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How to Keep Writing When You're Discouraged

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 11 22 2021 How to Keep Writing When Youre Discouraged

Writing is like a road trip into the soul, and no road trip is perfect. Along the journey, you’ll experience delays, bumper-to-bumper traffic, missed turns, and accidents, and you’ll encounter future roadkill, too.

In the metaphor of a road trip, discouragement is like a flat tire. It happens unexpectedly and cannot be ignored.

Sometimes, discouragement happens at once. You hit a bump and your tire immediately deflates. Other times, discouragement happens slowly. You wear out your tires after traveling down a particularly rocky road.

And, make no mistake, the writer’s road is rocky. First, you must deal with nearly constant criticism from everyone who reads your work. Second, if you are seeking representation from an agent, you also must live in a state of never-ending suspense, wondering if you’ll get a rejection or acceptance letter from your query. And when you inevitably open a rejection letter, it hurts. It’s disappointing.

It may be easy to recover from one or two disappointments, but when you’re on a path of never-stops disappointments, it’s tough to get over it.

But it is possible to overcome disappointments and get back on track.

Below, we’re sharing tips on why discouragement happens and how to deal with it effectively. Let’s get started.

Why Does Discouragement Happen?

Discouragement as a Writer

What derails you in the first place? Here are the most common reasons that lead to discouragement:

You Feel Overwhelmed

When you first start out, it’s easy to become discouraged.

If you’re writing your first novel and struggling to start, know that you’re not alone. This is a common experience for first-time novelists. There are so many things to consider before you start the writing process. For example:

  • Should you outline first or think of character backstories?

  • Do you need to create a plot or should you focus on world-building?

  • Should you know the end before you start writing or just fly by the seat of your pants?

Once you consider everything, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And that overwhelming feeling can discourage you from starting.

You Don't Feel Prepared

Feeling like you’re not prepared to write is also discouraging. You may feel like you’re not a legitimate writer. Perhaps you’ve never written before, or perhaps you don’t feel educated enough to write on a particular topic. When confronted with your feelings of inadequacy, you may be tempted to throw in the towel.

YOU'RE COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

Comparison is never good and it almost always leads to discouragement. After all, how can you not be discouraged when comparing yourself to another writer who’s accomplished the goal that you’re after?

By comparing yourself to other writers, you’re seeing how you measure up to them. But that won’t do you much good. Remember that every writer has a different path and a different destination. You can, of course, use other writers as inspirations, but don’t try to take the same path because, for you, it will be a dead end. You’ll find your happily ever after by charting your own course.

YOU CAN'T UNBLOCK YOURSELF

Are you stuck in writer’s block? Writer’s block is often caused by fear and/ or perfectionism. When you fear that you won’t be able to write a perfect story, you can get stuck in the mud. And of course, being stuck leads to discouragement. You may feel like you’ll never get unstuck.

Looking for tips to overcome writer’s block? Check out these strategies.

YOU FEEL ANNOYED WITH WHAT YOU’VE WRITTEN

Sometimes, you’re not stuck, but rather, you’re annoyed. While you can write, you’re not writing as well as you’d like. You feel like everything you’re writing is mush, and it’s not leading to the greatness that you know you’re capable of producing. When this happens, you may feel like you’re unable to hit your writing stride, and that can be disheartening.

YOU'VE BEEN HIT WITH BAD NEWS

When you’re at your happiest, life can karate kick you in the stomach with the craziest news: A cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, damage to your house, and the list goes on. When you’re hit with unexpected news, it’s natural to feel discouraged about life in general.

YOU'RE WAITING FOR A MUSE

Are you discouraged because you can’t find your muse, i.e. your inspiration to write? Well, I’m sorry to report that your muse is probably lost. Finding her is a rare and accidental event. But the good news is that you don’t need her constant presence in order to write. You can rely on your past inspiration to write your future works.

Let’s discuss what you can do when you’re dealing with discouragement.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT DISCOURAGEMENT?

Discouragement as a Writer

Now that you know what leads to discouragement, here’s what you can do about it:

START A JOURNAL

Journal through the negativity. By acknowledging your feelings, you can take control and stop them from threatening your self-confidence. Journaling for 10 minutes a day can have a profound effect on your outlook. Write out what you feel and explore why you feel that way. It can help you discover the root of your discouragement.

Plus, journaling can also improve your writing skills. Some writers find that daily journaling is not just therapeutic, but it also leads to increased writing fluidity when they begin working on their novel. So, consider personal journaling for a few minutes before you start working on your novel.

CHANGE YOUR THINKING

Adopt a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means that you make room for mistakes. You also see challenges as obstacles to overcome (not immovable roadblocks).

When you first start, you won’t know a lot of things, but if you realize that everything is learnable, you’ll save yourself from being discouraged early on. No writer started as a bestseller. No one is great on their first draft.

But when you realize that you can become better simply by pushing yourself, nothing can stop you.

EXERCISE

Physical activity does wonders for the human brain, and this one has been personally tested by yours truly.

After dealing with a serious bout of discouragement, I headed to the gym. After only 45 minutes of exercise, I emerged with energy and mental clarity. I’m betting the same can happen for you, too.

Exercise is a good antidote to discouragement, anxiety, and stress, just to name a few.

SET A GOAL FOR EACH DAY

Instead of allowing yourself to sink deeper into discouragement, switch into “attack” mode. Set a writing goal for every day, no matter how small, and go after it. You can’t allow discouragement to work! You must do everything you can to fight it, because discouragement is lying to you. You can write. You can accomplish your heart’s goals. You are ready and able to do this.

You can’t allow discouragement to actually work! You must do everything you can to fight it, because discouragement is lying to you.

By setting a goal, you’ll force yourself to perform.

Write Yourself Love Notes

Since you write anyway, consider writing notes just for yourself. In these notes, affirm your self-worth. Tell yourself you can do it. Give yourself a pep talk.

Buy a pad of post-it notes, write short messages of affirmation, and stick these messages all around your writing zone, including your computer, desktop, and bookshelves. You can also create digital versions of these notes to display on your desktop and phone. These notes will help you ward off discouragement before it takes you hostage.

Join a Writer's Group

One of my favorite ways to deal with discouragement is to link up with other writers. Every writer deals with discouragement from time to time, so venting to fellow writers can often encourage you. It’s good to know that you’re not alone.

Consider joining one of these 11 top writing communities featured here.

Final Thoughts

It’s okay to feel discouraged from time to time. You may experience disappointment or setbacks along your journey. But don’t let anything stop you from telling the story that only you can write.

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