By Sarah Hamaker
Writing is hard. Whether you’re a seasoned author or an aspiring writer, putting words down on paper can be discouraging. How can we continue to write when disappointment, impediments or obstacles get in our way? Here are 9 ways to keep on writing when it gets difficult.
Remember Who you’re writing for. I think because writing is so very personal, we feel so keenly the roadblocks life throws in our writing path. The rejection by an editor or agent. Dismal book sales. Writer’s block. The long journey toward publication. When we keep in mind that we’re really all writing for an audience of One, it’s much easier to hang on during times of discouragement.
“What encourages me most is God’s faithfulness,” says Rebecca Barlow Jordan. “His Word is so full of precious promises and encouragement, that every day when I spend time with Him and open His Word, He speaks personal words of encouragement that keep me moving forward, even in the most discouraging times.”
“One of my first writing mentors told me that writing a novel is more about what God is teaching me than about learning how to write a story,” adds MaryAnn Diorio. “She was right! I also get very excited when a reader tells me that he or she either came to Christ or drew closer to Christ because of something I wrote.”
Recognize the seasonality of life. Sometimes, writing will be easier than at other times because we all go through busier seasons of life. When those times come, take heart. God has placed you in that circumstance for His glory and your good. I know it’s not easy to go through those times, but God will see you through—and your writing will be all the better for your having gone through that. “I was 73 before my first novel was published, and now I have 60 novels and novellas books,” says Martha Rogers. “At age 85, I still have ideas in my head and summaries on file I still want to write.”
Remember the successes, no matter how small. In the midst of discouragement, it can be difficult to recall the high points in our writing—but it’s then that we need to remind ourselves of the positives. “When you read a review and the reviewer understands exactly what you were trying to do with that story—that’s a huge encouragement to me,” says Patrick E. Craig. “Over Christmas, my daughter came in my office crying because she had been reading one of my recent books and a short chapter struck her so deeply that she came in to give me a hug. Those are the things that keep you writing.”
Rejoice in the success of others. This can be a hard one, especially if you’ve been struggling to become published or noticed for a while. But I’ve found rejoicing in the success of my fellow writers lightens my own heart—and spurs me to write more myself. I recognize that I’m on a different publication path than you are. While I might be tempted to become jealous or envious of another’s success, in reality, I really don’t want that success because it’s NOT mine.
“It’s so easy to see so-and-so getting a big book deal and wondering why this didn’t happen for you,” says Lenora Worth. “Don’t try to be the next so-in-so. Be the first you. God gives each of us a unique writing style for a reason. We have to write true to our voices and we have to find our voice. When you doubt, remind yourself of your dream and keep working on that dream and celebrate your writing style. This mantra has helped me over some very high hurdles in my writing career.”
Reconnect with other writers. Writing can be a lonely and solitary practice, and if we’re not careful, we’ll insulate ourselves too much and miss out on how encouraging being with other writers is to our souls and our work. “When I’m feeling discouraged about my writing it helps me to talk to other writing friends whom I’ve built trust with,” says Donna Gartshore. “We cheer for each other in the good times and bolster each other in the bad.”
Restart with prayer. As Christian authors, we have direct access to the throne of God through prayer. Praying for our writing isn’t selfish—it’s essential to our calling as Christian writers. “Any time I start to doubt, I simply ask God if it’s time for me to lay writing aside,” says Deborah Rather, who writes as Arlene James. “So far, it’s been like turning on a tap, as if simply asking starts the creative process. Before I know what’s happening, ideas start percolating, and I’m eager to get back to work.”
Resolve to press on. It can be difficult to continue writing when discouragement fills our thoughts. But as those called by God to write, we must. “Since I can’t bring myself to write unless I have every single detail of a scene already planned out, I sometimes put off writing until I know exactly what will happen and how it will conclude,” says Jackie Stef. “Unfortunately that leads to procrastination for me. Sometimes I have to give myself a good kick in the pants and say ‘just do it.’ A book won’t write itself after all, and I have to remind myself of that often.”
Re-evaluate your writing. Sometimes, it’s good to listen to those who like our writing and to read our own writing without such a critical eye. “I am encouraged [to continue writing] by even the slightest compliment about my writing, or even a hint that it shows promise,” says Bill Jenkins. “I’m encouraged when I’m excited about my own writing, when I read back over it and like what I read,” agrees Natalie Walters.
Rest in your writing journey. Be content, my fellow writers, where you are along your writing path. You’re exactly where God wants you to be, so be faithful. Be steady in your writing. Be ready for the future. “It’s always something surprising—a Divine moment—when the Lord pulls back the curtain to show me how someone has been touched by my writing,” says Joan Benson. “My heart is moved to know just one person has been encouraged or enlightened by something I felt God poured into my consciousness and into words. Then I keep going!”
“I am especially encouraged and ready to go back to my writing when someone randomly sends an email or handwritten letter to let me know that they are thankful for my ministry because something I wrote in an article or book impacted them,” points out Cindi McMenamin. “I always feel it’s God’s way of giving me a hug through someone else’s words when He knows I’m tired, discouraged, or just wondering if anyone else is even reading anymore. God’s timing is always perfect when it comes to sending me these pieces of encouragement to help me soar once again.”
When you feel discouraged in your writing, use one of these 9 ways to press on with your writing. If you’d like help, sign up for my free Writing Breakthrough Session to see how coaching with me can get you unstuck in your writing.