We all get into writing funks – those days where that pesky voice in your head starts saying things like “What do you think you’re doing?” or “You’re never going to make it” or “Why don’t you just give up now and save us all the hassle.”
Usually I just power through these moments by drafting a new story, reading a book, or working on some revisions I’ve been looking forward to tackling.
But sometimes that negative inner voice is bolstered by undisputed fact: the latest form rejection or, less frequently, the personalized but brief “thanks but no thanks.” That’s when the inner voices goes from being annoying to down right debilitating.
At that point, it’s way too easy to give into feelings of unworthiness, of self-loathing, of the unavoidable rejectionitus. If you are like me, you can’t bear the thought of working on your stories or even thinking about them – it’s too painful. But if you don’t write, you don’t get better. If you don’t get better, how can you expect to be published? It’s a downward spiral of negativity.
And I was dangerously close to falling into that cycle. Over the holidays, I finally heard back from Editor X about my historical romance novel. Instead of the glowing praise I dreamed about, I got a dead-on critique. I had another partial request from an agent, which netted me another personal rejection. I started to question whether I knew what I was doing, whether I was truly ready. Every section of my story I sent off to my critique partner resulted in more issues I needed to address. Soon enough I didn’t even want to look at my story anymore. I focused on all the negative feedback and became paralyzed by it.
But then I realized something. Sure, there were problems, but at least I now had a roadmap of what needed to be done to make my story shine. I had finally amassed enough feedback that I could see my way out of my funk.
- I have a strong logline and query (hence the requests).
- My story has an exciting beginning.
- My story has a strong second half.
- I have strong worldbuilding and interesting characters.
- I have a saggy middle.
- Some characters behave inconsistently.
- I still need to work on incorporating historical detail and backstory effectively.
- My writing is not yet “there,” especially with regards to showing, not telling, and narrative distance.
I used to think because my story had an exciting beginning and ending, the middle didn’t matter so much. I used to think my writing was awesome, regardless of whether I had adverbs, saidisms, and lots of telling that suggested otherwise. I used to think my story was good enough. I used to think I was special, that I was the exception to the rule, that I didn’t have to put in my time.
That’s obviously not the case anymore. But instead of wallowing in the rejection blues, I’ve forced myself to analyze my feedback and plan out a way to make my story stronger.
It took effort to snap myself out of my funk and it will take even more effort to make the changes to my story that are needed, but it will be worth it.
How do you snap yourself out of writing funks? What keeps you motivated when the going gets tough?