You woke up late. Your coffee maker is broken. You’re fighting off the dregs of a nasty cold. The baby is crying halfway through her nap, and you got a late notice on your water bill. The 2k words you wrote so feverishly yesterday (this is brilliant!) aren’t what you thought they were (this is crap!).
If this sounds like you, welcome to writer-hood. Sometimes this is what it’s like.
I’ve spent some time poring over articles about successful authors. I see how excited their readers are about their books and that they’ve reached NYT Bestseller status with their first novel. I see how pristine their home offices are, full of pretty bookshelves and fresh flowers and natural light. I see the glowing reviews and feature articles and glamorous book launch photos.
Jealousy is ugly, friend. We have to fight it.
I haven’t hit a bestseller list yet. I can barely get the required number of “required” blog posts published each week, let alone finish this manuscript (which, today, is going to hell in a handbasket). Some days it’s 3 p.m. before I brush my hair because I spend all day jumping back and forth between my laptop and the nursery as I prepare for our rapidly approaching due date. There are probably dirty dishes in our sink. Why? Partially because I’m a soon-to-be mother and wife, and those two things will always come before any books I write. But also because I’m a writer, and being a writer is beautiful. But it’s messy. It’s difficult. It can be discouraging and draining.
Some days my writing goes so well I think I’ll finish four more books this year and we’ll finally be able to replace my 12-year-old car, take that much-needed trip to the mountains, and give more generously to our family and friends and people who need it more than we do. But some days, writing doesn’t happen. Or at least, it doesn’t happen well. It doesn’t flow or make sense.
Some days I feel like I’m wasting my time and energy, and I feel like I’m deluding myself into thinking this could actually work. On those days, I wonder if I should just scrap the whole idea of writing and go get another job. Who reads books anyway? I’ll tell myself as I scrub another mysterious sticky spot off the kitchen floor or wash onesies for Little Lady B’s arrival. Who cares about stories anyhow?
Welcome to writer-hood.
Then I think about the books I’ve read over the years. The ones that have uplifted me through trying times. Even those silly teenage years when my biggest problems involved breakouts, unrequited crushes, and chemistry tests. Even when the biggest blow to my sensitive 14-year-old heart was learning my cat had been killed by a passing car. I think of the books I clutched in those moments, the characters I admired and the stories they lived. I think of how I turned to them as reminders that things could always be worse, they always could. But things always get better, too. Bad things happen, but we survive them together.
I think of those books that encouraged me more than I realized at the time, how they were planting the seeds in my heart that would eventually grow into large, monstrous gardens in my head, full of words and stories and people I needed to write down and share with the world.
And sometimes, not even with the whole world.
Sometimes just with the right person who needed to hear it at the right time.
When I feel like I’m wasting my time because I’m not producing enough content, selling enough books, getting enough reviews, gaining enough followers, writing enough words each morning, or making enough money, I look at the small steps I’m taking toward reaching others the same way my favorite authors reached me. It seems to happen overnight for some people, true. But not for everyone.
Not for most of us.
When I feel like I’m making a big, creative mess that nobody will ever want to read, I remember that everyone starts somewhere. Everyone has to weed out the good from the bad. Writing is a job, not a magic trick. It’s fulfilling and fun, but damn if it isn’t hard work.
And some days really, really hurt.
Welcome to writer-hood.
If you’re having a writing day that completely sucks, I’ve been there. These tips have helped me in moments just like the one you might be having right now:
- Don’t look at what’s left. Look at what’s already complete.
- Crack open a new book to read for refreshment.
- Revisit an old favorite, preferably one that inspired you to write.
- Do some freewriting in a different genre to give your brain a rest.
- Work on a different aspect of your book (such as cover design, promotional materials, etc.)
- Take a break from your current project to start planning a new one.
- Step away from the laptop and do something active (exercise, declutter a room, dance with your husband/kid/roommate, etc.)
- Make a fresh pot of coffee and have a conversation with your protagonist.
- Get a snack and hydrate with something healthy.
- Let someone else read what you’re writing for extra feedback.
- Try a different writing setting (i.e. a different room, a coffee shop, the back yard, new music, the floor instead of your desk, etc.)
Most importantly, remember that it’s temporary. Writer’s block, distraction, and discouragement are every writer’s enemies, but they’re all temporary.
How do you handle writing days that completely suck? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to join the Ladies in Read Community on Pinterest for tons of daily writing, editing, and publishing tips.