
But you know what? Maybe that seventh try yields a chapter that you love. Maybe the next query is the one that’s going to get accepted. Maybe tomorrow you’re going to find a solution to that plot hole that is so brilliant it leaves you tingling.
Success is possible. It is within your reach.
But not if you give up because you were discouraged. So make those choices every single day to work through your discouragement, so that you are around for the days when everything just clicks.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.
What are some of your daily strategies for dealing with disappointment and discouragement? Tell me about them in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing rejection and the best way to handle that unwelcome email.