Following on from my last post, it’s worth having a quick word about the mindset that comes around in being a writer constantly attempting publication.
Because, honestly, it’s gruelling to have to endure rejection after rejection, sometimes in one great big dry run that doesn’t seem to have an end to it. All writers have had it at some point. And not to be the doom-and-gloom guy, but any writers who haven’t had any dry runs – well, chances are that they will someday. Maybe years from now. But it’s a pretty sure thing.
The emotional reasons for writing are varied. Some may write for emotional release and catharsis, or simply because they derive pleasure from telling stories and using imagination to create scenarios. With so many different emotional footprints, there often isn’t a lot connecting different writers universally on an emotional level aside from the desire to put words to a page.
I won’t try to profile and address every writer who practices the craft for personal gratification or relief. But for all writers seeking an audience, there are two unifying factors – hope, and morale.
Both these ideas are pretty self-explanatory. Hope is the dream, and the ambition, of fulfilling one’s expectations – in this case, publication and acceptance. Morale is the motivational force that allows you to continue hanging on to that hope – it’s the fuel that gets you through the lows so that you can taste the highs. Hope is nothing without the morale to accompany it.
And that’s where people lose their drive. The hope doesn’t fade – the morale fades. That’s the most frustrating thing – you still want it, but it becomes harder to act upon it. Or, at least, that’s one of the more common illustrations of morale running dry.
Morale is normally tied to a group mentality – companies talking about how they can bolster the morale of employees as a means of boosting productivity. But what can an individual writer do, if the morale is running low?
Never forget the times you did accomplish something. Sounds easy on paper. But any publications you’ve already had, no matter how long ago or how minor – they’re all forms of acceptance. They’re all reminders that your work has an audience. Remember the praise and the constructive criticism. Remember the little moments that made you want to push yourself further as a writer. Those moments and milestones can see you through.
Get away from the desk. You might not even realise how much you’re bashing your head against the notepad or keyboard. At some point you’ve gone past perseverance and started chasing your own tail. Find something else to do. Something else to worry about. It can be boring worrying about the same thing all the time, after all.
Take care of yourself. You’ve surely heard all the benefits about eating well and taking the time to keep fit. Blah blah good hormones blah blah. You won’t listen to the science coming from yet another commentator. Just tell yourself, if you’re not doing anything to keep a varied diet and be active on a regular basis, that you really should. If you need more incentive, well – it gives you superpowers. I’m not supposed to talk about it, but honest-to-god superpowers. Just keep at it and you’ll get X-ray vision someday. And if you don’t, at least you’ll be fit enough to kick my arse for (allegedly) misleading you.
Try something new. I know – I keep bringing this up. But a new project with fresh challenges can be invigorating. A fresh angle on something you’ve tried before. A completely new genre or style. The trick is that if you’ve written outside your comfort zone, and that particular piece doesn’t garner results either, take that outcome with a grain of salt. It might not be your best work. But anything that expands your comfort zone is a stepping stone to refining your future work – and can be a fun challenge on top of everything else.
Share with others. A tough one, especially if you don’t already have a solid network. But there are so many people out there who will have their own wisdom to offer on how they got through their own rough periods.
These are only a few introductory ideas, but they’re a starting point to ensuring you can keep your motivation even during the tough times. There’s nothing more frustrating than hope without morale, so always be aware of your own drive and when extra measures are required to keep yourself on track. What do you do to keep your morale up as a writer?
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeen