Tag s | Encouragement

When the Outlook Is Bleak

In the constant ebb and flow of this industry, we have authors celebrating and authors in tears. Ask any agent and you will hear the same. For every author excited about their new contract another is experiencing bitter disappointment.

I wish I could fix it.

To hear the anguish is difficult, but to be the one who delivers the bad news is heart-wrenching. Why is it they seem to come in bunches? What do you do when you run into the inevitable disappointments the writing experience throws at you?

Define Success

If “success” is left undefined, it will be impossible to know if you have achieved it. Is it a byline? A certain size contract? An enthused publisher? A specific number of books sold? Making $100,000 in a year as a writer? Winning a coveted award? None of these? Then what criteria do you use to define “success” in the writing life?

Because there is very little public data available (sales info derived from Amazon rankings or Author Central is incomplete at best), a writer often defines success by comparing their situation with that of another author. (The irony is that other authors may be doing the identical comparison but going the other direction and using you as their criteria for success.) “Why are they successful and I’m not?”

Randy Alcorn wrote in his blog the following brilliant perspective:

Our culture is riddled with a poisonous spirit of entitlement. We always think we deserve more. We’re disappointed with our family, neighbors, church, the waitress, the sales clerk, and the department of motor vehicles. Ultimately we’re disappointed with God. He hasn’t given us everything we want.

What madness! If only we could see our situation clearly—even for a moment. We deserved expulsion; He gives us a diploma. We deserved the electric chair; He gives us a parade. Anything less than overwhelming gratitude should be unthinkable. He owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. When you realize you deserve nothing better than hell, it puts a “bad day” in perspective, doesn’t it?

So you’ve been rejected by yet another publisher? So your publisher failed to do what you had hoped in marketing your book? So your current publisher kicked you to the curb? So your agent thinks your new idea or manuscript is weak? Put it in perspective. Should your happiness or your contentment be contingent on publishing success?

Keep Writing

I know three successful authors who went through some very dark times in their careers. After having a half dozen books published, the first endured five years where she could not sell anything to anyone. The second had a dry spell of seven years between published novels. Seven years! Without a single sale? The third spent ten years writing nonfiction and had little or no publications before switching to fiction and finding success.

The principle here is that none of them quit writing. Each felt called to the work of writing and remained faithful to the art. Despite years of frustration, they kept at it.

So if you’ve hit a setback in your writing career, no matter the scale, take a moment or two to absorb the pain and disappointment. Then shake yourself with vigor and blink your eyes dry. Let that setback be just another step (albeit a backward one) in your writing journey.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.” (2 Corinthians 4:17; Psalm 95:3-4).

[This is a revised version of a post that originally ran in August 2012. Amazing how it still holds.]

Leave a Comment

Writers Expect Good News

Writers expect good news…any day now. Is it the curse of eternal optimism?There is this hope within each writer that it will be their manuscript that is chosen for publication. And the money will rain on them like a spring shower.

Despite the odds.

Despite the competition.

Despite the cynical, horrible, no-good, very-bad agents who review them.

Expectations

Are these expectations realistic? Of course they are. It is the essence of hope. For without hope there is no reason to continue the pursuit of the craft. You have to believe that you have what it takes.

Are these expectations practical? Of course not. Who said the writing profession was “practical?”

Read More

Søren Kierkegaard on Writing

Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and writer in the mid-1800s. His works have been highly influential for the past 170 years. He is not without his critics but a couple years ago Christianity Today ran an article titled, “Why We Still Need Kierkegaard.” My own journey has included wrestling …

Read More

Books Change Lives

I have to let you read this story. An author recently wrote this to me: I’d like to share something with you that I’m not sure a lot of authors get to share. Two months ago, I noticed my novels on my youngest daughter’s nightstand and found her reading them …

Read More

Write Like You Brush Your Teeth

I listen regularly to a half-dozen podcasts. One of them recently talked about how valuable “systems” are in making life run more smoothly. The podcast host said that making something a habit is the simplest but also one of the most effective “systems” a person can install in his or …

Read More

Is Your Glass Half Empty?

Over the decades it has been interesting to listen to and read the various pundits regarding the publishing industry. Typically those who spell out doom and gloom get the attention (fortifying the idea that “if it bleeds, it leads”). At the same time there is the optimist position which is …

Read More

The Writer’s Responsibility

When you decide to pursue writing as a career or even an avocation, you probably are unaware of the responsibility bestowed upon you by the decision. There is no official ceremony involved, but there should be. This responsibility will change the way you interact with friends and relatives. It could …

Read More

The Damaged Author

Anyone can easily identify a person who has been damaged by life and in need of help. The same is true with damaged authors. If you are in this category, writing about your experiences and the lessons learned can be both cathartic and spiritually fruitful, but taking a damaged-life perspective …

Read More

The Isolated Writer

In general, writers do not do their best work in a group. The very nature of creative writing is a solitary pursuit, but without taking great care, can morph into a feeling of isolation. And this can occur whether an author lives in a quiet rural town or in midtown …

Read More

The Writer’s STEP

As some of you know, I have asthma. As does one of my very best friends. And you know what these two…ahem…”seasoned” asthmatics love to do? Hike! Yup. We plod along, coughing and wheezing and laughing (or, to be more accurate, gasping) about how they’ll find our poor deceased selves …

Read More