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?

28 Responses to Strategies to Self-Pity Proof Your Writing Life

  1. Linsey June 9, 2021 at 5:14 am #

    Lori- you words spoke so much life to me. I have a book coming out in October but it’s been a tough season bc my dad got covid and double pneumonia in December and has been in the hospital fighting that. He was a runner before all this and it’s just been really tough, but praying, hoping, and believing for him to move through this. Your post reminds me to look for the greater theme through all this: pointing to Jesus and our need for him and the hope that comes from Him. Thank you for your very refreshing insight and taking the time to share it. It really encouraged me this morning.

    • Lori Stanley Roeleveld June 9, 2021 at 5:23 am #

      Press into the Lord, Linsey. I wrote my last book, The Art of Hard Conversations, from hospital rooms and emergency department waiting rooms through the worst summer of my and my parents’ lives. Then, it launched as my father was in his last days – I would run to my car to do an interview and then pop back inside to administer morphine. Didn’t know I’d be living the topic of my book but it made my belief in it stronger. Be encouraged!

      • Linsey June 9, 2021 at 7:24 pm #

        Wow, Lori. Thank you for sharing this encouragement. I need to get your book – it sounds great and amazing how the Lord brought such fruit out of a hard time. The Lord continually is reminding me of keeping a focus on things that matter, eternal things, things above, and that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.” Thanks again for your sweet encouragement.

  2. Heidi June 9, 2021 at 5:40 am #

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I loved the farmer anaolgy!

    • Lori Stanley Roeleveld June 9, 2021 at 8:07 am #

      I love it, too, except on the days it reminds me how hard the work is! Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 9, 2021 at 6:26 am #

    If you feel that you are cursed,
    then take on Shakespeare’s bet:
    If you can say, ‘This is the worst,’
    the worst has not come yet.
    Turn then with your heart’s full strength
    to those whose dreadful straits
    place them at a bowshot’s length
    from hell’s dark yawning gates
    Stand with them in sulfur-smoke,
    and do not lose your nerve;
    let Christ in you be new-awoke,
    and like Him, stoop to serve
    the ones that fate has left behind,
    and be by compassion be refined.

  4. Bryan Mitchell June 9, 2021 at 7:28 am #

    When self-pity creeps into my mind, I try to be constructive with it. Rather than beat myself up, I take it as an opportunity to grow.

  5. Barbara Fox June 9, 2021 at 7:41 am #

    Love it. Needed this Thank you.

  6. Virginia S Graham June 9, 2021 at 7:52 am #

    Lori, such good advice. “Ask Him to show you what theme or greater story He is telling through you.” A great reminder since I’m reading through Job. Thanks, and blessings to you in your career.

    • Lori Stanley Roeleveld June 9, 2021 at 8:09 am #

      Wonderful book, Job! His story sure had a theme! May God also bless the work of your words, Virginia!

  7. Roberta Sarver June 9, 2021 at 8:15 am #

    Andrew, that was one of your best poems yet. And Lori, the people in our Word Weavers group dealt with this issue just yesterday. Thanks for the encouragement; we needed it.

  8. Frank June 9, 2021 at 8:46 am #

    Pity party is the party , you want to leave EARLY

  9. Vickie J Blair June 9, 2021 at 8:52 am #

    I so needed this encouragement. Thank you. May Father continue to anoint your words.

  10. Kristen Joy Wilks June 9, 2021 at 9:55 am #

    I love the idea of giving up for a short time! This happened to me once. It was after I got my first brutally honest critique for my first novel from a writing instructor. I quit writing for three months, heartbroken. But then after giving the story a break, I jumped back into it, determined. Allowing time for grief is important, but so is moving forward!

  11. Geneva Iijima June 9, 2021 at 11:34 am #

    So true on all points!
    Good job, Lori.

  12. Linda Riggs Mayfield June 9, 2021 at 3:18 pm #

    If your post were an arrow, it hit its mark in me as well as others. David’s strongest men went at great risk to get water he desired to drink from a particular well. The gift surely had significant value to those men. I often wonder how they felt when David did not drink it, but rather poured it out as an offering to God instead. When he thirsted again would they be as eager to get him water? I have made sacrifices to be the best writer I can, and I bring it to my Lord with open hands, but to this point, He has chosen not use it in the ways I intended at all. Many of my articles have been published, but none of my books. Am I willing to let go of my expectations of how the gifts I bring Him will be used, and continue writing, without self-pity? It’s a profound challenge. Thanks!

    • Lori Stanley Roeleveld June 10, 2021 at 9:15 am #

      You comment like a writer. I have often considered the drink offering of my work. Press on, in His strength and joy.

  13. Linda M. Au June 9, 2021 at 3:36 pm #

    The analogy about all good stories having conflict and struggles clicked for me. I could almost hear the synapses firing. Thank you!

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