When was the last time you were disappointed with some aspect of the writing life? Five minutes ago, you say? Maybe a manuscript you thought you had nailed was rejected. Or given a scathing critique. Maybe all your friends are rejoicing over new contracts while you sit moping in front of your keyboard. Whatever the barb, writers are especially prone to dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings. What can we do to stay positive and focused on our work?
Writing Tip for Today: The last thing writers need is for friends or family members to gently suggest we get a better hobby, like knitting. “Writing is not my hobby!” We howl. What can we do to keep our heads up and our butts in the chair?
- Get a Writer Buddy. Get at least one person in your life who likes you and who is encouraging about your writing. Don’t let that person be your mom or your spouse unless you like complicated drama. That one person is there to pick you up when you’ve melted into a blob of gelatinous goo, there to gently point out that a fire-breathing crit partner has some solid suggestions, there to listen to you gnash your teeth and tear your clothes after the book your editor loved doesn’t make it through committee.
- Let it Rest. When you get upsetting or depressing news from your agent, your crit group or your editor, try to put the manuscript aside at least for a day. Chances are, you won’t write your best if you are an emotional wreck. Go write mean, nasty limericks about whoever has made your life awful, then burn them. The limericks, I mean.
- Write Something New. I always have several projects going. If I’m upset about one project, I can put it away and start on another. This doesn’t mean you want many unfinished works lying around, but have at least one other book idea, essay or story in the pipeline all the time.
- Look Again. After a while, your emotions will recede and then you’ll have more objectivity. Take another look and decide if the crit partner was right about that blasting assessment. Could you improve your skills? If the answer’s yes, then you’ve had a valuable lesson. Pursue excellence. Always seek to be the best writer you can be.
- Twenty-four Hours. Keifer Sutherland had it right–24 hours is long enough for almost anything. It’s my personal rule when it comes to bad writing news. For one day, I can mope, think bad thoughts or throw darts at the photo of whoever is behind the news. Only one day. Then it’s back in the saddle time.
- Be Persistent. Quitters are rarely successful writers. If you develop your skills, keep writing and submitting, go to conferences, and all the rest, your chances are one hundred percent better than if you give up. If it’s true that you must write a million words to be able to master your skills, you’re going to need a lot of BIC (Butt in Chair) time. Start today.
- Believe in Your Success. Chances are, you’ve had some successes, even if they’re small. While your hurting self whines that you’ll never get anywhere, the truth is that you’ve been successful in the past and you’ll probably be successful again. Really. I’m rooting for you. And if you knit, let THAT be your hobby.