Ever feel discouraged about writing?
We’ve all had them: days when the words don’t flow, characters remain flat, plot refuses to cooperate, and three rejections show up in your inbox. Maybe you’re rethinking this whole writing thing. Maybe you’re questioning your sanity. Or whether you actually have talent.
Well, I’ve got good news for you: you aren’t alone. And I don’t know about you, but I find that it helps, somehow, to know that other writers have trudged through swamps of despair and lived to tell the tale. I can tell myself that this, too shall pass.
But what do you do when you’re in the midst of an uncooperative rewrite, a slew of rejections, or a complete desert of inspiration? What do you do when you’re the discouraged writer?
While I don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, I do have some ideas to try:
- Quit submitting. If rejections are getting you down, there’s a good chance that you’ve lost touch with the joy of writing. Step back from the pursuit of publication to rediscover why you started writing in the first place.
- Submit more! Yeah, I know—contradictory advice. But I warned you this wouldn’t be one-size-fits-all :). Sometimes you might need to step away from pursuit of publication; other times, you might need to thumb your nose at rejection by sending your work back into the world again.
- Get another opinion—from a critique partner, an online critique group, or a professional editor. Sometimes a fresh perspective is the key to breaking through times of feeling stuck.
- Start a new project.
- Dust off an old project.
- Read other authors’ rejection stories.
- Play with words.
- Re-read your favorite author to remember what you aspire to accomplish.
- Re-read your least favorite author to remember how much better your writing is compared to that lf so many others.
- Reach out to writing friends in person.
- Cultivate relationships online.
- Give something back—share a critique, an essay, or an hour of your time with a writer with less experience,
- Encourage another writer.
- Journal. Heck, writers and psychotherapists are some of the fortunate few who have psychiatric analysis as part of their job description–make use of it to get past creative blocks.
- Identify where you feel helpless—because feeling helpless is a sure path to stress—and identify one small action you can take to move forward.
- Change writing location.
- Read or re-read an inspirational book, such as Jane Yolen’s Take Joy, Stephen King’s On Writing, or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
- Tackle your energy level: Get outside, move around, drink water.
- Revisit your successes. I keep a special folder in my email client for messages that encourage–a thank you email from a teacher after a school presentation, an effusively complimentary note from a client, acceptance letters, thanks from critique group friends, fan mail*–things I can revisit to remember that someone out there thinks my work is worthwhile.
- Take a smaller bite of the pie. If you’re overwhelmed by the size of a project, try tackling one aspect of it at a time. Instead of working on a REVISION, work on plot continuity, or development of a single character’s or the tension of a single scene.
- Switch gears: if you’re writing fiction, work on a poem instead. If you’re stuck on a blog post, try writing an essay. The trick is to discover success somewhere else, so keep this one short and sweet, so you can carry the momentum back to your original project.
- Revisit why you write. Who is your audience? What do they care about? What are your trying to give them? State your writing purpose in a sentence or two and use that to focus your writing energy.
- Take a break. Is it possible your discouragement is a symptom of burnout? Maybe you need time to rest and recharge.
- Or maybe you need to refill your creative well (another side-effect of burnout).
- Give yourself more mental, physical, or emotional space.
- Work with a coach to discover the source of your discouragement or to brainstorm ideas for improving your writing routine.**
For more suggestions, check out these links:
- 201 Ways to Arouse Your Creativity (Write to Done)
- How to Fall Back in Love With Writing (Jeff Goins, Writer)
- Strategies to Stay Motivated (despite a lack of positive feedback) (Cheryl Reif Writes)
- The Care and Feeding of Introverts (Shrinking Violet Promotions)
- What Sort of Goals Do You Need? 10 Questions to Ask (Cheryl Reif Writes)
- Where Do You Put Your Energy? (Writer/editor Kate Gale)
- Increasing Your Writing Output (Build Creative Writing Ideas)
- 6 Ways to SuperCharge Your Writing (copyblogger)
- Writer’s Block and Depression: Why You Shouldn’t Bully Your Muse (Anne R. Allen’s Blog)
- The Art of Stress-Free Work (Stepcase Lifehack)
- What to Do When You Get Stuck (Writers Relief)
- 20 Quotes for Getting Through Tough Times (all-swagga)
*Yes, I’ve received fan mail. Three pieces, thank you very much, and I treasure every one
**You know I had to include this one, right? You’d be surprised how a writing coach can help you identify creative obstacles, identify lies you might be telling yourself, identify ways you can be more gentle with your creative side–as well as ways to be more disciplined, improve your follow-through, or tackle unrealistic expectations,
What about you? What helps you get past discouragement and keep writing? Please share in the comments!