It is extremely hard to write when our confidence has been zapped. Has anyone been there? I have been. *waves hand* Sometimes the funk lasts for a week or so. I’ve realized one thing. No one is going to pull me out of it except myself.
- A first critique of your first chapter when you figured you didn’t have to revise because your writing was so good.
- A first form rejection letter from an agent or editor.
- A first or second or third negative review.
- A first, second, third or fourth pass on a full manuscript request.
- A hard critique after you’ve revised a million times.
- Every time you jump on Twitter or the blue boards, all you see are book deals and agent signings. (Okay, this mainly is hard when you’re already down to begin with.)
- You read a super, awesome, terrific, better than licking-the-brownie-batter-off-the- bottom-of-the-bowl book. The kind of book you wish you’d written. And realize you might never be able to. Or you feel that way.
Okay, these are just somewhat valid reasons why a writer could feel discouraged. There are always the invalid reasons like: it’s raining or the kids squeezed the toothpaste all over the sink and peed on the floor or you don’t like your new haircut or the wind changed directions or you’re exhausted. The list could go on forever.
- Pressing send for the first time.
- A first personal rejection with some compliments.
- A first partial or full request.
- I’m just going to guess and say signing with an agent or getting a book deal.
- A kind, encouraging word from a writer friend.
- The idea that self-publishing is losing its stigma. And is a valid option.
- Brainstorming and getting ideas.
- Feeling that first draft love.
- The realization that rejections really aren’t personal.
- Learning to separate yourself from the process. (Hard. To. Do.)
- Watching a great movie or book and feeling inspired.
And I think the biggest confidence booster is having realistic expectations. To be able to judge your writing and realize you’re learning but still have work to do. And to be happy and content with where you are on the journey.
What pulls you out of a funk of discouragement? Or what puts you there?
I used to get into a real state when I was on a downer but after enough time I noticed there was a cylce, that no matter how awful a state I got into it always got better (eventually) and when I was convicned of my own greatness (someoen had to be) that too faded. Now I pretty much ignore what I think of myself as a writer and get on with the writing. I’m not sure if it’s good or not, but I save a lot of wasted time.
Yes. These are all things I’ve gone through too. Especially when it seems like everyone is getting a book deal all around you! So much good news – which is great! But a tiny part wonders if there is any room left for another.
For me it is simply getting stuck into my next project. I am always full of hope at the beginning of a new book. This is gonna be THE one??? At least it lifts me for a while…
Yes. Been there, done that, and am there right now. Writing has such ups and downs. You’re right–realistic expectations are most healthy and balancing, but it can be hard to hold onto them because there’s so much information out there to pull us one way or the other.
I had to laugh at your first confidence zapper b/c that was totally me. I remember sending 15 pages of my 2nd manuscript into a profesional critiquing service. I also remember secretly thinking they would send it back with something akin to, “Wow! This is amazing! I have nothing to tell you. But I’d love to put you in touch with my agent.”
HA! Okay….maybe I wasn’t that confident. But I was slightly delusional.
Needless to say, that is not what happened. Not even close. I had a lot, a lot, a lot to learn. After I crawled out of my hole and shook off the dirt, I grew leaps and bounds.
I seriously see that first critique as a major turning point in my career as a writer.
Actually, I find pressing send even after many, many times still gives me a jolt of electricity! And definitely getting that acceptance e-mail or phone call works wonders. Can live off that for months. But the absolute best are the personal reviews from people you’ve never met and who have read and liked your work!
Even with a few sales (short stories mostly), still the rejections come. They never get easier. And you have to harness the strength to focus on the next project, get excited about it, and get it out there.
I have to agree with Mooderino. It’s all a cycle. Certain things may start the cycle but I go up and down and up and down. It’s just part of the writing life. 🙂 Thanks everyone!
I love those lists. I’m just grateful that the positives balance out the negatives. We have to experience both to make the whole process worth it in the end.
I’ll be honest. As much as I adore critiques, when a beta or CP finds something in my manuscript(s) that isn’t working for them, I tend to get down on myself–questioning my choices to high heaven. It’s worse when I really loved the element they’re questioning.
To get myself out of that slump: to continue writing. That’s what I’ve done and through that I’m learning how to decipher what parts of critiques benefit me and those that I shouldn’t pay attention to. I think I’m strengthening my writer’s ear.
The big one for me is reading a book and realizing you’ll never write like that. Huge confidence zapper.
The booster comes when you read a published book and think, “Hey, I write like that. I have hope.” 😀
This last week at a writer’s workshop/retreat has really boosted my confidence – partly from the amazing positive energy of the class; partly from making headway in discovering flaws in my MS and how to fix them; partly from the praise of the instructor, a published author whose writing I admire.
Thanks for the wonderful reminders that all those slumps are temporary!
I kept nodding my head at each point. So true. Been down in the dumps a million times, but I bring myself out of it at some point. Writer friends help the best because they understand completely.
I also keep writing, or if I think it’s absolutely needed, I take a break. Very. Hard. To do.
That’s true Stina, there are plenty of books out there that I read that are comparable to my writing or my friends’ writing. Regardless, I think shooting high is always the best thing! I’ve loved plenty of books that didn’t blow me away and leave me speechless.
those are all perfect examples. Getting possitive feedback from betas helps boost my confidence too!
