The flashing cursor blinks at you. You’re drowning in the vast, empty white space of your Microsoft Document. Fingers freeze, brain cells burn out, and your previously brilliant story idea has been sucked up like yesterday’s milk from the cafeteria. Merciless pirates capture your mind, forcing you to walk the dreaded plank of writers block.
You excitedly log into your email, eager to hear back from your literary agent. Your number of messages lay dormant at a chillingly disappointing number: zero. Rejection rips through your lungs like an icy, Arctic blast. Your book is in the trashcan at your dream publisher’s office. Again.
A bowl of celebratory ice-cream has just been finished, as you party with your mom and your orange tabby-cat, enjoying the highly-awaited launch day of your self-published novel. You excitedly log into your dashboard, eager to check sales. Are you a best-seller? Has it gone viral and generated thousands of e-book downloads?! Your glass heart shatters to the floor. Not even your grandmother has purchased a copy yet.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? Join the club!
I have colorfully described the discouraging woes that everyone in the writing community has experienced at one time or another! Feelings of failure, inadequacy, and hopelessness can hit writers HARD in the gut. Despite the writers block, rejection letters, and slumping sales, there is much we can learn from these so-called ‘failures.’ Let’s march forward and explore the 5 Reasons You’re Failing at Writing.
#1: Your Definition of ‘Failure’ is a Little Bit Screwy
Failure is a very, very strong word. Sadly, our negative self-talk uses that word a lot. Everyone’s definitions of failure vary, according to what their goals and expectations are. For some, failure is turning 30 and having yet to land a traditional publishing contract. Failure can be chalked up when our dollar signs are under-performing, or critical family members shake their heads and ask why we don’t pursue a ‘normal’ job. For others, failure is writing a first draft and feeling like it’s utterly awful. One author’s definition of failure is another person’s definition of, “Seriously? I don’t think that’s bad at all! You’re only thirty-two, Honey! Don’t be so hard on yourself!”
Or, “You’ve sold 100 copies? That’s wonderful! I haven’t even written my rough draft yet!”
Or how about, “You started writing a story? That’s amazing! I’d never be brave enough to do that!”
We don’t tend to see things through the same perky, rose-colored pair of positive glasses that our cheerleaders do. But what if we did? What if we threw confetti and launched inner fireworks every time we finished another paragraph? What if we gave ourselves a hug after completing the first draft, and decide what we like about it, before pulling out our merciless editor ax to hack it apart?
What if we encouraged ourselves and quietly celebrated the brave way we stuck ourselves out there-started a blog, self-published a book, submitted a story to the publishing house. What if we celebrated each sale? What if we were truly thankful for each reader, knowing that we have our entire lives to keep plowing toward our goals?
Writing, publishing, and living your dreams is not a sprint. It’s a MARATHON. The first one to cross the finish line of reaching a certain ‘milestone’ of accomplishment isn’t the winner. I believe the true winners are the ones who daily develop their craft with joy, persistence, and grace, no matter what the outcome. No matter how many times they face rejection. No matter how many times they must re-write. Authors who fall seven times and rise eight, are worthy of Olympic gold-medals! Failure doesn’t happen until you quit. And even if you did throw in the towel, it’s not too late to start again. Don’t mark yourself as a failure. You’re not out of this thing just yet. You’ve still got breath in your lungs! You can keep going!
#2: Your Inner Critic is Amped Up WAY Too Loud
Holy negativity, Batman! What kind of lies have you been listening to? If you’re feeling negative about yourself, your writing, and your status of general success in life, it’s time to break up with your Inner Critic. That’s right. Say goodbye, slam the phone down, and remind yourself of the truth. Listen to some encouraging, uplifting music. Free your mind of all that toxic garbage, and take a deep breath. You can do this. Your dreams might be titled as crazy by some, but they are not impossible.
The only person who can stop yourself from moving forward, is you. Grab your journal, jot down all the lies, get them out of your system, then throw ’em in the garbage! I’ve found from personal experience that if I’m stressed out, concerned, or worried about something in my life, it is EXTREMELY hard for me to sit down and type. I need room to breathe so that my creativity can flow. Even though writing can be therapeutic at times, I find that it’s important to deal with my emotional issues and go to the Lord in prayer about whatever is concerning me before I sit down to type. Then, once I feel free and refreshed again, the words flow like a happy, bubbling stream!
Writers block can be conquered when you take each thought captive, work through the negativity that’s saying you can’t do this, and then give yourself permission to make mistakes. That’s what the first draft is for: mistakes! (And sometimes so is the second, third, and fourth draft…)
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by the number of rejections your manuscript has received, or the lack of sales on your newest release, don’t fret! There is always an answer! Keep working, growing, and improving in the areas that you can, and everything will come together in time.
Continue to educate yourself on these topics. Read books and articles about Writing and Marketing and embrace the learning experience! Honor the process, and come to peace with the fact that you’re not going to become world-famous overnight. (Yes, that could happen someday. Posts go viral, divine connections happen, and million-dollar-book-deals are signed… but right now, your focus should be on learning as much as you can, growing in both your art and your smarts, and keeping yourself encouraged! Speak kindly to yourself. Treat your heart as you would the heart of your best friend. You are SO much more amazing than you know!
#3: Your Platform Needs Some Construction
Traditional publishing companies are all looking for one thing: Taylor Swift. Yeah, yeah, I see your eyes the size of watermelons, and your quizzical brows questioning my sanity. Allow me to explain that statement.
