Monday, March 17, 2014

How to Survive a Writer’s Life

By Lynda R. Young

A writer’s life is not an easy one. It can sometimes feel like we are trying to reach the stars from the top rung of a ladder. Not only do we need to master story structure, the ins and outs of grammar and the nuances of character creation, we also need to become masters of marketing and social media as well. We need to find time to write between all our other commitments, we need to edit and polish and know when our stories are ready. And we need to keep going despite less than wonderful reviews, or countless rejections, or family pressure to get a ‘real job,’ or a multitude of other obstacles a writer faces.

When the writer’s life gets particularly rough, and the ladder collapses under our feet, there are four things we can do:
1. Give up
2. Take a break
3. Seek solace
4. Keep writing

1. Give up: This is not recommended. While writing isn’t for everyone, most of us are drawn to writing because we must. The ideas keep coming whether we write or not and if we cut off our creative outlet altogether, then the pressure builds and comes out in other less pleasant ways, such as dissatisfaction, restlessness, or even grumpiness.

2. Take a break: This works a treat. Sometimes a writer has to take a step back. It doesn’t have to be for very long. The writer may need the time to reassess what he or she wants from writing, to recharge the creative batteries, or simply to take a breath, enjoy life and learn to love writing again despite the difficulties.

3. Seek solace: There’s something deeply satisfying to learn you aren’t alone in the writing struggle. Groups like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group have been founded because of the need to connect with other writers. Through the support of those writers, you might learn you need a break, or you can keep going because you love writing so much. Being a part of this kind of community can also change your thinking so it’s no longer about survival, but about your undeniable passion for writing.

4. Keep writing: This is my personal favorite. I particularly like to mix it with the previous option as well. Through the encouragement of the writing community, I’m able to keep writing. When we keep writing, we keep moving forward, we keep creating and improving and loving the act of stringing words into polished manuscripts. When we keep writing, the setbacks become less important, because that’s all they become: temporary setbacks.

What helps you to stay optimistic when your dreams seem impossible to reach?

Image: Photoshop creation by Lynda R. Young



64 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Giving up isn't an option if writing is one's dream.
And definitely short breaks. I don't recommend long ones. Really hard to crank it back up again. Trust me!

J.L. Campbell said...

What Alex said. For many of us, giving up isn't an option. I step away from writing (because of other activities) often enough that I'm raring to go when I come back to it.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I agree with taking the short breaks. Reading and watching movies in my genre usually re-inspires me.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Encouragement from others keeps me going.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I sometimes find switching gears helps. Like, if I'm struggling with a novel, I might work on short fiction. If I'm struggling with short fiction, I might turn my hand to some arts or craft project, etc.

Stephen Tremp said...

like taking a break. I usually take up to a couple months a year off from writing and blogging.

Old Kitty said...

I know this seems silly but in my darkest times when I'm ready to give up - I play with my cats or just watch them and their sense of just being and living in the now totally helps me put things in perspective. :-)

Take care
x

L.G. Smith said...

I generally quit writing about every six weeks out of frustration. For about a day. And then I can't help myself, I'm back at work on the ms, because what else would I do??

I did have to take a pretty long break from blogging, though, to stop draining my creative energy. Gotta do what you gotta do. :)

Pat Hatt said...

Have to keep at it. But a break for a little while does help.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I usually allow myself about a day to feel sorry for myself after a disappointment and then get back into it. Reading about others success on groups like this one keeps me optimistic.

SA Larsenッ said...

Phew...I'm so thankful #1 is not recommended. LOL

With each success or roadblock, I make myself assess the process and all that it encompassed. That is when I see the growth, no matter how little.

Sheri at Writer's Alley

Home of Rebel Writer CREED 2014
Mighty Minion Bureau Team #atozchallenge

Robin said...

When I hit the creative wall, I read. Sometimes I read several books in a row. I read them to enjoy the book and also to study the craft. Sometimes I figure out where my WiP is going wrong by seeing what someone else has done well (building suspense, character development, plotting and the list goes on). So, I take a break and read.

Cathrina Constantine said...

4 years ago I almost gave up. With rejection after rejection slapping me in the face.(and it's still happening) It seemed totally impossible. It's true what they say, it takes one Yes. Being a writer to me---means constantly honing my craft and reading everything in sight.

Mark Noce said...

Amen to keeping up the writing:) I don't even question it anymore, I just do...it's my way of coping I suppose:)

rlnolen said...

Remain optimistic.

Southpaw said...

a cookie, oh wait that the solace part

Liza said...

Three and four work for me. Once in a while I try to take a break, but it's usually short-lived, because I find I have to get back to writing.

shelly said...

Taking a break is sometimes needed. I break from writing on Saturday. But other than that I keep writing. When I'm burned out, I read.

Excellent post!

Hugs and chocolate!
Shelly

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful post. It's only been in recent years that I've taken solace with other writers, and that's helped so much more than anything else.

S.P. Bowers said...

