Monday, June 17, 2024

Navigating the Writer's Landscape: Overcoming Insecurity One Step at a Time

 

By Colleen M. Story

This month, I’m releasing my seventh book. It’s a historical fantasy called The Curse of King Midas and I’m super excited about it. 

Ten years ago, I never would have imagined I’d be here.

Like most writers, I had to overcome a lot of obstacles on the way.

If you’re still getting your boots stuck in the swamp on your journey to writing success, I have one message for you: refuse to give up.

You’ve heard it before. But it’s more than a cliché. It is the secret to writing success.

The Writing Journey Is a Difficult One

When I first started writing, I told nobody. No one in my family was a writer. I hadn’t gotten a degree in writing. Who was I to write?

The desire to write stories came out of the blue, hitting me one night while I was in the store. I bought a word processor (shows you how long ago that was!), took it home, and started writing.

I wrote for years and no one knew. I was afraid to tell anyone. I feared I would fail, so I figured it was better to keep it to myself.

But the longer I wrote, the more it became a part of me. I wanted to write another story and another. Then I wanted to publish a book.

I had a lot of days where I came away from my writing sessions feeling high as a kite. But I had just as many days when I figured my dreams would never come true, and it was stupid to continue wasting my time.

5 Steps to Mastering Your Writer’s Mental Journey

Looking back, a few things saved me from being one of those many writers who gave up too soon. Perhaps they’ll help you keep going, too.

1. Investing in myself.

It was hard to do this early on. Every time I thought about going to a conference, signing up for a workshop, or having a professional editor or coach go over my story, I agonized over the decision. I worried it would be a waste of money. And I didn’t have a lot.

No matter where you are in your writing career, investing in your betterment is the best thing you can do to increase your odds that you’ll reach your goals. Save the money. Take the time. You won’t regret it.

2. Setting goals.

We all have to get in our million words (or whatever number it takes) to become the writers we’re meant to become. Nothing substitutes for plain old words on the page. That means establishing a regular writing practice and sticking to it.

Setting goals for myself—daily word counts and yearly story goals—kept me working toward my deadlines. Otherwise, it would have been far too easy to put it off until tomorrow and tomorrow, and never.

3. Celebrating milestones.

The first time I got an editor’s positive comment on a novel submission, it felt amazing. The publishing house didn’t accept the story, but the editor told me to keep going—that the story would be published. (And it eventually was.)

We have to cherish and celebrate every bit of encouragement we get. It’s not selfish. It’s not bragging. It’s motivation.

You’re likely to suffer a lot of hits along the way, so don’t hesitate to tape those encouraging statements—whatever they are—to the wall where you can see them. When you get that one-hundredth rejection, you’re going to need them.

4. Tapping into my emotions.

They say that writers have to develop a thick skin.

I say let your emotions drive you. If a rejection discourages you, go ahead and cry or rage or whatever you need to do. Quit writing if you have to. If you love it, you’ll come back. I did.

If a review fills you with joy, tell your friends. Dance around the house. Shoot off the champagne. Proclaim yourself the next bestselling phenomenon.

Our stories thrive on emotion. We can’t tamp them down and expect to write well. We can’t become automatons and continue to hone that sensitivity we need to step convincingly inside the shoes of our heroines as well as our villains.

Don’t repress your emotions. Use them.

Let me share a story. I had been writing novels for years. I hadn’t gotten any closer to that publishing contract I really wanted. One night, after another rejection, I got angry. Ticked off. So perturbed that I spent the night researching publishers and firing off submissions.

I’ll show them! I thought.

A few months later, I got my first publishing contract.

I learned two things: One, emotions are helpful as long as you use them in a constructive way. Two, you have to spend just as much time getting your work out there as you do creating it.

5. Embrace my inner artist.

For the longest time, I couldn't admit to being a writer. It took me longer still to embrace the identity.

It’s good to recognize that we humans have a lot of things in common. It can help us write from multiple points of view when we tap into those similarities.

But it’s also helpful to realize that as writers, we are different. When we embrace that difference and nurture it, we are more likely to move closer to our goals.

Think about it. We have all these imaginary friends that we care about. We live their lives with them. They become a part of who we are. Who else has that?

We need time to create, but we also need time to come back after a discouragement. We have to release the stories inside us, but then we must refill the creative well. We regularly dig deep to pull out of ourselves the very best we have to offer, but then we rise to the surface to joyfully share it with others.

We struggle and fight and fall down and get back up again and no one else knows what the journey is like.

Don’t expect them to get it. Your family, friends, or acquaintances won’t understand unless they’re writers too. Accept that. Then embrace your inner writer. Give yourself what you need to thrive. Inspire yourself. Encourage yourself. Educate yourself. Motivate yourself. Share with other writers—it helps. But in the end, you’re the only one who can do it.

Who are you?

If you’re a writer, never forget it, and refuse to give up.

Note: Get a free inside peek at The Curse of King Midas here, along with stories from Colleen’s writing life.

 


Bio:

Colleen M. Story is a northwestern writer of imaginative fiction as well as a musician, freelance writer, and writing coach. Her novels include her upcoming release, The Curse of King Midas, as well as The Beached Ones and Loreena’s Gift (a Foreword Indies award winner). She also writes nonfiction books for writers and creators. Find more at her author site (www.colleenmstory.com) and motivational site for writers (www.writingandwellness.com).

 

 

5 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Often family and friends are the last ones to get it.
Thanks for this awesome list and guide, Colleen!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great tips on following our writing dreams. Congrats on your new book, Colleen!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Hi Colleen! What an encouraging post. The message to never give up is so important. I've seen many promising writers give up even after their book is published because they're disappointed in the sales and figure what's the point.

Colleen said...

Agreed on family and friends, Alex. So hard to accept at times! Thanks, Natalie! I'm excited about it. Hi, Karen! :O) I can sure understand those writers' discouragement. I was listening to a podcast the other day where the speaker said trying to become one of those authors that earns money selling books is like trying to climb Mount Everest! It helps to realize how very difficult the journey is. Those of us who continue can't help it, I think! :O)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I was the same. I didn't want to tell anyone so I could keep my future failure a secret. But the desire to write overcomes that eventually.