How to Write When … You Feel Discouraged
This post is part of my ongoing “How to Write When…” series.
Do you ever feel discouraged when it comes to writing?
While I’d love to imagine that you always feel at your creative best, full of confidence, and without anyone or anything slowing you down … I know that’s not the reality for me or for most writers.
There are many wonderful things about the writing life – but there are also a lot of tough moments.
Sometimes, you may find yourself feeling hugely discouraged, perhaps even thinking of giving up on writing altogether.
Why Writers Get Discouraged
Discouragement can come from several different sources, and sometimes, you may find you’re feeling a general sort of discouragement without an obvious cause.
But for a lot of writers, one or more of these will resonate:
- Things are so busy with work/kids/life, you’re struggling to make time to write and so your progress feels almost non-existent. Maybe you haven’t written anything for weeks, months, or even years.
- Despite a busy life, you are making time to write, and you’ve completed 10,000 words in the past month, through a lot of effort and self-discipline. And now you’ve realised you have another 70,000 words to write before you finish the first draft of your novel.
- Someone has commented negatively (or in a distinctly lukewarm way) on your writing. Maybe they’re a random commenter on the internet – but you can’t get their words out of your head. Or worse still, perhaps they’re a friend or family member who you trusted to read an early draft.
- You’ve battled distractions and interruptions and finished a major writing project … only to realise that you need to make significant cuts or changes to it. And your heart sinks at (a) all the time you put in that will now be lost as well as (b) the amount of new work you need to do.
- It seems like all the writers you know are going on to bigger, better things, bringing out book after book … and you’re still scrabbling away at your debut novel / blog that no-one reads / memoir that you fear is unpublishable / etc.
Do any of those sound like your current situation? Or perhaps there’s something else discouraging you (do feel free to share in the comments if you like, you may well find that another Aliventures reader is going through something similar).
Whatever the exact source of your discouragement, you don’t need to let it stop you writing. Here are some practical ways to stick with your writing even when you’re feeling discouraged.
5 Ways to Keep Writing When You Feel Discouraged
#1: Celebrate the Progress You Have Made
Even if you haven’t written for months, you can go back to the work you created last time you were writing. Those early novel chapters? Those blog posts you posted six months ago/ They’re still your writing – they still count!
Reading over the stuff you have written (and hopefully realising there are at least a few bits you quite like!) can be really encouraging if you’re stuck in the writing doldrums.
You might also want to look back at milestones you’ve already met. You might well have made more progress that you realise.
#2: Look for the Positives About Your Writing
If you’re feeling discouraged because you think your writing isn’t good enough – maybe you’ve received negative feedback or a lot of rejections – then deliberately turn your attention to the positive things about your writing.
However new and inexperienced a writer you are, there will be positive things about your writing.
If you’re a fiction writer, perhaps that’s your skill with dialogue, your memorable characters, your vivid descriptive writing, or your clever plotting. If you’re a non-fiction writer, it might be your colourful turns of phrase, your ability to explain complex ideas in a straightforward way, or your solid structuring skills.
#3: Look Ahead to Find Writing Time
A lot of writers get discouraged because they’re not managing to make much (or any) time to write. Maybe your day job takes up long hours – or you have kids – or you simply have a lot of other creative hobbies.
I’m the “primary parent” in our house, doing most of the school runs, cooking the kids’ tea most days, and so on. My children aren’t that little anymore – they’re 7 and 9 – but they’re still young enough that finding writing time means planning ahead.
Whatever your own life circumstances look like, could you plan ahead for some writing time? I find that if I look at least a few days ahead in my calendar, it’s not too difficult to block out an hour or two to write. By looking ahead a few weeks, or perhaps a month or two, I can quite easily block out a full day to write.
#4: Talk to Other Writers (Online or Offline)
When you’re feeling discouraged, it can help a lot to be around other writers who get it. Just knowing some writers who you can talk to, and who’ll understand what you’re going through, can make a huge difference.
You could find (or start!) a local writing group, or you could chat to other writers online: forums, Facebook groups, Twitter, even blog comments can all be great places to connect.
If you’re feeling nervous about reaching out, a great alternative here is to read blogs or memoirs by other writers. Hearing about other writers’ doubts, worries, and struggles can help make yours feel more normal – and you may also find yourself more able to see a way through.
#5: Set Little Goals and Reach Them
I’m a big fan of setting writing goals – and if you’ve been around the Aliventures blog for a while, you’ve probably already heard me talk about how important it is to break big goals down into smaller steps.
But if you’re feeling discouraged, I think that’s a great reason to go further in setting yourself tiny goals. “Write a novel chapter” or “write a blog post” might feel hugely out of reach right now. If so, make a tiny goal for yourself: “brainstorm for 10 minutes” or “write 200 words” “outline one short blog post”, for instance.
Set a tiny goal, meet it, then set the next goal. Once you’re comfortable setting and meeting tiny goals, try making them a little bigger. Don’t worry if you struggle: simply go back to smaller goals again.
A string of little successes really will add up. If you write 50 words every morning and every evening for a month, that’s the equivalent of 2 – 3 blog posts every month – more than many bloggers publish.
Important: It’s Okay to Take a Break
Maybe none of the above seems to work for you. Perhaps you’ve come down with Covid. Or your kids are off school sick. Or you feel exhausted. Or you have loads to get through at work this week. Or you sit down to write but stare at a blank page and feel like crying.
It’s okay to take a break from writing.
Don’t force yourself to carry on writing (and definitely don’t beat yourself up for not writing) if you’re really struggling.
Make the deliberate decision to take at least a week off – longer is fine, too. Give yourself some breathing room. If you can, set a date to get back to writing – this reduces the chances of your week-long break turning into months of not writing.
If you’re feeling discouraged this week, please know that there’s nothing wrong with you – or with your writing. Try some of the ideas above to see if they work for you, and if you’re still struggling, give yourself a guilt-free break from writing.
Do feel free to pop a comment below, too, to share anything that you’re finding discouraging or difficult at the moment.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
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