Have you ever quit writing? … A couple years ago I’d had it. I packed all my files and writing books into a cardboard box and buried it in our basement. I was fed up and it tore my guts out — my dream was shattered. — But I discovered something about myself. Something that took 60 years to release.
#1 for getting Discouraged — Let “life” drown your dreams.
Wow this is a big one, isn’t it? How often have I heard myself or someone else say, “life got in the way.” It’s so easy to let the big things in life creep in and take over.
Did I say big? Strike that out and replace big with “small”. Even “insignificant”. Maybe it’s playing Solitaire on the computer, watching too much TV, making sure every corner of the house is spotless, – insert your time waster here. And we make excuses for them. “Oh I’m just chillin.”; “I’ll buckle down and do it tomorrow”; “It’s only 10 minutes.” (Which turns into an hour.); “it needed to be done.” — You get the idea and, of course, you never do this.
I wish I had a simple answer to get out of the “life” rut but it takes discipline and focus; two things that fail me far too often. It’s just so easy to let interruptions shatter your (my) focus. When novelist, Judith Krantz, is writing she puts a sign on her door – DO NOT COME IN, DO NOT KNOCK, DO NOT SAY HELLO, DO NOT SAY “I’M LEAVING, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING UNLESS THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE.
We don’t all have the luxury of being this blunt, but we do need to set aside time that works for us and get back to our craft. If you have kids going to school, 8 a.m. when it’s raining toast and packed lunches, is not the time. When is there a consistent block of time that you can write? You may have to create it by getting up early or staying up late or even by putting a sign on you door like Judith. What time of the day are you most productive? Schedule and hour or two or three and stick to it… at least as much as you can and don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Just pick it up on the next. One quirk of human nature is, the longer you put it off, the harder it is to get back to it. Discipline! That’s the, not so simple answer. If you have trouble with self-discipline commit to a writer’s group, or a weekly column in your church bulletin, company newsletter, or local paper.
I wish I could say this is something I’m good at, but even writing has gotten in the way of writing. My novel, Faith Train, is out, so I’m working like crazy to implement my marketing plan and it swallows me up. One way I’ve overcome this is to commit myself to my two blogs, this one and MarriagBuilderBlog.com. It disciplines me to sit down and write, as I am doing now and I love it.
Tell us how you set “life” aside to let you write. It will help us all.
#2 - Always doubt yourself.
Have you ever felt like an impostor? Like you weren’t good enough? I’m speaking hypothetically here because I never do this… no never!
Maybe it’s a result of the process of writing or maybe writing attracts this kind of folk, but I’ve talked to many writers who suffer from this malady. Even ones who’ve had years of experience and “success”, and wow, is it ever a great way to get discouraged.
I’ve always wanted to play the piano and a few years ago I decided it was time. A local character and very good pianist and entertainer, came once a week for a year to teach me how. I’m sure Barney was the happiest person on the planet when I told him I wasn’t a pianist. I learned three lessons.
1/ Playing piano wasn’t a gift of mine
2/ It would take a phenomenal amount of work to be a little better than annoying to my family.
3/ I wasn’t willing to put in the work.
Writing is a craft we can learn and, like playing the piano, many folks would like to write. To use the piano analogy, I could have continued playing for myself without further lessons (in isolation to spare my family) or I could have committed a lot of time and effort and been a reasonably good pianist. In the end I decided I actually didn’t enjoy playing… it was only a wish not a passion.
Assuming you are past this and are writing because you love it, then why do you get discouraged? Why do you self-doubt? Maybe you are one of the blessed ones with no doubts but, for the rest of us, the question is, how do you get past it? How do you not pack up your writing in a cardboard box and shove it in the basement like I did?
For me, I have to remember that “God don’t make junk.” I have value and if others can do it so can I. I have ten fingers and ten toes (even if I didn’t it wouldn’t matter). I have a brain and a nervous system like 7 billion others on our planet, so why not me. Why not you?
I have to remember how good it feels to write. Having people say they like what I write helps too, but I can’t count on that.
I didn’t become a writer overnight; it’s a process. I have to keep telling myself that and, at times, I still don’t “feel” like a writer even though I am. It’s okay to feel that way knowing that, on a better day, I’ll get over it and get on with it.
Of course, you’re not one of these self-doubters but, if you were, how would you get past it?
#3 - Never finish.
A painter friend of mine once told me that he had never in his life finished a painting, however he did have to stop when they were good enough. He had to let go.
Writing is no different and, especially for longer works, it’s easy to get caught in a never-ending circle of editing. Lots of folks have great manuscripts languishing in their closets or hard drives… and today there is no excuse. The need for perfection and fear keep people from making their work public. That fear is a subject for another post.
I have spoken with discouraged writers who have never published anything, largely because they don’t see their work as good enough – see secret 2 above. They are always “honing their craft” and although this is necessary, professional students never get a real job. Often they just peter out and give up.
You can probably tell by my tone that this really isn’t one of my problems. From my engineering background I realize that there is a point of diminishing returns which means that there comes a time when you’re spending too much time for too little improvement. Then you let it go.
So what about this “no excuse” thing? What’s the cure for never finishing. If you have a languishing manuscript, shame on you. Like never before, technology lets you put it out there. Get it edited and cleaned up and publish it as a free eBook. Publishing doesn’t have to cost you a cent and, rather than stay hidden under a basket, it’s building you a platform, giving you feedback, and encouraging you to go for the next book. Blogs, like this one, are also a great outlet for your writing and doing magazine or newspaper articles are relatively easy to break into. (more on blogs and articles in an upcoming post)
Never stop learning and start producing. You can do both. Let it go and enjoy the results.
I hope these 3 “discouragements” were thought provoking and helpful and I hope you’ll join our writing community by adding your experiences in a comment.
Oh ya, what was in me that took 60 years to release? My love for writing fiction. The last thing I thought I’d ever write was fiction. The thought almost nauseated me but now I’m getting wonderful comments like…
“Terry, your book is fabulous! I started it Sunday evening and read each evening, finishing it Thursday night. I found it hard to put it down. It had me laughing, crying, gasping, and now waiting … for book #2″
How encouraging is that?!