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My apologies to you all who were looking for more help getting ready for NaNoWriMo. I just needed to write this today…
Writers live with failure. We live with rejection. It’s just part of the business of being a creative. Is it any wonder, then, that we’re like heat-seeking missiles when it comes to searching out approval?
When all we know is constant rejection and criticism, how do we stay balanced?
Well, the short answer is, we don’t.
I cannot tell you the number of authors I know who do not have some form of depression, anxiety or other mental challenge. If I were to do a survey on Facebook, I might come up with four or five, maybe even as many as ten in a field of well over a hundred. Honestly! Writers generally have problems and I believe it’s because of all that we have to deal with on a daily basis.
This isn’t true of the occasional writer, the hobbyist. This is really only true of those who consider themselves professional—someone who is trying to earn money and have a career.
So why is this?
It’s because we put our heart and soul into writing the best damned book we can only to send it to an editor who’s going to—very kindly, and gently, one hopes—tell you that it needs a lot more work. They send us corrections which we dutifully follow to make our book even better.
Once that’s done, we send it to beta readers who give us more suggestions on how to make the book better, or perhaps they simply say “It didn’t click with me.” or “I didn’t feel for the protagonist. I couldn’t relate.” At which point we throw the book against the wall… stomp over, pick it up and get back to work on making it even better—we’re a tenacious lot.
After the book is written, edited, re-written, corrected, and proofread, we send it out into the world with our hopes, dreams, and boat-load of marketing money we may or may not be able to afford. There, it receives reviews from random people who may or may not like it.
It may get a three-star review that says, “It was fantastic. I loved this book!” –then why are you only giving it three stars!!??
We get two-star reviews that complain that the guy on the cover has dark hair and the hero described inside the book is blond. Really??
Once the initial bump of all of your book-launch marketing efforts fade away, you desperately look to KDP, checking your daily sales numbers for a sign—any sign—that someone has randomly found your book. You might try Amazon Ads. You might try a promo here and there on a random blog or do a newsletter swap only to see a sale, maybe two.
Okay, so it’s a tough market. We can deal with that. We can find our approval elsewhere.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. We go there every day looking for approval, for love in any form. We post. We are clever and put up funny, silly memes almost never mentioning our books (because no one wants to hear the buy, buy, buy chant).
We write blogs and look to see if anyone has read them.
We check our website stats to see if we’ve had any visitors.
In short, we become approval junkies (with a nod to Faith Salie and her fantastic book of that title).
Now, do we wonder why so many authors are depressed, stressed, and anxious?
So how do we break free of this constant search for approval?
To be a healthy writer we need to be able to find that approval within ourselves.
We shouldn’t need outside support. We should be happy and content with what we do because we don’t do it for others, we do it for ourselves, for our characters, for the stories we must tell.
Write the stories that call to you and write them for yourself.
Stop checking your sales numbers, followers, and likes. Post to social media to be social. To share a tip, a comment, a piece of your life, but don’t worry if no one responds or you only get a few “likes”.
Take a deep breath, and remember what got you writing in the first place. Rediscover your passion.
Go out and be social with real people and don’t talk about your work. Maybe find another hobby that de-stresses you like yoga or playing sports.
Honestly, the best thing you can do to relieve your tension and depression about your writing is to forget that you do this professionally and find your love of just doing it. Tell your stories and don’t worry about who is reading them or not.
Authors don’t write for the money. Cathy Maxwell once famously said that there are many more, better ways to earn a living. We do this for the passion, for the love of story and creating characters.
Remember that when you’re feeling down and anxious. You are doing an incredible job. Just keep writing and the rest of the world will catch up to how fantastic you are—or it won’t, and that’s okay too.