This writing stuff isn’t easy. Not least because we only see the positives on social media.
We see the launch parties, the publication day flowers, the signed copies and the print book unboxings. All the things we dream of as authors. And then as we reach these points ourselves, of course we want to share them – they’re what we’ve been working for all this time! So the cycle continues.
No one talks about the hard times. You certainly don’t talk about them during the process, because you worry you’ll be seen as a failure. That your readers will sense the ‘loser’ stench. That other authors will know. That agents and publishers will know.
We only feel safe talking about this stuff after the fact. And that’s fair too. It’s easy to fall into a hole when you’re writing, when you’re seeing everyone else doing well, and you worry you aren’t. You can be so happy for deserving authors and friends, but still be jealous and worried that finally this wonderful career you had hope for is ending.
Well I’m here to tell you – it IS hard. It is lonely and scary sometimes. It’s pure torture when you write something you’re so proud of and it doesn’t get the attention you expected. Sometimes it’s worse when you write something you weren’t as passionate about and it takes off. There can be days when a bad review you wouldn’t have noticed suddenly gets you down.
This past year I have both written the story I am most proud of, and then when it was out on submission I restarted two different novels five times. I stopped. I panicked. I tried again, differently. I switched genre. I switched structure and tense, and voice. I bugged my agent every day for a week because I could not trust my writing instincts and needed to be told what to do.
So I thought I’d share a few tips for resilience, so that if you’re an author sitting in that self-confidence hole at the moment, you know it’s normal:
- Write the story that makes you smile, makes you feel alive, feels important. Ignore concerns about how commercial it is, what it’s saying, how it’s not different from anything else. Write the story you want to read.
- Switch off socials – sometimes you just don’t need to see everyone else’s great news. If you want to make sure you’re supporting your friends, programme some tweets ahead of time. But it’s okay to disappear for a while to get your head right.
- Don’t read the reviews! Don’t do it.
- Find at least 3 things in your writing that you’re proud of. It might just be 3 sentences. You can find something, you can!
- Remember that it is never too late to start over! I don’t know how many of those ‘debut superstar authors’ are rebranded authors under a new name, but it’s a thing. Some of those authors have been plugging away for years, with other books you never heard of before they got a break. Luck and timing and hard work. Keep going.
- Don’t try to explain writing to people who don’t get it, dismiss it or make you feel small.
- Do things that make you feel good! That inspire you! Go for walks, read books, watch movies. Learn things, explore and let it go. You never know, you might find an inspirational boost that pushes you onwards!