Should you just stop writing? Is it taking up your time, taking up your energy, taking up your life … and not giving anything back?
Most writers go through times when they feel like giving up. It’s a normal and natural, if difficult, stage in the writing life.
Some writers do give up, of course: either permanently or for a long, long time – perhaps stopping after their college years and not starting again until retirement.
And, of course, it might be that you don’t have to write. Maybe you tried your hand at freelance writing but it hasn’t really worked out for you, and you want to pursue something different. Maybe you enjoyed the creative outlet of writing, but you’ve now decided something else suits you better: sketching, perhaps, or composing music.
Assuming that you still do want to write (at least a little bit), though, here are some options:
#1: Take a Break from Writing
Don’t force yourself to keep on when you’re feeling burned out. Sometimes, simply giving yourself permission to have a break from writing can be enough to get you out of a temporary slump.
Take a couple of weeks off, or maybe a full month. You might use your writing time to read, to knit, to craft, to walk … whatever you enjoy.
(If, like me, your writing breaks usually come because something else in life is causing a time-crunch, you may need to use your newfound time simply to catch up with laundry and organise the house. That’s fine too! Many people, me included, find that getting things in order physically can also free up mental energy.)
#2: Create Some Breathing Space in Your Life
Do you feel like giving up on writing because there are so many other pressure on you? Perhaps you constantly feel behind with everything, and your writing time has to be snatched in the corners of your life. Maybe you’ve taken on too many different responsibilities, and you feel like you can’t manage any of them properly.
Start to create a bit of breathing space. I know that’s much easier said than done! It might mean:
- Handing over a particular role: maybe you’ll step down as secretary of that committee, for instance.
- Getting help around the house: this could be from your spouse or kids, if they’re able/willing to assist more; alternatively, you could pay for someone to help (even if only occasionally).
- Going to bed earlier so you can get up 15 minutes early and start your day calmly – rather than having a mad rush every morning to get ready for work.
- Renegotiating deadlines with clients so you’re not trying to get so many projects finished all at once.
- Passing on a particular opportunity – even if it sounds like fun, you may simply not have time for it right now.
Even if you can only make one small change, do it: sometimes, just feeling a little more in control of your time can make all the difference.
#3: Look at Tangible Evidence of Past Successes
If you’ve been writing for a while, go back through some of your past successes. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember all that you’ve achieved when you’re going through a bit of a crisis of faith with your writing.
Find something that can give you real evidence that you’re a successful writer. For instance:
- Pieces you’ve had published in magazines or blogs that you admire.
- Nice reviews of your novel on Amazon.
- Emails from satisfied clients.
- Lovely testimonials that people have written for you on LinkedIn.
- A glowing comment on one of your blog posts.
If you find it difficult to stay confident and motivated, you might want to print out some of these or save them in a special folder on your computer, so you’ve always got them to hand.
If you haven’t yet got to the stage of receiving external feedback on your writing, look for evidence that you’re successful on a more personal level. For instance:
- Stories / poems that you’ve finished.
- Drafts that you’ve started, even if you didn’t finish them.
- Classes or courses that you’ve taken.
- Work that you’ve submitted to competitions (even if it wasn’t shortlisted).
#4: Put Negative Feedback into Perspective
Negative feedback can take a lot of forms: sometimes, it’s simply a lack of positive feedback. Maybe your book isn’t selling, your blog posts aren’t getting any comments, editors never seem to respond to your pitches.
We all tend to fixate on the one nasty comment, one bad review, one line of criticism from an editor … it’s just human nature. But it is discouraging, and it’s important to remind yourself this is just one tiny piece of feedback.
I find it also helps to remember that the feedback is, often, not really about me. It’s about the person giving it. If someone writes a mean comment on one of my blog posts, chances are, they were simply having a bad day and lashed out at the nearest target. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible writer.
#5: Reconsider Your Goals
I don’t think you should give up on a goal, unless you’ve genuinely lost interest. Sometimes, though, you might need to review and perhaps modify a particular goal.
Maybe you’ve realised that you had some pretty unrealistic expectations (e.g. “I can write my first novel in a month and become a bestseller overnight!) Maybe your goal was a good one, but you need a bit more time, or you need to pursue it in a slightly different way.
If you’re struggling to decide whether your goals are realistic or not, check out Are Your Writing Dreams Unrealistic?
#6: Seek Emotional Support
All of us need a friendly ear (or a friendly shoulder to cry on) once in a while. If you’re feeling really down about your writing, find someone you can talk to. It might be your spouse, a good friend, someone at your writing group, or members of an online group or forum.
I know how hard it can be to reach out for help and to tell people you’re struggling – but it can be hugely helpful to share your feelings about writing, and to feel that you’re not alone.
#7: Get Practical Assistance
Sometimes, you might come to a sticking point in your writing career where you’re not sure what to do next. Perhaps you just can’t get your head around setting up a blog, or you don’t know how to structure a novel, or you’ve tried all sorts of things to market your novel but nothing seems to be working.
If this is the case for you, get some practical assistance. Find someone who’s been there before you, and who can show you the path ahead.
That might mean joining a group like the Alliance of Independent Authors, who have an invaluably helpful Facebook group full of experienced indie authors. Alternatively, it could mean paying for mentoring, editing, cover design, or another writing-related service.
If you’re strapped for cash, blog posts and books can be good sources of help – or you may find a fellow writer who you can swap support with (e.g. they’ll help you set up a blog, you’ll beta-read their manuscript).
Whatever you’re facing right now, don’t give up! Do take a break, do reach out for help, and do change your goals if necessary … but don’t stop writing altogether.