by Meg Dowell
Pursuing a career in writing comes with plenty of obstacles. Overcoming those obstacles — especially when your barriers involve other people — can be overwhelming. The stress of trying to Make Writing Happen can be draining enough to force you to consider quitting. Even though you shouldn’t!
Here are a few things that will, or have already, almost convince you to stop writing — and how not to let them bring you down.
Feeling like no one cares
People don’t generally tend to go out of their way to read or comment on things unless it serves them — and that’s just something about writing that takes awhile to learn. It’s frustrating when people don’t leave comments, or only do so to say unhelpful or unnecessary things. It’s lonely when not even your friends or family seems to show an appropriate level of enthusiasm for your work.
Always remember that just because you’re not seeing a response doesn’t mean people aren’t watching you. Honestly, if you publish your thoughts and ideas as if the whole world is listening — even if they aren’t — that radiates a kind of implied confidence that draws people to your work. It’s weird, but it happens. You don’t have to be snobby about it, but you can at least feign the level of confidence you’ll eventually develop.
On every writing-related evaluation you’ll ever get — whether that’s a book review or performance check-in or a comment on your blog — much of how you’re perceived as a writer has to do with how you respond to criticism. Only once in my life have I walked away angry from a document covered in notes (of the worrisome variety), and I still mostly regret that. You can’t get mad just because someone doesn’t have all nice things to say about your work. It’s just not how the editorial process flows.
The biggest problem here is that most people don’t know how to give proper feedback. Negative feedback needs to be constructive, equal parts “fix this” and “I liked this.” People tend to forget the latter, and even if they don’t mean for it to (many don’t!), their criticism comes off as extremely harsh. Don’t take negative comments seriously, unless they’re a healthy balance of praise and suggestions for future improvement.
People who say achieving a writing dream is impossible
Weirdly, this has never happened to me, but I’ve heard plenty of stories from people who have been told not to pursue writing as a career. Writing isn’t exactly a glorified vocational path, at least not in the way medicine or law might be (and you’re definitely not going to get a similar paycheck, ever), but people really shouldn’t say to your face you can’t be a writer. It’s just not nice. I’m sorry if that’s ever happened to you. If it helps, I think you can do it. And you should at least try.
You can be a writer without being the stereotypical coffee shop-dwelling, caffeine-addicted ever-aspiring novelist. You can write about anything, pretty much in any setting. Hospitals hire writers. So do museums and nonprofits and banks. Writing is a versatile skill set — if you like doing it, somehow, some way, there’s a place for you in the real world. You just have to try a few dozen different things until you find it.
Rejection, in the worst way possible
Most writers agree: the worst kind of rejection is silence. It’s better to get a definite ‘no’ than to hear nothing at all. Waiting for a response is a thousand times worse than dealing with being told your story isn’t the right fit. A brief yet steady flow of submissions is bound to come with an agonizing stream of silence, but at least you’re trying.
Don’t give up just because you haven’t heard back, whether it’s a query letter or an introduction to an editor or a writing job. If they can’t bother to give you a response, they’re not worth it. Move on, but keep trying. What’s meant to happen will happen, eventually.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.