It is a generally acknowledged fact that writing takes forever.
We wish we could skip the blood, sweat, and ink part of the process to get to the shiny published product. Publication becomes a higher priority as we grow older and college, job, and life choices loom before us. Holding a copy of a book and a royalty check seems much more important when bills need paying.
Many of us, yours truly included, feel this tension. A little urging can be good, but when we can’t handle it correctly, it can steal the joy from our writing and lead to two types of dissatisfaction that breed bad habits.
Dissatisfaction with Unachieved Goals
Sometimes we feel like everyone is getting a big break except us. Instead of being happy for the friend who began writing as a four-year-old and is signing with an agent at seventeen, we become jealous. We start comparing instead of rejoicing in the success of our brothers and sisters. We stress about reaching the point where we can place a book in the hands of the masses like them.
Setting goals is great, but when we obsessively pursue them, failure can cause crushing disappointment that will zap our enthusiasm faster than writer’s block, and we’ll miss the in-between moments that make writing a book worthwhile.
The next time you’re tempted to mope over unfulfilled goals, try these tips:
- Remember God’s goodness. Yes, the mountains before us are daunting, but we shouldn’t concentrate on them so much that we forget past victories. God has already opened doors for us, and our skills have progressed since we wrote our first novel. We need to be grateful for what we have.
- Remember that no matter when our stories get published or what opportunities arise, God is in control. He has a bird’s-eye view that we don’t. A missed deadline, botched opportunity, or mistake won’t dismantle everything He’s building. We can stop worrying about circumstances beyond our control because they are in His. We can let go of our failures, for He knew we would fall short when He wrote our story, and He won’t give up on us.
- Remember that we’re writers—we are unique. We aren’t writing identical stories, so our paths will be different. How and when we accomplish a certain goal won’t be the same as other writers.
Dissatisfaction with Skills
When we focus on future success, seeing polished manuscripts and flowing prose can leave us discouraged about our own abilities. We’ve written for so long and so hard that we think we should have conquered issues like telling or bland dialogue. If our skill isn’t at the right level yet, we can’t produce results. And when our momentum slows because we have more to learn, we feel like failures and the pressure hits us all over again.
We start fearing critiques because we view them as condemnation, not correction. We avoid people who say our writing could improve and convince ourselves that we’re closer to publishing, but the opposite is true.
We then negatively judge the work of others. We nitpick their stories, hoping to find a flaw that will reassure us we have talent. This prevents us from enjoying and celebrating good books.
But the situation isn’t about us, is it? God created that writer just like He created you. Both of you have unique gifts and flaws, all of which are in His plan. Learning at a slower pace than others doesn’t mean we are failures. Our paths were never intended to be the same, nor our strengths and weaknesses. Our journey is shaped by the individual position God decided to place us in. As I stated before, He designed us to be unique. That not only applies to our timetable for reaching goals but also gaining skill.
Remember the Creator
Trust me. I’m guilty of all this and more. Sinking into these habits feels natural, but it’s harmful—and a struggle I’m just beginning to understand. Reversing these habits requires time and effort. Remembering and believing the truth isn’t easy.
First and foremost, we must look to God for our identity. Our value dwells in Him, not in our writing, skill level, or visible accomplishments. He knows where we are and what we need, and He has a plan broader than our own. He gives and withholds opportunities because He sees the big picture. Trusting His master plan shifts the pressure off our shoulders and onto His.
We must also praise and worship God in all we do, whether public or private. Man may not understand our work, but God does. Man’s ability to notice the beauty in something does not make it valuable. We too often forget this basic fact.
Lastly, extend yourself grace. We may be the ones putting the most pressure on ourselves. We love our craft and want our efforts to succeed so much that we end up extinguishing our joy. But once we involve our Creator and acknowledge the pressure we face as writers, we can deal with it in a way that keeps our joy alive and glorifies God.
A long time ago on a hill not so far away, Gabrielle Pollack fell in love. Not with ice cream or cats (though those things are never far from her side) but with storytelling. Since then, she’s been glued to a keyboard and is always in the midst of a writing project, whether a story, blog post, or book. She was a reader before becoming a writer, however, and believes paradise should include thick novels, hot cocoa, a warm fire, and “Do Not Disturb” signs. Her favorite stories include Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn saga and Nadine Brandes’s Out of Time trilogy.
As those who know her will confess, Gabby is a whole lot of weirdness packed into one INFP. Sharp objects, storms, and trees are her friends, along with stubborn characters and, on occasion, actual people. When she’s not writing, she’s shooting arrows through thickets and subsequently missing her target, jamming on the piano, and pushing her cat off her keyboard. She hopes to infuse her fiction with honesty, victory, and hope, and create stories that grip readers from the first page to the last. Her other goals include saving the world and mastering a strange concept called adulthood.