I don’t know if it’s the uncertain state of my life these days or if I’m just an overemotional personal, but as a writer my mood is up and down like a yo-yo. There are days when I’m super-confident and full of hope. Then there are the days when I want to give up and walk away. Sometimes it doesn’t even take much to bring me crashing down to earth.
Unless you’re really lucky, it’s bound to happen at some point. Maybe you got a bad review that hit you hard. Maybe your writing has hit a roadblock. Maybe the project you slaved over tanked. Maybe this quarter’s royalty check is barely enough to buy a coffee and muffin at Starbucks.
How do you deal with it? These are a couple of tips that have helped me get through the tough times.
- Remind yourself why you are doing this? (hopefully it’s not to get rich and famous)
I started writing because there are stories in my head that need to get out onto paper. I tell myself even if no one buys them, those stories, those characters, would still be there so it’s not like I’m doing something I wouldn’t normally be doing anyway. I have always considered myself a writer, even when I wasn’t writing. I write because I love the act of writing. I love words. I love challenging myself and developing as a writer. I won’t lie to you—it would be nice to have major sales and be ranked #1, but would I change what I write in order to be more popular? Probably not—because that wouldn’t be me. Making up stories is an escape for me and right now I need that escape, but at some point I will have to decide if the return is worth the investment; you can only be dumped so many times before you have to admit the problem might be you. For the immediate future though, I will keep going. I have at least one more story that needs to be written.
- Recognize it’s okay to feel jealous, angry, undervalued, disappointed etc.
These are real and legitimate emotions and you’re not a bad person for feeling them. What matters is how you act on them. Be a professional. I’m a firm believer in treating others as you would want to be treated. You can have the feelings but then let them go—divorce the feeling from the person. I can be jealous of someone’s success and still be happy for them, or appreciate all the hard work they’ve put in to get there. It doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Some writers can actually be quite vindictive; one hears stories of sabotage and urging others to write bad reviews. That’s just plain immature and petty. Don’t be that person. Some people will tell you writers shouldn’t be in competition with each other, but I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with friendly competition. We all measure ourselves against other people on a regular basis. It’s normal. It’s what makes us strive to be our best. But again, just because I see someone as the ‘competition’ doesn’t mean I also can’t like them, or root for them, or want to help them out if I can. Rather I use the situation as a learning experience. What are they doing to achieve their success?
- Re-read some of your accolades
If along the way you have gotten some good reviews or readers have written you personally, pull those out every so often for a little ego boost. You touched someone, and they took the time to tell you that. Be proud.
- Take a break to decompress
I have spent the past year writing full-time and it’s far more exhausting than I expected. While I write, I am 110% invested in those characters—I can’t multi-task. When I’m done, I crash. It’s like coming off a high. I have to take a break in between projects to clear out one batch of characters for the next. The same holds true for when you start to feel down or cynical; maybe it’s time to take that little break and do something else for a while.
- Don’t take it personally
This is easier said than done, I know. I still struggle with it. Of course we want everyone to love us—writers are very needy. But I wasn’t the popular kid in school, so I doubt I will ever be a ‘popular’ author as much as that is hard to admit. A bad review, even though sometimes it seems like a personal attack, really isn’t. They don’t know you. When no one buys your book, it’s not because of you. Try not to stress over what you can’t control; did you write to the best of your ability? Did you put your book where people will find it? Did you promote as much as possible? That’s truly all you can do. Everything else is out of your control.
Repeat steps 1-5 as often as needed.
Stay positive. In the end recognize that some of the best writers are the ones who have struggled. Writing is a journey, and the path isn’t straight or smooth. I like to think that the things we achieve through hard work are the things we value the most.