Sometimes, you do it all right, follow all the submission guidelines, take the classes, practice your craft and still nothing happens. It happened to Robin. She’d been writing for eight years, following the advice of those who’d gone before, and wasn’t getting anywhere. Then, six years ago, she finally got “the call”.
During the intervening years she developed strategies to help her survive the wait, strategies that helped her continue to write and hone her story telling. The first strategy she created was to define herself as a writer. Make this definition a part of your core identity; come out of the closet with your writing. This enables you to gain support from people who care about you.
Second, get goals. Make these goals things that are in your control. You can’t control who buys your book, but you can control how many pages/words you write. Have easy, moderate, and difficult goals. When you achieve an easy goal you can press toward another goal, eventually stretching. Write them down. The act of putting them in writing makes them more “real”. Achieving a goal makes you feel good.
Third, eliminate the negative. Check your physical state and environment. Is your work station too neat, too messy? Is the light right? Are you in a good ergonomic position? Do you work at a computer for your day job? Can you change your screen to something that doesn’t resemble work?
How is your mental state? What deters you from writing? Bills? Correspondence? E-mail? Are you procrastinating? Why? What are you doing instead? If you really must play that game, set a timer and use it to either limit your activity or use it for a minimum writing time and then reward yourself with the game.
Rejections also impact our mental state. It hurts and our inner self is like a child. Allow yourself to deal with the rejection, then move on. Some writers have rejection rituals where they write letters to the person who rejected them and then burn the negative energy in the sink. Perhaps it isn’t you or your writing, but circumstances totally out of your control. Rename your rejection letter to a “declination” letter. It doesn’t sound as harsh.
Muzzle your inner critic. Find out what s/he is yammering about by writing an affirmation ten times and being aware of the negative thoughts that surface. Deal with this thought by determining what happened in your life that planted that negative seed and then create a positive affirmation that you repeat when the negative blurt makes its presence known.
Forth, accentuate the positive. Save the good reviews, comments from critique partners and other complements you receive. Free write and get your whining out of your head and onto paper. Find affirmations, statements that encourage you. A book like Walking on Alligators will help you find some. Keep pretty things around you.
Validate your best efforts remembering that you are growing in your abilities. What you wrote five years ago won’t be as good as what you write in five years. Rely on yourself for validation with statements like “I wrote the best book of my heart with the skills I had at the time.” Don’t rely on others for validation. Doing so is an addiction that never satisfies.
Find some Never Quit cards. Practice your own unique writing ritual whether it be lighting candles, listening to music, stretching, taking cleansing breaths, moving to another room. Practice your craft every day. Find support from other writers in writing groups, critique groups, contests. Write, write write. The act of the work will get you through even when you are depressed and wondering if you’ll ever receive “the call”.
The bottom line? Ask yourself some basic questions. Are you happier when you write? If someone gave you ten million dollars to never write a creative word again, and promised to exact a dire punishment on you should you break that promise…could you take the money? If you knew you’d never be published (or published again) would you still write?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you Survive to Write and Write to Survive.
I'm tired. You know those sort of days. You want nothing more on your responsibility plate than to take care of basic needs like eating and sleeping and if you had your druthers, you'd sleep because eating is too much work.
So, what do you do? I usually end up taking a mini-nap or crawl beneath a blanket on my bed and read. Right now I'm reading The Finishing School by Dick Couch. One thing struck me. Some military special operations schools are meant to force people out, to see who will quit and who will give the unit more than 100%.
On these sleepy days, I think about people I respect, people who don't quit. They encourage me to keep slugging uphill, to steal my thirty winks and then get back at it...the business of writing and editing and entertaining readers. Nothing I do can touch what the men in special ops do. Makes my whining insignificant. So, I'll take my tiny nap and despite how tired I believe I am, I'll get back to my job at hand and work at making a little difference in someone's life.
This is supposed to be a picture of Air Force Sgt John Gebhardt in Iraq. He's holding a little girl whose family was executed. In fact, she was shot too and survived. The nursing staff at the hospital say he is the only one she's able to be calm with and that he's held her during the night, for several nights, while they both slept.
I hope this is a true story. I haven't run Snopes on it yet as some of you might (and I encourage you to do so). Still there is something special in seeing a military, tough man hold and comfort a child. I hope my sons turn into the sort of men who can offer similar comfort to children wherever they are.
Be thankful for the people in your life, the people who've been there and the people who will be brought to you in the future.