Sometimes taking a break to recharge is good, and finding friends in the same situation is always encouraging. But number four is the best. And if I'm stuck, or just can't face the current WIP then writing something fun or no pressure always works. A letter, a silly story, just write.

Lynda R Young said...

Alex, Yep, I know what you mean. I took a long break once and it was a huge mistake.

Joy, that's the perfect length of time for a break--when you're raring to go again.

Natalie, reading is the big inspiration for me too. And movies to a lesser extent.

Diane, Encouragement goes a long way.

Madeline, yep, definitely switching it up can help.

Stephen, yep, I need that time from blogging, but not as much from writing. If I need a break from writing, then I'll write something different.

Kitty, That's not silly at all! I can totally relate.

Luanne, yep, I can relate to that too. A break from blogging is sometimes necessary because it's not as creative and takes up a lot of time.

Pat, agreed :)

Lynda R Young said...

Susan, hehe, yep, that time to feel sorry for ourselves is sometimes necessary. Then we can pick ourselves up and keep going.

Sheri, It's not recommended, but it does help as a reminder that it is an option we don't want to take. And remembering that, helps us to move forward.

Robin, reading is a wonderful way to refresh the creative juices.

Cathrina, I gave up a long time ago and it was the biggest regret of my life. I know now I can't give up again.

Mark, that's a great way to be.

rlnolen, yes!

Southpaw, hehe. If a cookie works, then go for it.

Liza, yep, that drive to write never goes away.

Lynda R Young said...

Shelly, Yep, I'll admit I don't write on the weekends, except maybe a dodgy outline of ideas while sipping a hot chocolate in the local cafe.

Christine, I'm surprised you are the first to emphasize this point in the comments. Because it really does help.

SP, exactly. It really goes a long way to write something short and new and no pressure.

Electric Addict said...

I can't even imagine how hard it would be to survive being a young writer. Probably something similar to artists where in actuality few make it as a source of livable income.

Denise Covey said...

I agree with them all except 'give up'.

Theresa Milstein said...

Good list, Lyn. When I'm at my breaking point, I let other writers know. We all need to be called off the writing ledge. For me, quitting isn't an option, which is why I reach out. But I know others who just give up. It's disheartening.

Jemi Fraser said...

#1 really isn't an option for sure. I've used the other 3 though - depending on why I'm falling/failing at the time. Sometimes the best break for me is starting in on a Shiny New Idea ... which probably explains my plethora of needing-to-be-polished stories! :)

Bish Denham said...

I do take breaks, but long or short I always come back to writing. It's the one thing that's remained consistent in my life. Drawing, music... these have fallen away, but not writing.

Meradeth Houston said...

Much needed post for me today! I'll admit I've given up before, and been tempted to at other times--it certainly would be easier. But a decent break always works wonders :)

H. S. Faber said...

Great post! And so many wonderful comments, also.

When I feel like giving up, I resort to my emergency checklist, which consists of:

1. Plenty of coffee
2. Happy family (caffeine is strategically placed first-every coffee drinker knows why:)
3. Clean house
4. A good mind frame- I watch or read something that makes me laugh
5. Random writing prompts- the weirder, the better
6. Then I try to make someone smile, because it reminds me of why I write...to evoke feelings:)

Medeia Sharif said...

I do 3 and 4.

I rarely take a break. If I do, it might be a few days or few weeks.

nicholasrossis.me said...

Hugs were wonders, too. As it happens, I had a small crisis of a sort yesterday, and wrote about it on http://nicholasrossis.me/2014/03/17/what-i-want-to-hear/ . As I say there, "I then realized that I just needed a huge hug to tell me that everything is going to be OK and that my book is good and worth reading... So, today I want to tell my wife 'I’ve had a rough day, seeing you will cheer me up'. And I want a big hug!"

Lexa Cain said...

You've brilliantly encapsulated the pros and cons of being a writer! I used to do 3 & 4. I kept driving myself in the mistaken impression I'd complete what I was doing and be able to relax. But there's always a new blog-hop, story idea, crits to do, or read/reviews for others. It never really stops. I had an abscess and a tooth pulled over the weekend. With all the drugs, I'm too loopy to do much -- and it's the most relaxed I've been in a year! lol

Nana Prah said...
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Nana Prah said...
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Nana Prah said...
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Nana Prah said...

Sorry about all of the removed comments. I got overzealous with the mouse. Wonderful post, as always. Right now I'm on an unintended break, marketing can be the most draining out of all we do.

Terri Rochenski said...

Lynda,

I take a break. Having a crazy home life makes it tough to write to begin with, but when the muse is quiet & it's like pulling teeth to get a single sentence written, I head out to the garden (or pull out my gardening books in winter time) to rest my brain.

cleemckenzie said...

I've gone through just about all of these four over the years. I can't say one serves me better than another, but in combination they've kept me going!

Suze said...

'And then I can't help myself, I'm back at work on the ms, because what else would I do??'