How about sending out several queries and not getting any requests for a full? That sent me into a full-blown funk, until I had the brilliant idea of having people look at my query and tell me where it was going wrong – the problem wasn’t necessarily the story idea, just a query that made it sound dull!
The whole self-publishing option has been encouraging for me. I know full well that my writing style and chosen genre are not what’s currently popular, so telling myself that even if no traditional publisher picks it up, I always have the choice of self-publishing to at least get a start on things, has encouraged me to keep on even if I’m not writing angst-y paranormal YA!
Any of those things can easily bring you down. I’ve also found a lack of ideas when between WIPs can be particularly crippling (which really doesn’t help when you’re trying to be especially creative at that stage).
Confidence boosters! All of the things you mentioned of course are great confidence boosters. Talking to other writer friends helps as does reminding yourself the things you love about writing or your current WIPs.
Great post Laura. I’ve been there with the toothpaste in the sink and the pee on the floor. 😉 recently as a matter of fact. I’m just getting over my first big rejection letter. And today I’m forcing myself to write the next book… although I’m finding excuses left and right. But I’m going to do it today… maybe after I get a new keyboard…
Wonderful post. I wish there was a way to force the universe to provide a confidence booster right after a confidence downer. You know, ten minutes after getting a form rejection email, you get a partial request. That would be cool.
Oh Laura, I’m so glad you wrote this! I really needed to hear some of the positive stuff. Writing. Is. Hard.
Oh and I agree. The first big rejections that really mean a lot to you are the hardest. I do think it gets easier after that. It’s like falling in love. You learn to protect your heart and guard your mind so the Rs don’t hurt as much. In that regard, it does get a little easier.
Positive feedback definitely helps my confidence. Also reading good books can either give me confidence, because I remember why I wanted to be a writer or it can zap because like you said you realize you will never be able to write like that.
Hearing from people who love my books is a HUGE confidence builder. Reading that people didn’t does rather deflate my budding ego. 😉
Realistic expectations. That is so very true. AT a writing conference I attended in May, they gave an award for the person who received the most rejections. It was in the 300s.
Yet the book just came out last week.
Oh what a perfect post! Yes, yes, yes! For me, I’m not sure I’ll ever REALLY separate myself from the process. And the best cure is writing something, I just have to force myself to start, then it takes over.
Laura, what a perfect list of zappers and boosters. I’ve felt every one of them!! The biggest, most important thing for me has been to separate myself from the process, as you put it. Or as one of my all-time-favorite writers on writing, James Scott Bell, puts it, develop rhinoceros skin. We’ve got to. It’s the only thing that lets us stay objective at all! Those kind words from writer friends make a huge difference, too, and I’m finding the blogging community to be a wonderful source for that.
In boosters I could add first RT on Twitter and first blog follower/comment…then more and more of those.
Good idea for a post!
Thanks for sharing everyone! I think publishing blog posts and getting responses from it definitely helps with confidence. And the blogging community is always helpful and encouraging!
I carry a copy of the magazine that my one, and only, (so far) published article appears in. When needed, I’ll browse through it and remind myself I can put words in the right order. I recall the process I went through, even with that one short piece. What a jazz that was!
If that doesn’t pull me out completely, well there’s always chips and salsa!
Great Post. Nice to be sharing the grief, and the joy, of the writing life.
Wow, Laura, you sure hit the nail on the head. I think we can all relate. I get more discouraged when I’m exhausted, so a good night’s sleep does wonders. And those encouraging comments really do make us feel better. I agree that having super high expectations can set us up for disappointment, so we need to keep it all in perspective. Nice post.
I completely agree with these lists, and your final point. I’ve tried to manage my expectations when it comes to writing and publishing. So far it’s helped me feel much better about myself as a writer. 🙂
Reading a great book boosts my confidence. And yes, the idea that the publishing model is changing and may allow more people a chance does too.
I get in that lack-of-confidence place too, for the same reasons you give. It can also happen if I’m feeling low about other aspects of my life. Your list of getting out of it is a pretty good one. We have to keep at it to change our fortune.
You hit the nail on the head with these lists. Betty Edwards in DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN talks about a crisis period in art. When a child’s picture is criticized or misinterpreted it may cause them to stop drawing for the rest of their lives to avoid repeating that moment of hurt and rejection. I think as writer’s we go through a mini version of this with your zappers. I find validation from the outside – my critique group or beta readers boosts me out of a funk. A double scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge never hurts either.
Soooo true! I feel like the writing/publishing process is a constant back and forth between confidence zappers and boosters! No wonder we’re all a little nutty. 🙂
Oh, this is SUCH a great post. Laura! (I tweeted) For me, I feel better getting a rejection if I know I have multiple manuscripts out. Right now, all my eggs in one basket (my publisher gets an exclusive because it’s int he contract) and it’s killing me!
It’s so important–and sometimes so hard–to be content with where you are on the journey! And yes, rejections are NOT personal! It sounds so obvious, but a thick skin can take time to grow.
Something inspiring? When a talented friend who has worked hard signs with an agent or gets a book deal!
Love the closing paragraph. Thanks for the great reminder.
I love how there is a positive to every negative! First draft love and reading a great book or a seeing a great movie are definitely big pick-me-ups!
The only time a great book is confidance zapper is when it’s uncomfortably close to one of my ideas… so far it’s only happened once. Phew.