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Hit a writing dip? That doesn’t make you a failure

One stalled project or confidence dip does not a failure make. We've got some advice to pull you back from the brink of writing despair and back into your comfort zone.

Audience: Writers

Last updated: 16 January 2020

Whether your project is stalled, you’re hitting a block or you’re struggling to stay upright in the face of rejection, there’s one thing you need to remember – pursuing a writing career is no stroll in the park and just because you’re not exactly where you want to be, it doesn’t mean you’ve wandered into a pit of failure. If you think you have, here are some important things to remember.

Fighting off the rejection blues

Putting yourself out there as a writer means opening yourself up to rejection. And I’m not just talking one or two rejections, I’m talking tons. Hundreds. Maybe even thousands, over the space of a career.

Rejection is something that’s part and parcel of the writing – and specifically publishing – process. It happens for many, many different reasons. You might have a story or novel kicked back because it’s got some problems. Or it might come back to you because the editor has a personal hate of the type of character you’ve written about. Or maybe they’ve just published something very similar.

Hearing ‘no’ is never fun, but it definitely doesn’t make you a failure. In fact, if people are rejecting your work, it means you’re already sending it places and putting yourself out there – which is a massive step towards making yourself a better writer.

Working your way out of a block

There’s something of a debate over whether writers’ block is an actual thing or not. The jury is out, but there is a theory that what writers are experiencing and characterising as a block is actually something more akin to fear.

Whether you’re already imagining negative reviews for your new book or you’re scared that when you put pen to paper no words will come out at all, it stands to reason that negative thoughts can put a dampener on your process.

There are several different ways to try and pull yourself out of the funk and lots of them involve – you guessed it – writing. The best thing I've found to do is to put your big/scary/unfinished project aside for a day or two and let yourself have fun writing other things. Step outside your genre. Experiment with short prose. Have a go at a Haiku. Take away the pressure and remind yourself that putting one word in front of another can be fun!

Feeling as though you’re the only failure

It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people. Friends, fellow writer group members and even writing celebrities - all can be used as a stick to hit yourself with.

Why weren’t you published by X milestone birthday? Why did someone you know waltz into a publishing deal on their first try and you didn’t? Why aren’t you at the top of the bestseller list? You can torture yourself with these questions all day long but the chances are, there’s no one, good answer.

Skill has a role, yes, but so does luck. So does timing. So do a dozen other things. AND the important thing to remember is that each and every one of the people you’re comparing yourself to almost certainly has their own moments of doubt and fears of failure.

No one is immune to the occasional wobble. The best way to right yourself the next time one knocks you off kilter it to remember you’re not a failure – you’re a writer.