Yup.

emaginette said...

Ever hear, better out than in? Hagrid says it in Harry Potter.

That's what I'm doing. No matter how stressed I get, it never stays within me. I let it all out in my writing and it keeps me healthy.

I'm not in it for the money. It's about the smiles.

Anna from Shout with Emaginette

Patricia Lynne said...

I'm too stubborn for option one. Often, if things get a little rough, I take a break and recharge. I've tried writing through things, but my focus gets so scattered that I can't concentrate on the story that needs to be told.

Heather Musk said...

I love the support and encouragement that exists among the writing community, and I certainly couldn't do without it.
It's definitely got me through some tough writing times, so a big thank you to everyone!

Lynda R Young said...

Electric, I attempted it when I was young, but I had to make some major sacrifices to be able to live on a part time shop assistant's wage. Not easy.

Denise, yep, giving up is not an option I ever want to take again.

Theresa, it is disheartening, especially when you see such amazing talent and wonderful stories disappear.

Jemi, Gotta love those Shiny New Ideas :)

Bish, I'm the same. I get the most out of writing.

Meradeth, I hope you don't ever give up again.

HS Faber, change coffee to chocolate and I'm with you.

Medeia, you are a machine! :)

Nicholas, Yes!! I'd put that in the solace section. Hugs are brilliant and absolute necessities.

Lexa, ha, yeah, I once made the same mistake. The writing waters will always remain choppy. No smooth sailing for a writer. Hope you are feeling better after the tooth pulling.

Nana, hehehe. Maybe the mouse wanted cheese ;)

Lynda R Young said...

Terri, I'm not a good gardener but like you, I enjoy spending time in the garden as a mini break from writing.

Lee, yep, combining the last three works well.

Suze, hehe. We are a slave to our muse.

Anna, that's a great attitude (and a great saying).

Patricia, stubborness is a good trait to have as a writer.

Heather, before I joined the writing community I had no idea. It's something you can only experience to truly understand how great it is.

Michelle Wallace said...

I'm late to this gathering!
Gosh, so many things to do and so little time!
The moral support and encouragement from the online community keeps me going!

Carol Kilgore said...

Great motivational post. By all means keep writing. Otherwise, "they" win and you lose.

Cristina T said...

#3 and #4 *shaking fist in the air*
#3 is new to me, and that's why I'm here. :)

Crystal Collier said...

Cheese. But seriously, I go read a book and work on something I love when things get discouraging. That or a play with the kids, go out to eat, go biking, or in general, live life.

Lynda R Young said...

Michelle, I can totally relate on so little time, hehehe.

Carol, so very true.

Cristina, it's good to see you here. I hope you find the writing community as rewarding as I've found it to be.

Crystal, there is no substitute to living life. :)

Carol Riggs said...

Good stuff, Lyn! I'm sure we need varying amounts of all these (except giving up LOL) at some point. I've done all of them--even giving up, but it came back to haunt me. :)

Lynda R Young said...

Carol, me too ;)

Bonnee Crawford said...

I definitely believe in not giving up, and continuing to write instead. Seeking solace is so useful and the writing community is wildly supportive of its members. Thanks for sharing this, Lynda. I couldn't agree more. Though I think you should add the option "Eat some chocolate, because chocolate makes everything better."

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Publishing frustration is a part of the writing life. Stop completely? Can't, or I wouldn't be Victoria Marie Lees. I have a need to write. But it's NOT easy. Thanks for the tips and insight, Lynda.

Sherry Ellis said...

Keep writing! But take a short break to recharge if necessary.

Blue said...

Or move. Family pressure to get a ‘real job’.... really? :(

Lynda R Young said...

Bonnee, you make an excellent point (I say as I reach for some chocolate).

Victoria, yep, writing is so much a part of us.

Sherry, exactly

Blue, yep, it does happen.

Terri Tiffany said...

For me taking a break works best. I find I miss the writing and I come back to it refreshed and ready to start over again!

Kelly Steel said...

Giving up is never an option! Though, sulking for a while is there...

Cherie Colyer said...

I agree, giving up isn't an option. Taking a break usually works for me. Allowing myself to write bad does too. It helps me get past being stuck. When all else fails, having wonderful people who support me keeps me going. =)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You're so right, Lynda. We have to believe in ourselves to live this dream. Published or not, we deserve to write. Great post. Thanks.

Libby said...

Solace and ice cream have done wonders for me.

Misha Gericke said...

Right now, I'm clinging to the fact that writing is the dream for me. It's one of the few things I really want to achieve with in my life.

And NOTHING is going to take that away from me.

Lynda R Young said...

Terri, yep, I think we all need to be refreshed on occasion

Kelly, hehe, sometimes a little sulking is good for the soul ;0

Cherie, yes, learning to accept bad writing helps to keep the momentum going.

Joylene, "we deserve to write" I like that.

Libby, hmm, ice cream. Now I have a craving.

Misha, your conviction is awesome to hear.