4 Ways to Deal with Discouragement

March 1, 2019

My writing sucks. No one likes it, and I can’t fix all the problems. I’ll never succeed. I should quit trying and find a “real” job I’m actually talented at.


If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve probably had doubts similar to the ones above. Writing can be a slog, and even when it’s exciting, discouragement may creep in.


With one of my novellas, I sought feedback from a critique group and a content editor at the same time. Their suggestions were extremely helpful but also daunting. I felt I would never finish combing through all the comments and red marks. That led me to procrastinate, which forced me to revise my self-imposed publication schedule because I couldn’t release the novella by the end of February as I’d originally planned.


How did I overcome my discouragement? And what can you do when this emotion hits like a load of bricks followed by an anvil or two?


1. Go to God

God is the great encourager. He doesn’t want you to be listless and idle. Best of all, in Hebrews 13:5, He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”


I can’t pinpoint which verses will uplift you because everyone is different, but God’s Word is sharper than a two-edged sword. He can use any passage for your benefit, even the genealogies (perhaps as inspiration for character names). Matthew chapter one recently reminded me of God’s faithfulness. I realized that young King Josiah was the grandson of the evil King Manasseh. In two generations, the wickedness of the kingship changed to righteousness.


Trust God, and when you’re struggling, try one or more of these tips:


  • Revisit your favorite Scriptures or look up new ones.
  • Pray to the One who sticks closer than a brother and ask Him to give you the boost you need to persevere.
  • Dwell in His presence. This could be as simple as taking a walk and admiring His creation, or meditating on a verse you memorized. Whatever works best for you.

2. Ask for Help

If you’re worried that your writing is horrible, start a discussion with a close friend or family member. When I still lived at home, one of my sisters and I would chat about my latest project while we washed dishes. I enjoyed getting her opinion, and afterward I always returned to my story with renewed energy.


If you’re overwhelmed by everything you need to accomplish, recruit an accountability partner.  I share my goals with a friend, and we check on each other throughout the day. I’m also part of a group where we post our goals for the week and cheer each other on. I’m addicted to crossing items off my list, especially if someone is watching, so this keeps me on track even when I’m unmotivated.


Another idea is to reward yourself for completing a challenge, such as reaching a certain word count or editing a series of chapters. A favorite dessert, CD, or book are all fun options.


Requesting help or incentivizing yourself is not shameful. I’ve done it often, which is why I’m writing this article. It’s for my edification as well as yours.


3. Set Daily Goals

I love making goals—for the year, for the month, and daily. I’m never at a loss for how to spend my time, and marking tasks off my schedule is incredibly satisfying. That’s one reason why I pursue multiple types of goals.


Social media, TV, and movies vie for attention, and having a target to aim for can prevent you from yielding to those distractions. Goals also allow you to measure exactly how many steps you need to take each day so you don’t overload yourself as the deadline nears. Leaving writing or editing to the last moment can breed despair because you feel rushed, but following a roadmap relieves that pressure.


4. Adjust Your Mindset

Sometimes you can pull yourself out of the doldrums by changing your outlook. Positivity and negativity are equally powerful. If you believe you’re incapable, you likely won’t conquer the editing or writing on your docket. But if you believe in yourself, you’ll plow through much faster.


For instance, right now I’m dealing with a combination of tiredness and nausea. I was reluctant to go through this article and revise it because the comments I received were intimidating. But I also know I need to return the piece to Josiah and Brianna so it will be ready to publish. Instead of giving in to my fatigue, I’m telling myself I can do this as I listen to some relaxing Disney music.


Warning: Developing a can-do attitude is hard, but it’s 100 percent worthwhile. See what I did there? I could have said, “This isn’t easy, but you can do it,” which sounds slightly more depressing. Sometimes a tiny tweak is all that’s necessary. Spin your thinking into a positive light and suddenly you’ll have the confidence to press on.


You Got This

Sometimes you just need to get something done. Start with one sentence. Then a paragraph. Soon you’ll have filled an entire page and be energized to keep going.


Between God’s grace and a friend who checked on me daily, I managed to push through the editing process. Accomplishing a difficult task is exhilarating, and that propelled me forward.


As with many negative emotions, discouragement is easier to slip into than out of. But remember that God is always there for you and wants you to succeed. Never be afraid to seek help from Him and others, especially as you outline your daily, weekly, or monthly goals. Write with persistence, and eventually you’ll finish your project. You may have to scrap the story as practice, but nothing is wrong with that. You can learn from anything.


Now I can reword my opening sentence to be more elevating:


I’m a writer. I’m learning and growing from my mistakes. Failing is okay.


What are some ways you combat discouragement? 


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