Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When the Writing Life Has Got You Down

No, don't worry, I'm not in a state of depression and going to vent. I'm very much the opposite right now. But I have been there and I don't know a single writer who hasn't stood at the bottom of a metaphorical ravine wondering how to climb out or if they'll ever see sunshine again.

Whether it's query blues, editing issues, getting that first draft done, a bad case of writer's block, feeling alone in the social media madness, or beta reader angst, here's my method to deal with it:

First of all, it's okay to cry or get mad. We're human and we have natural human reactions. However, don't do it publicly, no matter how much you want to stand on the proverbial rooftop and share your misery with everyone else. In what should be a simple cry for sympathy, you actually get the opposite reaction if you air your grievances in public.

Why? Well, have you ever come across someone else's pity party online? It's not fun to read, often sounds like a temper tantrum, and we tend to doubt their word. Mention you're having a bad day, sure, editing's got in you in a bind, okay. But keep it generalized and simple. Don't start naming names or pointing fingers. Especially if you get a bad book review or don't see eye to eye with someone else.

After the initial passion has burst, I like to walk away from the writing life for a bit. Depending on how big the issue is, determines how long the break. Do something else and let the air clear. Sometimes getting distracted by life can help you break through writer's block or editing issues. And other times we must be reminded that we shouldn't hole ourselves up writing about life every moment of the day, we need to live it too.

Feeling ignored or unimportant? Definitely spend time with people you can see and speak to. Don't get depressed by your blog stats, your lack of followers, the fact that no one has jumped at the opportunity of reading your work, or if your email inbox is strangely empty. Remember, your happiness doesn't depend on the constant goodwill and popularity of other people. You are your own special, unique individual who has something to give. Forget about yourself and let the needy feeling slip off your shoulder. See if you can't reach out and touch someone else who may need a boost. Do a good turn, without expecting fanfare and the applause of the world. It'll make you feel much better.

If it's your story that has got you down, get out a blank sheet of paper or pull up a blank document on your computer. Then write down every reason why you love your story. Write down what other's have loved about it. Write down what your strengths are. Write down what you've learned during the process of writing. And when you think you are done, write down the things you are looking for in a story, that you want to read and that you enjoy. This especially comes in handy after a bad beta reader review or a lot of rejection from industry professionals.

Most of all, remember that your writing life doesn't embody you entirely. You have many facets, other talents, dreams, and priorities that matter. We are all part of a large community, we are individuals yes, but we are also one of many. Don't compare your life, even your writing life, to that of anyone else. There is no comparison, not ever. Anyone who says differently is probably trying to make themselves feel better, and failing.

How have you dealt with writing life blues? I'd love to read about your method.

Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising,
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate.
     For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
     That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


  1. This is a great post. I usually wallow for a few hours then start feeling better in the morning when I realize I truly want to do this.

  2. I usually listen to some music and wait for life to shrug it off. Ice cream helps too.

    You have to remember this is a business of extreme ups and downs. What's down one day will be replaced with something better.

  3. Great post. It's a reminder that life continues. If you need a time-out, take one. Your writing will be there when you're ready.

  4. yup! The panic and mind bending ups and downs. I try to walk away from the puter, or brainstorm with friends. I might show the panic, or "What was I THINKING?!" but I never ever name names, or say a bad word. Period.

  5. I yell at my computer. haha Then, I slip into self-doubt, and then I get back to work.