I know you guys all understand heartache and grief. And you know all about how you can get totally broadsided by stuff. But as a writer, the hardest thing is the most necessary thing: Keep writing. Keep moving forward.
I’m writing this partly to myself, because I fell into a hole that I should not have fallen into. That’s my own fault. Now I have to get out of this hole. That’s on me.
Of course, I’m watching a buddy of mine absolutely outwrite me right now. He works 402 hours a week and he’s still churning out 10,000 words a week and writing blog posts every whipstitch. Whereas I’m over here in a little sad heap saying “Alas.” This is not how work gets done! But I keep watching my writing bud work, and I keep thinking, “I should do that.” He sends a group of his friends, including me, his work for the day, to keep himself accountable, to motivate him to keep doing the work. It’s been motivating me. Finally, today, I started typing this. Victory!
So one thing you can do to motivate yourself is to hang around people who are doing the work. Join people who are at the next level and watch how they manage their time and workflow. Pretty soon you’ll be climbing up to join them.
Next — what habits are getting in the way of your success? Find a way to associate massive amounts of pain with it. Or boredom. Have a friend who will chase you off Facebook. If you have a friend or a family member who keeps putting down your writing time, stop talking about your writing with them, even if they ask. Just shrug and be inscrutable. If their only purpose is to drag you down, they don’t need to know about that aspect of your life.
If you do get knocked off your feet, be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just keep coaxing yourself back. If you need to leave your writing alone for a while, it will still be there when you get back. Give yourself time to overcome your setback and heal.
Don’t take forever, though. Give yourself a small writing thing to do to keep moving forward. Nulla dies sine linea — Never a day without a line — let that be your motto for a while. Do what you can to keep from ossifying. If all you can manage is writing about your troubles, then get out your journal and write. Dig down in there. Find out why you’re stuck. Sometimes there’s an issue down there a little deeper that you need to contend with and tear loose so you can move forward again.
Treat yourself with love and understanding though. Find a couple of friends who also can help you. If it would help you to have friends to be accountable to — if you want friends who you can report your daily word counts to and who can help cheer you on — look for fellow writers on the same path as you who are willing to help.
I’ll need to write about losing faith in yourself another day, as that’s a huge topic I’ve personally contended with. But the short answer to that dilemma is to find a place where your voice is valued. Find a market, an audience, that you can write to. I lost faith in myself and my abilities because the traditional publishing market — editors and agents — kept passing on my books and telling me no. I honestly don’t know how many rejections I’ve gathered over the years. In the high hundreds, certainly, possibly over a thousand. To be honest, I don’t want to know. At any rate, I found myself grinding to a halt, questioning everything I wrote, almost certain that everything I wrote was doomed to failure.
Then I started self-publishing, where I found my work accepted and valued, where I alone could determine how well my work was received. What I can earn is proportional to what I do to make it happen. I took off like a rocket in self-publishing. My faith in myself has been restored. And that means the world to me.
Perseverance is one of the best attributes any writer can have. You can’t let yourself stop. Even when you do stop, you know it’s temporary, because writing is what you do. It’s your life. Writing is your letter to the world, even if the world takes its sweet time to answer.