By Kerry Schafer
Okay, writers, time for a show of hands: who among you has ever engaged in a pity party related to your writing career (or lack thereof)?
My hand definitely goes up. I've just dusted myself off after a particularly difficult little stretch where it seemed that everything was going wrong. And not just for me - for a lot of great writer friends out there.
The writing business is a tough one. It eats unwary writers for breakfast and smears the leavings over computer screens and scraps of paper for the wind to blow away. A writer's world is full of politics and trolls, reviews and rejections, market trends and genre crashes, not to mention the self doubt and despair involved in trying to transform that brilliant but elusive idea into reasonably coherent prose.
So what is a writer to do?
Well, keep on writing, obviously. But here are a few other tips that I find helpful in keeping a firm hold on my own personal writer power.
If You're Going to Have a Pity Party, Go Big. Hey, it's inevitable that you're going to crash at some point, and there's no shame in the occasional meltdown. No matter how optimistic you are by nature, you can only take so many hits before a little self pity catches up with you. One too many rejections, one too many bad reviews, one too many days of beating your head against a wall with a manuscript determined to prove that
I SUCK AS A WRITER writing is really hard work.
If this should happen to you, I say let's make it a real party. Bring in ice cream and chips. Chocolate. Alcohol. Invite friends. Weep big fat tears of failure and despair. Rage. Rant. Eat and drink things that provide an illusion of comfort. Just be sure to keep the misery offline and out of the public eye.
Also, set a time limit, say maybe 8 pm to midnight on Tuesday night. Parties that last too long suck and turn into something ugly. When the clock strikes twelve you know what to do. Clean up the mess. Dry your eyes. Let go of the anger. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and go on.
Remember, You are Here by Choice. That's right. If you're involved in this crazy rat race, then it's because you chose to be here. Nobody is holding a gun to your head to make you write (unless, maybe, you're a character in a Stephen King story). If you don't like it, if you think the rules aren't fair and the heartbreak too frequent, you are always welcome to pack up your computer and your stories and betake yourself elsewhere. If you choose to stay, do it with your eyes wide open. Acknowledge the reality. Sometimes great writers are passed over. Nice guys and gals may not win. Books that you consider not nearly as good as yours might make bestseller status while your work of art languishes, unloved and unappreciated.
If you continue to choose to be here, suck it up. Write anyway.
Take Responsibility. This is your writing career. Nobody else wants it as much as you do. Sure, maybe your significant other is supportive and wants you to be successful. They also want you to clean the house and make dinner and be available for sex and childcare and possibly even random conversation. And your agent? She's got a lot to gain from your success, it's true, but let's face it. There are millions of writers out there, clamoring at the gates. If you decide not to play anymore she might miss you, but she'll find another author to take your place.
Focus Your Energy Where You Have Control.
You don't have control over whether an agent or editor accepts or rejects your book.
You do have control over writing the best damn book you can and taking the time to craft a great query or pitch.
You don't have control over whether or not readers go crazy for something you write.
You do have control over writing a damn good book and learning some marketing strategies.
See the trend here? Nothing happens unless you write. And that means working on craft and structure and plotting and making every book better than the one before.
If you've already written a damn good book (and this has been confirmed by honest beta readers and editors and not just people who love you) maybe it's time to self publish. Or try a kickstarter.
You, my friend, are not powerless. In fact, all of the power is yours. Claim it, wield it. Don't let people walk all over you or make you believe that you are somehow not as worthy as some other writer. Only YOU can tell your stories. Only YOU can write the world through your eyes. So pick yourself up. Brush off the cake crumbs and the chocolate smears.
And get yourself back to the page where you belong.