Every writer’s career path is different, but one thing remains certain: those who are currently floating in the limbo between “new writer” and “published novelist” endure unique circumstances that can make even the most mentally stable of us question our sanity.
Our minds are in a constant state of flux.
We know what we’re doing, yet still have so much to learn. It’s discouraging. We’re close, but not quite there. Negative thoughts can hinder our progress. Sometimes–oftentimes–it feels like we will never reach our goal. But there are specific actions we can take now that will help us find balance and improve our outlook.
Rather than allow jealousy over the successes of others to stew in your personal cooking pot of “why not me?”, tell yourself “my time will come, it just isn’t here yet”, and then build a positive connection by showing your support of that author’s accomplishments.
This is one of the few things we do have control over–how we present ourselves to the public. For every one thing you say about yourself, say two or three good things about others. For example, every time you tweet one of your blog links, tweet two or three you found helpful from fellow writers. When you focus on the good in others it distracts you from the bad you see in yourself.
Fellow unpublished novelist, Christi Corbett, posted an article on her blog a few months ago that encourages writers to keep an “I Don’t Suck” file. For those of us who are in the query or submissions phase, this is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve ever seen with regards to maintaining a positive frame of mind. Whenever you receive a compliment from an agent, editor, or fellow writer, copy it into your “I Don’t Suck” file.
Reminding yourself of the good others have seen in your work is an effective way to squelch any self-deprecating thoughts before they become so ugly that you consider giving up.
Take a step back from whatever is stressing you and reignite your passion for writing. Why did you start this journey? What originally sparked this specific idea? What do you love most about your story? What has kept you going strong in the past? What has worked for others that you haven’t tried yet? How have your skills improved since this time last year? What do you see in the work of others that moves you?
Don’t underestimate how a small shift in perception or viewpoint can light a proverbial fire under your ass and put you back in the race, full force.
Writing fiction is emotionally taxing work. When you’re feeling especially low, remove yourself from everything. Get as far from your writing space and social networking as you can, and do something else. Anything else. Get out of the house. Walk your dog. Weed your garden. Visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Talk about something other than your book/ your agent search/ your blog stats/ etc.
Redefine your goals. Redefine what success means to you. Redefine your specific role in the publishing industry. Who says you must be a novelist? That is only one piece of the mosaic. Maybe editing is more for you. Or sales. Or publicity. Or [fill in the blank]. You’ve soaked up a lot of information since you jumped into the sea of publishing. Just because you started your journey as an aspiring novelist doesn’t mean you can’t change course.
And changing doesn’t mean you failed in any way.
Daily. Eat healthy, exercise your body as well as your mind, and don’t sacrifice sleep or family obligations. Be efficient. Be productive. Be realistic. And smile, smile, smile!
What other R words can help the unpublished novelist stay positive on his/her journey to publication?
photo courtesy of flickr’s Evil Erin