The writer’s life is a topic I’ve been mulling for the last little while. There were actually times I was afraid to ‘go there’ for fear of writing something that would turn out to be a ‘downer’. Most people like to read uplifting, encouraging posts, right? But for those of you who know me, my blog, or my writing, I like to be as real as I can and that includes the reality of the ups and down of walking the writer’s road. So, throwing caution to the wind, let’s get started with a something I’m calling the Get Your Damn Head on Straight and See Things the Way They Really Are Phases—ok, not really but the title made me laugh. 🙂
You’re writing like mad. Joining every social media group known to man, reading ‘how-to’ article after article, joining writing support groups, submitting to contests, submitting to magazines—you’re pumped, excited and doing everything just right. Yes! Maybe you find success in a contest or a magazine likes a story and publishes it, your social media network is splitting at the seams. Finally! After all the daydreaming about ‘making it’ you’re on your way!
Things are still going well. Your energy is holding, you’re coasting along, still doing all the right things. But…the doors are not opening as fast as you’d like for all the effort you’ve put in, and you begin to notice that other aspects of your life are suffering because of it. A little voice starts to whisper in your ear: ‘Is this really going to work? Is it worth the sacrifice? What more do I have to give up in order to gain success?’
You are tired. No, darn it, you’re worn out. You’ve exhausted your bag of magic tricks and nothing seems to be gaining the success you hoped for. Or, you realize that it will take a lot more time, energy and money than you had planned to gain it. Through the cracks in your Picture of Ultimate Writing Success, your Life continues to force its way in, muddying it up…and you finally accept that you don’t have the time, energy or money you need, anyway.
What happens to the Dream then?
This hellish place of self-evaluation and doubt is one of the most important places a writer can come to, IMO. It’s where we find out what drives us and what we are made of. We’re finally seeing things clearly: the shiny veneer is shredded away and we are staring at the horrible picture of our Dreams at the mercy of the Black Hole ready to consume it. What do you do?
Darned if I know! But I’m in the Bummer Phase. Those who have read my past posts have followed me through the highs, the challenges, the successes as well as the dips in motivation and drive. The writer’s life is a sick a roller-coaster! But I’ve gained so many important lessons throughout it all and that’s really the point of sharing these posts; I hope to encourage others out there who are also wading through the valley of despair, of frustration, or whatever you want to call it.
There are few direct roads to success when it comes to writing. There are some fabulous stories out there, for sure, but for the most part, many great writers never make it past their blogs, reading groups or family and friends circles. That’s not to depress you, but to show how committed and focused and driven you have to be to persevere through the hard times.
Being a writer can also mess with our real lives. Not only can doubt, insecurity, and fear of failure affect our success but even good things, like our families or jobs can potentially interfere. Last week, for example, I stopped to look at my family, and I realized that more than being a great and famous writer, I wanted to be a great mother. I realized I liked my job and that the thought of scavenging for freelance writing jobs or wallowing my days on LinkedIn and Twitter made me want to bash my head against the wall. I also realized that no matter how much I put in, it might not always produce equal or better results—worse, that there was always someone else out there more driven and focused than I am, so where would that leave me?
Well, I asked the question so here are a couple of tips to help deal with this Bummer Phase:
Redefining success: By setting smaller, achievable goals and building your confidence and success over time, this could help bolster you in the moments when that ultimate goal seems so out of reach.
Find pleasure and meaning in the things that are already going right: I posted an author interview today and the response was great. Hearing the positive feedback from the interviewee and knowing that she was happy with it, seeing the enthusiasm it generated in other readers was a massive encouragement. It also reminded me that being a writer isn’t only about me—helping others is as important and as it is rewarding. Sometimes we have to know how to move back and forth between goals while enjoying just being ‘in the moment.’
I spent these last few weeks asking myself hard questions. What do I really want out of this? Why do I write? How do I measure success? How much can I give to maintain balance in my life and still feel I’m working towards my goal? In order to answer them I might have to rearrange my priorities or even let some things go. But I think these are all important questions we all have to consider—and answer–if we want to maintain a healthy attitude as we strive for success .
How about you? Any have experiences to share? Have you been in the Bummer Phase before and how did you climb out? I’d love to hear from you!