Woe is me.
Ever said something like that? Or felt like saying it?
I’m fairly certain we’ve all gone through periods when we felt down, distressed, or filled with sorrow. The feelings sink their teeth deep into us and don’t let go easily.
Dealing with down times is one of Twelve Troublemakers that plague me as a writer. I’m exploring one a week. This is the tenth in the series.
I went through a rough year two years into my writing journey. I’d double finaled in the 2008 Golden Heart®, which was an incredible high, and spent four glorious months feeling like a somebody.
Then came RWA® Nationals in San Francisco.
I didn’t go on stage during the Awards Ceremony, but I didn’t expect to. I knew my stories were sophomoric and was genuinely thrilled for Kit Wilkinson, the winner of the inspirational category. Her time had come, and she sold soon after the conference.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the return to reality after the conference. Enduring my first-ever pitch session and watching an editor lose interest in less than 60 seconds hurt more than I’d expected. I experienced a confidence crisis that lasted a year. Used to brief bouts of doubt, this prolonged period of feeling wretched sapped me of my creative energy.
Why do I share this with you? To let you know you’re not alone if you’re in a bad place and to give you hope. My challenging year came to an end. In time, I bounced back more determined than ever. The following steps worked together to pull me out of my funk and restore my enjoyment of writing.
Six Steps That Can Help Us Survive Down Times and Revive Us
Prayer – I’m a believer, so turning my troubles over to Christ comes naturally to me. He carried me through that tough year. What’s more He gave me assurance that things would happen in His time, and I chose to trust Him and stop pushing so hard.
Share our struggles – While I’m not an advocate of broadcasting our disappointments or trials online when we’re going through them, I firmly believe it’s important to have a few close friends with whom we can be real. My husband and critique partner Anne Barton were there for me during that difficult year. Their support and encouragement meant the world to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Don’t be afraid to bare your writerly soul with a carefully chosen few.
Keep writing – With my confidence in shreds, the last thing I felt like doing was writing. While I didn’t put a word on the page for a few months, Gwynly and Anne encouraged me to write something, anything. So I did.
Try something new – Instead of writing another story like your last ones, consider exploring a new sub-genre. If you’ve been writing historical, you could change time periods. I’ve you’ve been writing for adults, experiment with YA. I’d written five historicals and gave a contemporary idea I had a whirl. While I learned that’s not a good fit for my voice, I had fun, and the attempt helped restore my enthusiasm.
Spend time building relationships – Join Facebook or Twitter if you haven’t yet. Visit some new blogs and leave comments. Start a blog of your own. Email writers who share similar interests and get to know more about them. Instead of waiting for others to find me and help me out of my hole, I used the year to build online relationships and have reaped the benefits. Many of my current friendships were formed during that time.
Remember that feelings pass – I list this last, but I think it’s the foundation for the other steps. Time is a great healer and can serve to restore us. The down times won’t last forever. When we take action and keep on keeping on, the unpleasant emotions will pass, and the joy of creating our stories will return.
Your Thoughts . . . and a Drawing
Have you experienced a time when you were so down your writing stalled?
How do you deal with days, weeks, or months when you’re feeling low?
One person who leaves a comment by Sunday, April 17th will win the walrus Folkmanis finger puppet pictured above, along with a small surprise. I’ll include the winner’s name in my April 18th post, when I introduce the next of the Twelve Troublemakers.