I haven’t posted many articles about my ‘writer’s experience’ lately, mostly because I figured a series of depressing posts featuring my rants and raves wouldn’t be very interesting. Okay, maybe interesting but not very useful.  We all face moments of frustration and disappointment when we strive to succeed at something we are passionate about. The challenge becomes how to get out of that black hole and what to do with ourselves once we do. 

Months ago, when the first phase of this downward spiral hit, I was coming to grips with reality: finding success as a writer is extremely hard. Not to mention that no matter how good our writing might be, that is no guarantee that an agent or publisher will want to work with us.   

Reality check number two: wanting to reclaim control of my book, I cancelled the contract with the company that published it, but now I had the monumental job of doing everything myself: republishing the book, marketing and promoting it, figuring out the numbers and following stats and purchases, if there were any. I felt like I had made a huge mistake. The burden is massive. Fact is, I just don’t have the financial or time resources necessary to sell my books the way the experts say I should. And, I’m not an island. I have kids, a household to maintain and a fulltime job. No matter how much I wish otherwise, I can’t just dump my job to write fulltime. In order to maintain balance in my life, I had to sacrifice writing time to be present elsewhere. It was that, or burn out. 

Still, this current phase was different. I wasn’t feeling good about my writing. I’d produce something I thought was good, but the comments I got back all seemed negative to me. Then the doubts set in. Had I lost my touch? Were people just not into what I was writing? Did they not get it? And so on. And on…and on.

image from youthvoices.net
image from youthvoices.net

Part of this comes from the writing group I joined. The group itself is great. I love the social aspect. And chatting about the art-form we are passionate about while working together to improve our pieces is wonderful. However, we each have our individual styles, most often skewing towards literary fiction. I have often felt a little like a fish out of water. Sometimes I wondered if I would be better off in a genre-oriented group. But a big part of the reason I joined was to benefit from the lit-oriented environment. 

Anyway, I finally broke. And it was this breaking that led to getting out of that black hole. Below are two of the main things I learned: 

  1. Talk to the right people. I have a small circle of internet writing friends I trust, and they gave me a place to vent. I’m sure I tried their patience, but I appreciate their concern and the time they gave me. Then someone in the writing group mentioned an upcoming writing retreat, so I took a chance and contacted the host. Her name is Lise Weil, professor, founder of literary magazines, and award-winning writer, though I didn’t know this when we spoke. (Thank goodness because I would felt intimidated otherwise). Mrs. Weil ‘got’ my problem right away. When she voiced my own suspicion that my writing world had been ‘shaken up’, I immediately relaxed. The tension seeped out of me, like someone had just sucked the poison from a snake bite. Just having someone name your problem and empathize with you can get you back on track. Needless to say, I will be attending the retreat and I will be blogging about that. 🙂
  2. Always come back to your centre. Exploring new writing styles led me away from my own Voice. This insecurity caused me to seek approval and validation from others and to concluding my work was bad when things didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. I forgot that failure doesn’t mean the work itself is bad, or that I suck. It just means I need to work harder. And I must be patient. Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how I was feeling and inspiration led me to bang out a flash fiction piece to accompany it. It was raw and fuelled by angst, but it felt great to put my feelings in prose. The piece even won a flash fiction contest I was encouraged to participate in. Last weekend, I went for breakfast with Sharon from my group again, and we wrote short pieces based on paintings hanging in the restaurant. I had no idea what to write, but I shut out my doubts and let my fingers do the work. I was thrilled with the result.  The point is, these experiences reminded me that writing from the heart is what makes me happy, and that I most enjoy writing when I don’t always know where the story is going to go.  I feel alive when I’m not trying to be this or that kind of writer. When the most important critic of anything I write is me because what is on paper is my truth. 

And that is what I learned. I’m going back to basics, back to what makes me love writing in the first place—pure self-expression. Some will get on board and some won’t. I may never become famous, and people might not ‘get’ or like my work. But at least every piece will be me.

Picture by Amanda Staley
Picture by Amanda Staley

20 thoughts on “When You Are Discouraged

  1. I am learning that authors can be the worse critique partners. I’ve found its good to keep a beta group that are readers and another group of writers. To help me gauge different perspectives.

    Also, you’re completely right: write for you. It’s no fun otherwise. And if it’s not fun what’s the point?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Writing is so fraught with self-doubt and negativity sometimes, isn’t it? But, you are right, Dyane, we have to write AS ourselves and FOR ourselves if we want to enjoy writing and want to feel good about what we produce. It is the few who become famous, the few who can make a living from their writing. Not because they all are better writers. There are so many factors that go into becoming famous or rich through writing, and some of those factors have little to do with the quality of our work. So let’s just enjoy what we do and enjoy the bonus each time someone else does too.
    Happy writing! x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I love this post so much I can’t even stand it.

    Those black holes of insecurity and uncertainty are awful. You just want to get back to writing, and what it had been before, but you doubt everything you write and wonder if it’s worth it. and YES! Marketing, producing, and getting your book out there on your own is truly hard work. Monumental, even. So good for you for pushing past it!

    I’m so impressed that you really reached out and found that writers retreat. I’m praying that it’s everything you need to feel good about it again and find your center and voice. It can be a frightening place when you have to step back for awhile, but you got this.

    Girl, you SO got this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your response 🙂 I know you are right up there at the forefront and know all about how hard it is to survive in this writer’s world, Katie. It’s hard. But we have to keep on going or we stall. Messages like this really help me, so thank YOU for reaching out, too. 🙂

      And all the best to you. Don’t stop! I love reading how you’re taking the bull by the horns. 🙂


  4. Ok… maybe this will help me. If I could just find someone who is in the same place as me. I need a like minded friend/coach that can help me get to the next step. My novel has been edited by a professional editor. I still think it requires addition work. I need a beta reader …. this is my 1st novel, 47k words, 225 pages, genes middle class African American family …..HELP

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why don’t you contact me through the contact sheet on the About Me page or through my email listed there? Sounds like you need to talk. 🙂


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