When Writing Feels Like a Failure

Hand holding wrench
Keep tinkering. Get lost in the process.

Let me be candid. Most days I feel like a total failure. It’s been worse lately reading about all the writing news. It feels like a very bleak market. There’s not much room for people like me to ever see my books on the shelf let alone on any bestseller list. The room for us newbies feels smaller and smaller every year.

I imagine I’m not the only who feels this way. How many of you look on in horror at the Twitter writing community posts, strikes, agents dismissing clients, scams? Combine that with an already immense feeling of impostor syndrome and it makes it tough to keep going. Some days I don’t understand why I keep dreaming.

But one thing I know is that feeling like a failure and being a failure are not the same.

So what am I going to do about it?

I’m not going to sit back and play dead, although that’s very tempting. Instead, I’m going to take action.

Make more time to write

Since I’m being candied, might as well go all the way and confess that most of my writing is done in my head. I love to dream up stories. I work them over and over in my head, but they rarely make it to the page. Why? Because it’s hard. And as soon as I see words on the page I clam up.

So the first step, and the most important one, is to do the thing I want to do. Write. This means staying up later. Keeping to a schedule. Saying no to less important tasks.

Keep writing

I’ve noticed a similarity between exercising and writing. When I start on the bike or treadmill or whatever, I start out excited. I can do this. But about five minutes in, I’m not sure I can last any longer.

That’s what happens with my writing. I get excited about an idea. I sit down, open my laptop and have every intention of writing for a good span of time. Being productive. But about five minutes in, my body tenses up and I don’t think I can make it. My writing is crap. I’m a failure. Why am I putting myself through this? I should try again later when I have more energy.

But like exercise, there is no right time. Each time, the same thing happens. If I want to get anywhere with either scenario, I have to push through and keep going. I have to keep running even though I’m huffing and puffing and my legs are cramping. So too do I have to keep writing. I have to do it even when I don’t want to.

Put my writing out there

I joined a couple of writing groups this past fall. I can’t say enough about writing groups. They really are amazing. Talking with other writers, sharing encouragement and fears, and helping each other to hone our craft is invaluable.

When I get down on my writing, I think about my group. I keep attending because they are helpful to me, but I hope that by not quitting, I am also encouraging them.

As part of putting my writing out there, I am also making it a goal to enter contests and submit to magazines this year. I just entered one today. Fingers crossed. However, win or loose, having a goal, a deadline, and a plan helps me move forward. Plus, it gives me something to focus on that is within my control.

Dreams are achieved through action

Sure you can sit back and wait, miracles can happen. But more often than not our dreams are achieved because we worked towards them.

So when I’m down, I’m going to try not to think about how bad I am, or about all of the ways I can fail. I think about all of the actions I can take to move forward. And I remind myself why I like to write in the first place.

I love to craft stories. To feel them. To live them. I can do this without publication. I can find joy in the process of creation. Yes, I have big goals. Yes, I’m going to keep trying to achieve them. But even if I don’t, I’m going to enjoy the writing process and let it take me as far as I can get.

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