Ever had those moments were you want to simply throw your hands up in the air and shout, “Why am I doing this? It doesn’t make a difference!” Well, I have. I’ve noticed it in many aspects of my life over the years. Looking back, I can see that some of those times have been pretty silly. Like, when I used to play videogames. I remember the days of Nintendo, when if you died, you started over at the beginning and the controller-throwing rage that those moments induced. There was the time when I was told in school that I couldn’t sing and for three years I gave up completely before involving myself in community theatre and starting over again. Silly examples, I know, but those stand out to me as times in my childhood when I came close to giving up on something.
As I’ve grown older, my issues and insecurities have changed. For example, I have always struggled with weight. My size tends to yo-yo depending on my diet and exercise. I’ll just tell you now, for a dieter, there is nothing worse than reaching (and in many case surpassing) your pre-diet condition due to a brief indulgence of binge eating. What about seeing your hard-earned money disappear after a single high-end purchase that you later discover you didn’t want or need? I am ashamed to say that due to poor risk-analysis skills, that has happened to me on a number of occasions.
So, you are probably asking yourselves “Why is he bringing up all of these depressing issues?”. Well, the answer to that is because I am seeing the same thing now with my writing. I can still remember the emotional high I was on after finishing my first book. I recall the giddy excitement I felt the moment a publisher answered my query letter, expressing an interest in my manuscript. What wasn’t to be excited about? I was going to be a published author! I’d make a quick million bucks, retire from my job, and write for fun, just because that was what I loved to do! Of course, now that I am about to publish my fourth and fifth books, I can see how unrealistic my expectations really were.
I have since parted ways with my publisher and attempted to go into business for myself and I have discovered a great deal of discouraging factors that I wasn’t prepared to deal with:
- Getting lost in the mass of indie authors
- Writer’s Block
- Marketing Fails
- Low Sales
- Agent and Publisher Rejection
- Poor Reviews
- Lack of Time
I am sure I could go on, but I believe that I have made my point. Unfortunately, I have seen a few authors, authors that I respect and admire, fold to these pressures and give in to the discouragement. More than once I have heard phrases like “I am done” and “It just isn’t worth it”. Although I am confident they will work their way through the slump, I am saddened to see them disheartened, temporary though it may be. So, after a particularly difficult stretch, I began to think to myself. Even as a kid, after I finished screaming at the T.V. and stepped away for a few minutes, I could pick up the controller, press start one more time, and try once again…and eventually I would finish the game.
If I once found myself motivated by a pixelated, 30 second ending to a game, I think it is time to ask myself about my current motivators. To better my singing, I tried out for musicals. At first, I struggled quite a bit (I still remember trying out for Wizard of Oz and butchering ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ in front of a whole room of people). Eventually, though, I started taking choir classes and vocal lessons and continued to improve. Now I find myself looking for opportunities to sing instead of shying away from it. For weight management, I sign up for a series of races and triathlons every year. This forces me to stay active, so I don’t walk into the race unprepared.
So…what can I use as motivators for writing? Reviews? Well, they are a fun motivator, but I learned early on that relying on reviews is only temporarily satisfying. When they stop come in or are negative in nature, a review can have the opposite effect. Money? Sure, money is a motivator for lots of things, but…I don’t make a lot of money from writing. I haven’t found the time/resources for decent marketing and my reader base is still rather small (though extremely loyal). So, probably not (at least…not yet).
Well, what then? If I am not making money from it and reviews (or lack thereof) are not consistent…why keep writing? One of the answers came to me not too long ago. When I walked in the door from work and my kids came in to greet me, one of my twins pulled me aside and said, “Hey, Dad, this is where I’m at in Ragesong.” It was completely awesome! It made me realize that as much as I enjoy writing for the masses, my true love is writing for my children. Since then moment, I have caught them reading over my shoulder, pestering me for updates, and begging to be allowed to read the next story early…and I love it! So, this has become my writing goal. If I can keep my children excited for what comes next in my stories, then I can make it through the discouraging moments.
Most of the time, I chug through life on a pretty decent track, but every once in a while I catch myself experiencing one of those deep dips in the road. That’s where I need to take a moment to reflect. Usually if I take the time, I can figure a way to snap myself out of it. So, my friends, best of luck working through your own discouraging moments! I’d love to read about your methods for overcoming the slumps in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
J.R. Simmons (Author of the Ragesong Saga)