“Writers, this cannot be right. Our mind is capable of so much—spinning tales that can make people cry or laugh, creating characters that become best friends to the people who read our stories, and building entire worlds with complex civilizations and landscapes far beyond anything in the natural world.
The potential is unlimited.
So why, in the name of every dictionary printed, do we allow a toxic stereotype to destroy something so intricate and precious?”
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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.
This week, I went to visit one of my friends. She lives in town, which is a very long drive from where I hide away in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and she just moved into her beautiful new house.
She’s got an enormous tree growing in the front yard, and so, so much painting to do inside. I got paint all over me. It was very exciting, because I am a five-year-old at heart and I love paint.
On a side note, I am apparently incapable of using said paint without also painting myself.
But, the highlight of visiting my lovely friend (besides her company, which I have so, so missed) was her new dog. He’s a Rottweiler, and he met me at the door with his big, sloppy grin, his huge feet, and his clumsy, overexcited welcome.
We were instantly best friends.
Now, I am not really a dog person. Most of the time. I have a cat who head-butts me when she wants affection and drools like a dog, so I’m pretty happy. (Please don’t tell her I told you that. She would be mortified.) Besides that, an enormous dog in my very tiny house would be a disaster. Things would be broken. A lot of things.
But, realistic dangers aside, my friend was very lucky I didn’t try to sneak that dog out the door with me. I couldn’t get enough of him. He was big, he was goofy, he wanted all the attention, and I was totally ready to comply. We were painting, and—considering he has very large feet and not a great deal of coordination—he was not invited to join in. My friend insisted that he stay out in the hall.
He did not stay out in the hall very much.
As much as I loved hanging out with this guy (and kissing his head, and being drooled on by him, and nearly tripping over him when he leaned against me or squirmed between my legs), I could already imagine the damage he would do in my little house with his big feet. So I came home and kissed my kitty on the head. And got booped on the face. And head-butted, because she loves me an extra-special lot and when I sit down to read or write, she likes to be right there with me.
It’s pretty distracting, actually. But every writer needs a writing companion, just like wizards need owls or toads. It’s always nice to have a little chum to curl up in your lap while you’re exploring the untracked wilderness of your imagination, or chasing a dragon, or arguing with trolls. I’m pretty convinced that, without a kitty to purr in my lap, it would be much harder to find my way home again.
Do you have a writing companion (or just a favorite chum) in your house? Tell me about them in the comments!