In 2013, after years of dreaming and failed attempts, I finally published my very first novel. Like most newbie authors, I had visions of the house I’d buy when I made my first million, the fans I’d inspire, how lucky my kids would be when I paid their college tuitions in full, and how it would feel to quit my day job and live the romantic life of a full-time novelist.
Well, that didn’t happen with my first book, but I wasn’t deterred. I’d heard somewhere that the best way to market yourself is to write another book. At the same time, I was noticing how many of the authors I followed were releasing books one right after the other. So my naive little self believed that was how it was done — write, edit, release, repeat.
After 11 books so far, I’m sorry to say that I’m still not a millionaire. In fact, I’m barely a thousandaire.
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It’s hard to not have caviar dreams when it comes to being a novelist, especially when you see the outliers making a killing. It’s just as hard to not feel totally dejected about writing when it’s largely ignored and you’re still stuck in your 9–5 job.
It’s hard to not have caviar dreams when it comes to being a novelist, especially when you see the outliers making a killing.
First, I want to point out that the majority of us writers have to work regular jobs, and we have to fit in writing when we can. Second, you have to be especially clear about WHY you’re writing. If it’s about money, may I suggest a different (and much easier) path.
But if it’s about a passion for writing, then you’re on the right track. Cling to that. Remember that.
The times I’ve focused on the lack of success in my books, I’ve wanted to stop writing. But when I took the focus off success and back on the joy of writing and connecting with readers with stories, then I rediscovered the drive to keep writing even when I wasn’t making a killing off my books. I stopped obsessing about sales numbers and redirected my energy toward learning how to write better and reach more people. As a result, I learn more with each book I write, and I gain a little more traction with each book, as well. It’s become a slow climb instead of a sprint, and it’s proven to be a much more satisfying journey.
I still work a day job. But I GET to write, too. And that is really what it’s all about.
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But let’s be honest. That’s easy to say, but hard to implement. So if you’re having trouble finding joy in your flailing writing career, here are five ways to change your outlook and re-energize your passion for writing.
1. Take a writing class
A few years ago, I started going to college. I’d skipped the college scene after high school and ended up having a family. So when my daughter enrolled in college, I decided What The Hey and enrolled, too. I took a bunch of classes that had nothing to do with writing, and was surprised at how much they enriched my writing, regardless, as my education increased. But when I enrolled in a creative writing class, I found MY PEOPLE. These were the ones who wrote for the joy of it, not because it was assigned to them. I learned a ton from our instructor. But you know who else I learned from? My classmates. From their different writing styles to their different critiques, I learned ways to flavor my writing and how readers view my stories. I’m in my last semester, and I will be sad when this class is over.
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2. Join a writing club, then get involved
The best way to re-energize your writing is to surround yourself with other writers. I’ve been a member of my writing club for eight years now, and I owe much of what I know because of that club. Why? Because writing clubs are full of people with different talents when it comes to writing, publishing, marketing, etc. Being around so many writers, I can’t help but absorb that creative energy, and I’ve definitely benefited from the wisdom of what’s worked for other writers.
3. Mentor another writer
If your creative spark is starting to dim, divert your energy toward another writer who seeks your help. It could be as simple as offering encouragement to a writer who’s struggling or sharing about things that have helped you in the past. Where I’ve connected with other writers is through my regional writing club, through writing groups on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit, to name a few), students in my creative writing class, and younger writing students in high school and elementary. Being around writers who are just starting out reminds me of where I once was, and how far I’ve come. It also reminds me of the fire I once felt when the world was full of possibility, and that this possibility still exists. Plus, it just feels good to help other people.
If your creative spark is starting to dim, divert your energy toward another writer who seeks your help.
4. Journal / Morning Pages
I’ve been journaling since before I knew The Artist’s Way was a thing. Not familiar with The Artist’s Way? This is a must-read for any creative person to help keep that creative spark lit. One of the biggest things Julia Cameron insists upon is starting the day with “Morning Pages,” which is basically three pages of journaling first thing in the morning. For me, these three pages are usually 1–2 pages of whining, and then finished off with what’s blocking my soul, allowing me to get it all out of my system so I can actually work on my writing projects. It also serves as great pre-writing fodder —warming up my writing muscle so that I’m ready to work on my novel immediately after. It’s also good therapy, you know? Try it for a month and see how your life changes.
5. Write for yourself
If you’re bending under the pressure of writing for others, STOP, and write for yourself. Forget about who’s going to read it, and just write. Lose your inner editor, forget all the things you know about writing for one person, and let go of your expectations about the money you want this piece to earn. Instead, write for the hell of it, for writing’s sake, for just getting the story out of your head and on to paper. You may even surprise yourself at how good the story turns out once you kick everyone out of your creative process and let it be just you and the story.
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What are some ways you re-ignite your passion for writing, especially when it’s not succeeding the way you want it to? Share in the comments.