Dear Discouraged Writer: You’re Going to Make It

Dear Discouraged Writer,

Put down your pen, pick up your coffee, and take a deep breath.

You’re going to make it.

I don’t know how long you’ve been writing, or even what you write — novels, poems, political commentaries, personal essays, technical e-books, press releases, dishwasher manuals, web copy. I don’t know if you write for a living or if you do it just for fun. Maybe you desperately want to write for a living, but it just isn’t feasible right now.

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Maybe you feel stuck in a job you can’t quit because you need it to pay your bills and fuel your creative passion (or, you know, feed your cat kids). Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you, like me, wonder why you weren’t born with a more scientific, logical brain suited to a career in medicine or investment banking. I don’t know where you are today, or your level of discouragement. I don’t know if you’re ready to jump into your next writing project head first or give up completely.

Today, I feel a little of both.

Sometimes I get discouraged by my need to create. I wish I wanted to do something safer, you know? Something with a predictable paycheck and less risk of rejection. My goals as a writer are simple, but achieving them won’t necessarily be easy. Possible, but not easy.

But aren’t all professions creative in some way? The goal of a doctor is to create better health for her patient. The goal of a financial advisor is to create income and retirement savings for her client. The goal of a lawyer is to create a winning case.

And the goal of a writer is to create good books, poems, essays, press releases, and yeah, sometimes even dishwasher manuals.

If you’ve been discouraged about wanting to live a more creative life, keep this in mind. We all have that need whether we recognize it or not. No matter what, you’ll create something with your life: improved health, stock portfolio growth, hot meals, benefits packages, pet food, cleaning products, children.

And maybe even a book or two.

But if you live to create anything you weren’t born to create, you’ll probably always feel a little lost or unfulfilled. So be mindful about what you choose to create. At the same time, don’t devalue something you’re doing or creating just because it’s not what you had in mind. {Am I asking too much yet?} It might just be something you need to experience right now to get where you’re going. Seasons like this ultimately produce clarity about your calling.

But what if I already am writing for a living and it’s not working out? 

If you’re feeling frustrated, confused, or hopeless as a writer, hang in there. The threat of “what if” can be overwhelming if you focus on it.

If I do {or already did} quit my job to write my book:

  • What if I don’t have enough money?
  • What if my manuscript gets rejected?
  • What if I self-publish and it flops?
  • What if I can’t even afford to self-publish?
  • What if every agent I query laughs at me?
  • What if my friends and family think I’m crazy?
  • What if I can’t afford my wine and Lucky Charms anymore?
  • What if I can’t afford to feed my cat? She would kill me in my sleep first.

Those are all valid concerns, and real ones I’ve grappled with lately. But hang on. Turn it around for a second. Consider the questions you might ask if you settled into a steady, predictable job that simply wasn’t right for you:

  • What if I’m not good at my job?
  • What if I make more than enough money, but I dread work each day?
  • What if my coworkers and I don’t get along?
  • What if my boss overworks me to the point of exhaustion or sickness?
  • What if there’s no upward mobility?
  • What if I don’t agree with company policies?
  • What if I don’t have the free time I expected to work on other projects?
  • What if my cat was upset with all the time I spend away from home? Psh. Right.

And these are just the basics. I could landscape a (very weedy) football field with all the what ifs that sprout into my mind when I consider my future as a writer. I’m working on it, though.

I’m working on it because, for one thing, I am only guaranteed today. Not tomorrow, not next summer, and not twenty years from now. Though it’s wise to plan for the future (and I am, admittedly, the queen of preparation), it’s not wise to let the stress of that preparation sap every joy from today.

I’m also working on it because I’m learning that good things don’t just happen overnight. In fact, the best things take lots of time. The best marriages take years to cultivate, despite the notion that romance dies after the honeymoon. The best health takes years of smart eating, moderate exercise, appropriate supplementation, and happy thoughts. And yes, the best careers take years to dream up, discover, build, and ultimately, enjoy.

