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Care and Feeding of the Discouraged Writer

The Rich Writer: Care and Feeding of the Discouraged Writer

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Monday, April 4, 2011

Care and Feeding of the Discouraged Writer

Jami Gold's recent post Have You Ever Been Tempted to Give Up? is thought-provoking and true. In a weird way, it’s encouraging to realize that even published, successful authors struggle with this question.

Jamie’s post ends with a question: “What pushes you to the edge of giving up (lack of time, rejections, something else)?  What things help motivate and encourage you (a support system, wanting to prove something, finding successes wherever you can)? ” Visit her blog to see what other writers have to say.

Have I ever been tempted to give up? Absolutely! As has every writer in my critique group. As has every writer I know personally. And yet, most of us don’t. What keeps us going? I think the answer depends on why we’re tempted to quit, the way different illnesses respond to different treatments.

In my experience, there are several factors that can push me to the edge:

  1. Too much rejection/too little affirmation: This ailment is best treated by interaction with other people. Turn to your critique group, writer friends, Twitter tweeps, or a trusted first reader for encouragement and perspective. Or read the thoughts of a successful author in writing books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Jane Yolen’s Take Joy, or Stephen King’s On Writing.
  2. Physical exhaustion: When a writer is juggling multiple jobs and responsibilities—as most of us are—sometimes we spend so much time living inside our heads that we forget to take care of our bodies. Are you physically worn out? Try treatment with a brisk walk, plenty of water, a restful foray into nature, or a good night’s sleep.
  3. Mental overwhelm: When juggling too many to-do’s—writing or otherwise—it’s easy to get mired in too-much-to-do-itis. Overwhelm is not conducive to creativity. Treat with a hefty dose of self-kindness, lightening your load, word play, and small, achievable writing goals to help you rediscover the joy of writing.
  4. Negative creative balance: In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes the source of an artist’s creativity as a “creativity pond”, something that can be overfished and emptied if we don’t take are to refill and restock. If you spend too much time working—even doing work you love—you may discover that your muse is not longer speaking to you. Treat with Artist’s Dates, infusions of beauty and sensory delights, and creative stimulation such as a conference, class, or writing book.

Sometimes, you have to have faith and keep pressing forward; other times, mere willpower is not the answer. If you’re tempted to give up, ask yourself why. It might help you puzzle out the best remedy for what ails you.

:) Cheryl

Photo courtesy of Paolo Camera

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At April 4, 2011 at 10:39 AM , Blogger Yat-Yee said...

Timely post, Cheryl. I think I may have to fill my pond.

As for not getting enough affirmation, it's a difficult thing. We don't want to impose on people to affirm us on our schedule, yet we do need one another. I wish there was another pond, one that is filled with wisdom and tranquility to counter the feelings of discouragement.

Maybe there is. Wishing you one.

At April 4, 2011 at 12:12 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi Yat-Yee. Good point re. affirmation--we don't want to be needy. Maybe the key is to try to give more than we ask, whether of a friend or writing group. Have fun exploring ways to refill your creative pond--and if you find a pond filled with wisdom and tranquility, please point me to it :).


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