Traditional publishing companies are looking for people who have already built, or are in the process of building, a HUGE platform, like Taylor Swift did. Yes, Taylor was a talented songwriter. But a large reason why the industry was so attracted to her, was because she was already in the process of building a platform. She was all over social media, connecting with potential fans, sending friend requests and playing for free wherever she could, for whoever would listen! It’s that kind of hustle that authors need, whether they dream of being traditionally published, or just selling more copies through their self-publishing platform.
So how can you build your Swift-sized stage? How can you grow your platform, endear potential readers, and build genuine connections?
-Have a Professional Looking Website or Blog
Seriously. Publishers are not going to take you seriously if your website looks like a monkey made it. Or, if you don’t even have a website, danger partner, danger! Getting a professional website or blog up and rolling should be your first priority! How are you going to connect with your readers if they don’t have a central place where they can find you?
I just recently switched my website from Wix, to WordPress. Wix was a nice starter site, but since I was using the free version of it, there were a lot of limits. Design-wise, I was pretty boxed in. I switched to WordPress with Blue Host as my web hoster; which was definitely an investment, but totally worth it in my eyes! For writers, WordPress is the place to be! (Not sure which website or blog is right for you? Check out this post!)
-Get Your Opt-In Email List Growing
For whatever reason, Opt-In Email Subscriber Lists are a huge priority to traditional publishers. Some care far more about the numbers on your subscriber list than they do your Twitter followers. It’s pretty much expected of all blogs to have an area where eager readers can subscribe, in exchange for some kind of valuable ‘freebie.’ My current freebie is the first installment in my fictional Kindle series, Regal Hearts!
What will yours be? If you don’t already have one, it’s time to brainstorm! It can be something as simple as invaluable writing tips, organizational labels designed by you, or even a full blown e-book! You can use a service like Mail Chimp to create and organize your list. The sooner you can start and continue to grow it, the more favorable you’ll be in the eyes of traditional publishers AND in the eyes of your fans!
-Connect on Your Socials!
I’ll be the first to admit that Social Media can be a tad overwhelming. There are days I grow irritated with all the never-ending notifications from six different platforms…on top of text messages and emails….ahh! Traditional publishers want you to be active and attractive with huge numbers, and even larger engagement rates.
So, for a girl who has 104 followers on Twitter, I’ve got a lot of work to do! But, instead of tackling ALL social media platforms at once, I recommend you start with your FAVORITE one first. For me, that’s Instagram! I love connecting with people on Instagram, and that’s the place I have the highest engagement rate and most excited viewers. 4,632 Followers is a definite spike compared to my 80 likes on Facebook. As you can see, I’ve put a lot more time and energy into my Instagram than I have the other accounts, and that is totally okay!
Start with your favorite, get it growing strong. Then you can focus on adding more accounts when the time is right.
Fun ways to connect with followers on Social Media are through Direct Messages (make sure they’re with the purpose of truly connecting: no spam or self-promo!), Polls, Live Chat’s, Q&A’s, fun images, GIFS, relatable posts and daily encouragement.
#4: You Might Be Using the Wrong Treasure Map
Being traditionally published is a beautiful dream. Not only is it beautiful, it’s also totally and completely possible! But if your end-all goal is signing a contract with a Publishing House, you might be a little bit disappointed. Although there are exceptions to this statement, I’m going to go ahead and say it: Some Publishing Houses are not going to promote and advertise your work. They will sign a contract, pay royalties, and hope that you do well…but for some, that’s where the treasure map ends. Some authors dig a hole through the sand, having worked years to reach this point, spot the treasure chest, then let out an excited scream. “I’ve done it! I’ve made it! I’m rich! I got my dream!” Then they go sit in the shade and drink a Mountain Dew. When in reality, landing a book deal isn’t where your treasure hunt ends. It’s just getting started!
Most books that are traditionally published will not do well in sales unless YOU promote it, hire a marketing company, or are blessed enough to work with a publishing company that is placing you as a top priority to promote .
We all love the idea of landing a deal that’s going to get us priority space in Barnes and Noblel, a sixteen-city book tour, and a dazzling feature in our favorite magazine. And of course those things can happen. But it’s best to plan as if they’re not going to happen. Market your book and your brand as if it all depends on you! And start marketing right now! Don’t wait until the draft is finished. Don’t wait until you’re discovered by an agent, or the contract slides onto your desk. The more you plan and grow your brand now, TODAY, the more successful you’ll be in the future!
“Fight, while they’re sleeping. Learn, while they’re partying. Live, while they’re dreaming.”
My point is, if you change your treasure map, you’ll be getting wiser and richer all the way throughout the PROCESS, and you’ll know how to handle yourself gracefully and with wisdom, once you reach the destination! The process of pursuing your goals should be just as exciting, enjoyable and satisfying as accomplishing the goal itself. And if it’s not, maybe it’s time to change your treasure map.
#5: It’s IMPOSSIBLE To Fail if You Don’t Give Up!
And there you have it my dears. The fifth and final point. Sweet and simple. Yet sweaty and strength-filled. It is IMPOSSIBLE to fail if you don’t give up. So don’t! Keep going! Keep writing. Keep dreaming. Keep pursuing. Keep trying and keep hoping. You can do this!
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