Maybe I’m not the best at dealing with discouragement and therefore probably shouldn’t be talking about how to deal with it, or maybe because I didn’t handle it the best, that makes me the best to talk about it.
If any of that made sense, thank goodness because I think I confused myself with that sentence.
I think just about any writer will have to deal with discouragement in some form or another in their career, whether they’re at the very beginnings of writing, or submitting their first story, to hitting publish on their 35th book. We all go through it. I think creative types seem to take discouragement way harder than most other types of folks do. We just seem to be more sensitive. Maybe because we do open our hearts every time we write, or paint, or knit that blanket for our best friend’s new baby.
We are programmed to be in more in touch emotionally, because we have to write about others’ emotions, particularly for romance writers. It makes it difficult when we’re thrust into a situation that discourages us. That’s why it’s super important to learn and practice how to cope with discouragement so we can turn it from a bad experience into a positive force.
The first thing we need to know is that it’s okay to be discouraged, or even upset or angry. The difference between handling it or not handling it is being able to channel it into a more positive direction over letting it fester and hang over you like the Little Black Rain Cloud. Go vent to your friends, write in your private journal, eat a little chocolate, and throw darts at the object of your anger.
It’s important to get that raw reaction out of your system as fast as possible, so you can move on without that Little Black Rain Cloud hanging over you. You don’t want to stay angry or bitter, especially since as a writer, we put a lot of ourselves into our work. It will affect the quality of which you write.
Trust me on that. I wrote six drafts of a book that still hasn’t seen the light of day because I wrote it when I was dealing with unhappy matters, and my mind was clouded with that festering bad feeling. I still love the idea of that story, and maybe when I’m in the right mindset, I can go back and finish that book one day.
Once you got that raw emotion out of your system, you can slow it down and figure out what is the cause.
I can’t get past this scene in my book.
I can’t get my book accepted.
The sales on my last book tanked.
No one likes my book.
Those are just general enough that I think every single writer on the face of the planet can safely say they have said at least one of those things in their life. How did they get past it?
There are things you can change about what’s discouraging you, and some things you can’t. For the things you can control, you can change what you’re writing, how you promote yourself, or how much or little you write. Maybe you try another book to that publisher. So much is subjective in the submission process. The book you’re submitting might just be too similar to another book they already acquired or published, so try another book you might have to get your foot into the door.
Yes, there are things that we just can’t change. We can’t make a publisher want our book. We can’t make readers buy our books. But we can change other things adjust our current course to something more positive. Maybe we run ads to reach new readers, or we try a different publisher with our book, or maybe we decide to dive into self-publishing.
Here’s a few quick little tips you can do to make these adjustments.
- Develop a plan based on the things you can control, and address the source of your discouragement. Remember, indirect solutions can be even better than direct solutions sometimes.
- Set goals and targets you can measure, such as word count or number of submissions, and keep track of your progress.
- Write in a journal, or privately email friends about your discouragement rather than venting on social media.
Of course, you’re still not going to be able to control everything, and that’s okay. These little things can put you on a path to correcting things that make you feel more empowered and confident, rather than feeling like you landed in a shitty ditch you can’t get out of.
It took me about two years to get past my own discouragement, and in the process, I destroyed everything I’d built in my writing business. The one thing I didn’t handle well is where I nuked my entire website… twice… because of my frustration. The thing is, I told myself it was for a fresh start, but in all honesty, I was scared to continue where I left off because of what a mess it was, and decided a clean break was better.
Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know, and probably won’t ever know if it was the right thing to do at the time.
The bottom line is that anger is okay. Positive anger is okay. That anger that motivates you to persist and improve yourself. That part of you that is motivated to prove whoever discouraged you is wrong (including if it’s yourself). That anger that tells you that you’re just too awesome to be ignored or blown off.
Always give yourself a plan to deal with the things you can control. Even adjusting one part of your life to indirectly compensate for the parts you can’t control can have a snowball’s effect on you. I’ve always been an over-analyzer, and that leads me to see things that maybe aren’t really there. If I let things fester, eventually, the whole world will be out to get me (in my mind). For me, I have to identify what is really causing the problem, and develop a plan for what I can do about it. It keeps me focused on the prize.