Six Steps for Surviving Down Times

Wally, the Woeful Walrus

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.

Opie, the Open Book Opossom from last Monday’s post goes to Ella.

Odds of winning vary based on number of entrants.
I’ll ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.
Offer void where prohibited.

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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26 Responses to Six Steps for Surviving Down Times

  1. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    To fight phases of feeling down and depressed, loads of chocolate and some good antidepressives do it for me…lol. When I feel down, I can´t do anything creative like writing or painting. But after such a phase I normally am very creative. I wrote some of my best songs, poetries and stories after a depression time.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Martina, I’ve heard chocolate has medicinal benefits. =) It can be tough to do anything creative when we’re down, but now that I’m contracted and don’t have the luxury of writing only when I feel like it, I’m learning to to write in spite of my emotions. I’d heard this is one of the toughest parts of writing under deadline. Time will tell.

  2. Sherrinda says:

    I was going to to say what Martina said….


    No, in all seriousness, we all have our down times and turning to God is the best way to get through them. He sends people or scripture or circumstances to affirm His desire for you to write. Then you get back on track.

    Great post, Keli!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Chocolate is good anytime, right? =) And nothing beats God for our source of strength. He’s there for us through it all, the good days when we can’t get the words on the page fast enough and the tough days when we have to tweeze the words out.

      • Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

        Due to a chronical health problem I am limited to 2 pieces of chocolate now….hahaha. So – any other suggestions?
        Being in nature helps, too…..

  3. Absolutely. It can be tough to work toward your dreams for years without much hope of attaining it. It’s all preparation for the hard work in store after the contract 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Writing is hard work. It’s fun, too, of course. But it’s work. I think of my writing career as the toughest job I’ve ever loved.

  4. territiffany says:

    I’ve been there. So often but like you said, if you have good support around you, you pick yourself up and write another book. I am starting my sixth. Someday . . .

  5. Wendy says:

    Such great advice and I couldn’t agree with prayer and sharing w/ trusted people more…I think the enemy wants us to feel isolated when we are enduring a time like this.

    And about your last point, our pastor read something profound by Joni Eareckson Tada. She said how much emotions can fluctuate and yet how readily we let them influence us. It was a powerful quote. I’m throwing a party for friends today, but if I have time I’ll look it up and DM you.
    ~ Wendy

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Isolation can be deadly, as you said, Wendy. I spent my first two years crafting stories on my own before I discovered the wonderful world of writers online. During that time I sent off 37 contest entries and 29 of those times received no phone call. I had no other writers to turn to who could understand what I was going through. It was tough, although I learned a great deal from my contest judges and am sooo grateful for their helpful feedback. Still, it would have been nice to share my sorrow.

  6. Marsha Young says:

    This was a good post with helpful honesty and good balance.

    Although I have never felt “too down to write” – I just have always been able to get the words to flow – I have often felt too down to attempt to get anything published.
    Thank you for some good tips. Have a good day – Marsha

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Marsha, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Kudos to you on keeping the words flowing even during the down times. Sending our work “out there” can be tough, but I encourage you to do so when you feel you have a story that’s ready for querying.

  7. candidkerry says:

    What a timely post! 😉

    Great reminders, all of them. Saturday was a bummed-out day for me, and at just the right moment, a wonderful writing, sister-in-Christ contacted me and spoke powerful words of encouragement. God knew it was just what I needed.

    We’re definitely not alone. Thank you for blessing me this morning with this post. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Kerry, encouraging friends are the best, aren’t they? I’m so glad God blessed you with the support of one of yours just when you needed it.

  8. I think my confidence has waned. I am not successful in coaxing myself back to my MS, yet, I haven’t given up on it. I’m waiting for this time to pass, and praying. Praying for wisdom. Blessings to you, Keli…

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Carol Ann, I hear you on waning confidence. Mine loves to skedaddle whenever it feels like it. What I find is that sitting down to the keyboard is the best way to find it again. Getting exciting about my story helps me remember the reasons I write, and I start feeling better about my writing again.

  9. Beth Vogt says:

    I allow myself time to sulk. Maybe I curl up on the couch with a blanket and watch a favorite movie. Or I soak in a tub full of bubbles. Or I tell myself I’ll never write again. (Yeah, right!) Giving myself permission to feel discouraged actually allows the blues to disappear faster. If I ignore it or deny it, I just delay dealing with it. And if I find I’m so discouraged that I can’t pray for myself, I ask a close friend or my husband to pray for me. And I turn on some of my favorite praise and worship music to refocus my thoughts off me–and onto God.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Beth, I think taking time to let the feelings wash over us after a setback is important. When I endure a big hit, it can take me a couple of days to bounce back. I’m a fan of talking to a friend, watching a favorite movie, or taking a walk at such times. Once the rush of emotions subsides and reason returns, I’m better able to deal with things objectively.

  10. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    It helps already a lot to see that one is not alone (not the only one) who has up and down times. So this is another reason to be happy of having found your blog, Keli 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Martina, we are not alone by any means. Down times happen to all of us. I feel for some of my friends who are dealing with disappointment right now. A number of them entered a big writing contest called the Genesis, which is sponsored by the American Christian Fiction Writers, an organization I’m a member of. The semi-finalists were announced Friday. Those twenty-percent of the entrants are elated, and I’m thrilled for them. The others, though, are dealing with disappointment. My heart–and cyber hugs–go out to them.

  11. Tana Adams says:

    Prayer, prayer, and MORE prayer!!!! SOmetimes Christ leads us down a path unexpected when things aren’t looking so good and it turns out to be the perfect direction. I couldn’t last a second without him.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Tana, there’s no way I’d want to travel this path without the Lord as my partner. He’s upheld me countless times and has sent confirmation when I most needed it that I’m doing the work He’s called me to.

  12. Keli, I couldn’t wait to get to your post tonight and I had good reason. Such wisdom here. You didn’t write this post just for me, did you? 🙂 It’s good to know I’m not the only one who swoops through these ups and downs of the writer’s life. My creativity has been sapped with my latest life trials, and I appreciate your advice to keep writing. Even though it’s the last thing I feel like doing, I’m glad to hear my writing mojo will return again. 🙂

  13. Another great post, Keli – – thanks! And once again this was a very timely post for me—the past couple of weeks I’ve been going through a “down time” with my writing–actually questioning myself (Am I doing the right thing? etc.). But as you mentioned….turning our troubles over to God is a huge help, and I know He will always guide me in the direction I need to go. 🙂 ~ So today I got back into my WIP with a renewed sense of enthusiasm, and will keep writing unless the Lord shows me something different I need to be doing! ~ Blessings, Patti Jo 🙂

  14. Jill Kemerer says:

    I go through these periods often. At times, I go through them for no reason! I’ve never wanted anything professionally as badly as I do this. I think that’s why everything feels so high or low.

    Prayer and positive self-talk help me tremendously.

    I’m so glad Gwynly and Anne encouraged you to write anything–it’s getting through those tough times that bring us where we’re meant to be!

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