Strategies to Self-Pity Proof Your Writing Life

Today’s guest post is by Lori Stanley Roeleveld. She is a blogger, speaker, coach, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four unsettling books, including The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com and is represented by Bob Hostetler.


To persevere in the writing life, we’re wise to develop strategies against self-pity. Opportunities for it abound. Writing and connecting with readers is hard work. Rejection, setbacks, low sales, or criticism will periodically factor into our labors. As Christians, we also have an enemy who targets us when we’re down. Many talented writers have fallen prey to the paralysis of self-pity. So, prepare a plan.

  1. Remember the farmer. Farming is a calling, a lifestyle, a commitment. Farmers must know their business, secure the right tools, invest relentless effort, and pray. Still, there are a myriad of factors out of the farmer’s control that determine the success of any crop. Weather, pests, disease, fluctuations in the market, and changes in buyers’ tastes all impact farming’s bottom line. It’s the same for writers. Just as farmers can’t take it personally when there’s an early frost, neither can we when three more famous writers release books on our topic a month before ours. Writing’s not the only calling known for hardships and steep odds. Relish the challenge. Write anyway.
  2. Give disappointment its momentbut only that. Many jobs require one interview. Writers interview with every agent, publisher, reviewer, and reader. That’s reality. Rejections sting. Missing out on awards or contracts hurts. Bad reviews and sales dips are uncomfortable and frustrating. When facing a low moment, stop to lament what you’d hoped would happen. Acknowledge the loss. Experience grief. Quit writing. Give up. But set an alarm for an hour later when you will set the loss aside, open your laptop, and write again. (For big losses, take a day or so, but schedule the end of your lament by circling day three on your calendar.) Be accountable for this to a trusted friend who believes in your work. Unquit and begin again.
  3. Remember your life is also a story. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. We are each invited into His story, but we have our own thread. As writers, we know a story falls flat if no one struggles, no one overcomes hardship, no one rises up off the mat after a series of blows. Keep a timeline of your life divided into decades. Below the line, write important happenings, the ups-and-downs, the triumphs, and the follies. Above the line, record what God was doing, speaking, or teaching you during that period. Ask Him to show you what theme or greater story He is telling through you. Then, commit to live the greater story. Celebrate the ways He’s demonstrating His presence with you–through successes and failures. Keep hold of the long view. Look forward to the days in eternity when we share our stories and imagine yourself saying, “And that was the moment I nearly gave up, but . . .”

Ask veteran writers how they fight self-pity. Have your prayer team pray specifically against the temptation. Memorize Bible verses on perseverance. You’re not alone. Have a plan, and keep writing. What’s your strategy?

Leave a Comment

Every Book Doesn’t Need to Shake the Earth

If you look at any list of best-selling books expecting every one of them to be a literary masterpiece, you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment. “Are you kidding me? A book about famous racehorses of the 20th century is a bestseller? People bought that instead of my 1,200-page …

Read More

The Devil Is in the Procrastination

You have heard it said that “the devil is in the details”? But what about the idea that “the devil is in the procrastination”? Alistair Begg said, “The devil’s favorite word is tomorrow. The Bible always says, ‘Today is the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2). While he was talking …

Read More

Fear and Its Antecedents

The coronavirus is the topic on everyone’s mind. Your community, your family, and even yourself may have been or could be affected. Maybe not by the virus itself but by the economic and societal fallout of the cancellations and shutdown of communities. Many experts, much smarter than I, are speaking …

Read More

How to Hear “No”

In a recent media interview (yes, I am that cool), I was asked if as a literary agent I liked saying “no.” I answered emphatically—even a bit rudely, I’m afraid, as I started my answer before my questioner finished asking. “I hate it,” I said. It’s a part of the …

Read More

A Year in Review: A Look at 2019

It’s that time of year to reflect on the past year, to learn from our experiences, and to count our blessings. Here are some thoughts on the last tumultuous twelve months. The Industry The publishing industry seems to survive the bad press that loves to find the negative in everything. …

Read More

Write Like Paul

Somerset Maugham wrote, “There is an impression abroad that everyone has it in him to write one book; but if by this is implied a good book the impression is false” (The Summing Up). Far be it from me to add to Maugham’s words, but I’m going to. So I …

Read More