If you’re feeling especially discouraged as a writer, step away from the keyboard as long as it takes you to remember why you write in the first place.

Then, come back to your writing desk and ask yourself a few questions {I know with the questions, but they do help!}:

  • What do I love to read?
  • What do I want to read more of?
  • What comes most naturally to me?
  • What do I find myself writing the most? Fiction, poetry, personal essays?

Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, begin to experiment → with different genres, writing styles, formats, settings, points of view. Read a book in a genre that’s outside of your comfort zone. Discover what you don’t like. Pay attention to what comes out when you’re not trying. Be observant about what’s going on in your life and how you can use it to help others through your writing. It’s like that age-old question: What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? Well, what would you write if you weren’t worried about ever being read?

And when you discover–or simply remember–what you love to write more than anything, do it, even if you’re not getting paid to do it. It will keep you inspired, fulfilled, sane. A creative outlet won’t always pay the bills. It can, but it doesn’t always. It does, however, have both physical and emotional rewards that money can’t ever fully provide.

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Instead of panicking about every what if that comes my way as I write my book (and there are still many), I’m trying to take it one day at a time instead. One task at a time.

One word at a time.

And maybe, instead of asking what if, I’ll start asking why not.

{Before you go, don’t forget to download a FREE copy of The Complete Social Media Cheat Sheet for Novelists!}

Have you ever gone through a frustrating or discouraging phase as a writer? How did you move out of it? Leave a comment below and join the Ladies in Read community on Pinterest for access to tons of writing tips + inspiration!

Dear Discouraged Writer: You're Going to Make It | encouragement for writers, inspiration for writers

About Meghan

Meghan is a novelist, blogger, and copyeditor fueled by coffee and red lipstick. When she's not typing away you can find her reading, organizing, or watching old sitcoms and superhero movies with her husband, cat, and baby-to-be.

8 Comments

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  2. asha1974

    THANK YOU SO SO SO MUCH! I AM writing, my novel sold poorly (13 books, most bought by family/friends) I’m working on a second book (its a book series) and am posting short stories concerning characters in the book on my website. I have maybe 1 person whom I know adores it and waits 4 each short story wiith baited breath which is keeping me going but it isn’t the success I dreamed of and I struggle sometimes with the overwhelming desire to get the story out of my head and onto paper and just quitting (I cant really quit though because characters wont leave me alone and Im fed up with being chased by wolves in my dreams 😉 ) but this has encouraged me greatly! Success is ‘I am published’ and I write everyday (was the dream but with a lil more sales – ok A LOT more sales. 😉 ) Say hello to yr little fur-baby with me! And again, thank you 4 posting this!

    • You’re so welcome, and let me tell you that you’re not alone! I really believe it’s the ones who don’t quit who are ultimately the most satisfied with their work, whether they sell millions of copies or not. So keep writing. 🙂 I would love to check out your book, too!

  3. asha1974

    Well, I *REALLY?* (can’t emphasise that word enough) hope you do 😀 (It is available on KDP. The book doesn’t show up on searches on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk seems to be the way to go. On Amazon.com, if u have certain settings it might not show – cos theres a lil bit of really hot sex in it LOL ) So if u get the time or have the inclination, it’d be really nice to see some blue lines on that fricking graph (itd b bloody nicer seeing some red ones tbh 😉 ) And ty 4 the encouragement have been having a really bad week so far, so 🙂 I have managed to cobble a website together on wordpress atm, focusing more on short stories as whether they sell or not I’m just happiest when constructing worlds and characters! Check it out posted the first part of the series about 15 minutes ago (I have no idea how this shit works, but its under reaheblog.comforwardslashsomeshit 😉 )
    I got two blogs, y’al want the werewolf chronicles one!
    and heres a link to the first book, I’m sorry I don’t know what I’m doing but you can work out the KDP thing from there, I hope 😉 And sorry this is so long!
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heir-Gevaudan-Werewolf-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B01M7PV422/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_

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