When the journey is long…

When the journey is long

Turning childhood dreams into adult reality ain’t easy

A few years ago I somehow had it in my head that if I could just finish that first book, my first manuscript, then everything else would fall into place.

Ha.

I’m now looking at the empty pages of my third project, definitely older and hopefully a little wiser. But my spirit is weary. My ego is faring OK (it’s surprisingly resilient, but I guess that’s the upside of something that is essentially self-involved). My writing has improved and my outlook is more realistic, or should that be cynical?

Anyway, for some insane reason I’m having a hard time getting started on project number three and I think it’s because the sensible part of me is holding me back. I can hear it murmuring, “Surely not again?”

Writing is a choice, but not an entirely sane one…

Creativity bites, though. If you ignore it, you have the potential to end up an embittered office worker with an unhealthy approach to team meetings, that borders somewhere between career limiting and inspiring (management perspective will ultimately determine this).

So, for the creative folk among us, we have no choice but to yield to our creative yearnings and release the beasts that torment us. Sure, we might end up lonely, mildly eccentric personalities that our family worry about and talk about when we’re not around, but every family needs at  least one. It’s also better than career limiting actions detailed above because for the majority of us, our writing royalties aren’t always enough to pay the bills…

Therefore, this post is for the other writers out there just like me, who have no choice but to keep going—even when they don’t feel like it.

Tips for the writing journey when the road feels bumpy or a little too long

  • Accept that it’s a journey: I know, you’ve probably heard this before, but it does hold some truth. Hopefully you can look back on previous projects and identify some learnings and personal development, even if it’s something as simple as accepting that grammar is not your strong point and the advantages of having a good editor.
  • Oh, and the journey is long: I’m kind of impatient. Alright, I’m rather impatient. I also like positive reinforcement, so writing probably wasn’t the ideal career choice for me, but I digress…It’s a hard fact that most authors don’t always hit it big with their first book. It usually takes a handful, maybe more before one book sticks. Usually rejections in the double and triple digits. Maybe a series of books. In other words, you need to adopt a long term view of your writing and then…
  • Just keep writing: and writing. Then write some more. Only the words will get you there in the end, not your daydreaming (come on, admit it, most writers like a heady dose of daydreaming or where else would we get our ideas?)
  • Every book is different: this is another fallacy about completing your first book, that subsequent books will be easier. There’s definitely some aspects that you’ll breeze through when compared to your first novel, however because every book is different, you’ll face new challenges. I plotted for months with my first book, then hardly at all with my second, it just flew onto the screen. But then because it was contemporary romance and not suspense, I had to learn how to maintain tension in a way that relied more on the characters, than just the plot. And now with my third, it is most definitely not flying onto the page! Creativity is fickle and unreliable at best, which is why it’s important to…
  • Stay connected: surround yourself with other writers, whether this be at a writing group or writers you communicate with online. They’re the ones who understand the journey better than anyone, even your family who have had to put up with your anti-social behavior. Also, the benefit of getting out of your comfort zone and attending courses can never be underestimated. You meet other writers at these course and if you think you don’t need to learn anything new, then perhaps it might be time to have a chat to your ego and knock it down a notch or two.
  • Everyone needs a break now and then: unless you’re an agented writer with a publishing contract, I think it’s reasonable to assume that you need to give yourself a break now and then. Most writers trying to make their way in this industry usually have demanding day jobs, or families to look after, so it’s not reasonable to expect that writing is going to fit into your life every day, of every week. Setting goals is important, but so is being gentle on yourself when the situation demands it.

Well, I’m off to take my own advice. I just can’t decide if I go with the ‘keep writing’ point or the ‘everyone needs a break now and then’ option.

How about you? Does any of this resonate and do you have any advice to share with us? Share the love, people!

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8 thoughts on “When the journey is long…

  1. kenrob2037 says:

    I can’t make up my mind if I’m giving up, or have given up writing fiction. I am still writing, but the heart is just not in it. I much prefer writing and editing articles and social media content now. But that might change. I tend to go with what I feel, and what pays me.

    I’m always “reinventing” myself as a writer, one day I might hit the spot where I am supposed to be, but I’m not sure. I think the trick to find out where your heart and home is, is to keep on moving, until it happens.

    • belindawilliamsbooks says:

      Great comment, Rob. I think it’s true that as writers we tend to reinvent ourselves over time and as the need requires. I also agree that if you’re heart isn’t in it, you’re not going to create good quality writing either. The trick of course is discovering where your heart is and then to be able to earn enough to make a living!

  2. Huw Thomas says:

    This is all oh so true… I could relate to everything here. (Have you been peeking inside my head?!)
    I’ve certainly had those fallow periods. Used to be far worse before the advent of indie publishing. Sending off book samples and then getting a standard rejection letter in the post three months later (or never) gets just a tad dispiriting.
    I think what helps now is that although I’m not making much money and not every review is perfect, I AM SELLING BOOKS – and a few kind people are even writing 4 and 5* reviews.
    Just knowing that some people are actually choosing to read my books (even paying for them) and enjoying them makes it all so much more worthwhile.
    So, go ahead, have a glass of wine, go for a run/walk/whatever, have a week away, just sit down and read a few books for the pure pleasure of it… then come back – when you’re ready – and write another book. It WILL be better than the last one.

    • belindawilliamsbooks says:

      Hi Huw, so nice to know all writers go through this and we’re not the only one, isn’t it?! That’s really interesting about your perspective on indie publishing v traditional. I haven’t made much of an effort with traditional because I was very curious about the indie route, and you are right, it is nice to get feedback and the occasional sale. It’s still a hard slog though and I feel as though if you aren’t constantly pushing and promoting, your sales drop off. Still, it’s wonderful we have the option and the ability to communicate with readers (and other writers) so easily now.

  3. Geoff Wright says:

    I’m letting my writing take me where it takes me. It took me ten years and hundreds of rejections before I got contracted. Some days I write, some days I edit. Some days neither. I think we make a mistake if we expect our creative side to be an inexhaustible wellspring. Like everything else, sometimes it needs a rest. I’m looking forward to having my books in print on my bedside table. Just how many I will sell….who knows? Must everything be measured in money?

    • belindawilliamsbooks says:

      Hi Geoff, congratulations on being contracted (and for sticking with it). I think that was a big part of what I was trying to convey in my blog post – don’t give up! And it’s really nice to hear that your writing routine is fluid, so often we hear that we should be doing this or that and end up feeling guilty, when really we should just figure out what works best for each of us.

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