Challenge #3: Lack of the Positive


Last month, I began a series of posts about the Happy Writer—especially the challenges writers face and how to overcome them. If you haven’t heard of this before, check out some of the previous posts:

Today we tackle Challenge #3:

  • Writing is a very tough field in which to succeed—moments of positive feedback can be few and far between.

Whether you’re just starting out or have a few articles under your belt—or even if you’ve had some success with longer works—you’ll probably face a fair bit of rejection. Maybe you’re ready for it; after all, everyone knows that you have to collect a mountain of rejections before publication, right?

I think most writers are aware that rejections are an occupational hazard. However, most of us face another, more insidious challenge: namely…silence, an ongoing lack of feedback on our work and its worth.

In a traditional office environment, people tend to receive feedback on a fairly regular basis. You crank out a last minute project and your coworkers pat you on the back; you put in a little extra effort on a presentation and engage a roomful of listeners; you come up with a creative solution and your boss recommends you for a raise. Writers, on the other hand, slave over a project, send it out, and…wait. And wait. And sometimes hear back nothing at all. It can be years before positive feedback arrives in the form of a publication contract. How do we keep up our spirits until then?

Over the years, I’ve developed a slew of strategies that help me stay positive and continue working toward my writing goals whether I’m in a feedback flood or famine. Here are a few, with more to follow:

  1. Take a Class: Particularly for the beginning writer, a class is a great way to receive feedback and constructive criticism . Online writing classes such as those offered by Writers Online Workshops encourage students to critique each others’ work, which creates an “office cooler” environment where writers can share concerns and encouragement. The Institute of Children’s Literature course pairs students with an instructor who provides personal feedback on class assignments.
  2. Join a Critique Group: Critique groups are a wonderful tool for writers of all levels, where writers can receive feedback, get new perspectives on their work, and grow as writers—not to mention all the emotional and mental support such groups offer. Read this, this, and this for info on the different types of critique groups and how to find them.
  3. Find a Mentor:  A mentor can help you accelerate from so-so to amazing—and keep you sane in the process. Mark McGuinness writes about the importance of finding a mentor on his excellent blog, Lateral Action.
  4. Branch Out: If you’re spending all your time on projects that won’t show results for years, consider adding another type of work to your writing life. By writing nonfiction articles as well as my current novel project, I maintain a steady stream of positive feedback and a bit of income. Other ideas include giving a school talk (even if you aren’t yet published in the book genre), branching out into other types of freelance writing, or teaching a class.

As always, mileage will vary with the individual; the key is to keep a few strategies on hand for times when you need a boost.

What strategies help you keep on keeping on?

:) Cheryl

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