I suffer from them quite a lot, it seems. Writing is like always having PMS in some ways. There are highs, lows, and oh em gees that make you want to hide your head until it all goes away. I believe this is normal, and yet I despise it.
It's really easy to look at someone else's career and think they have it perfect, but the truth is they probably don't. They probably suffer from the same doubts, fears, and insecurities that you do. I think if you aren't worried about your next book, worried that you are making it the best you can make it, then you probably aren't digging deeply enough. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the way I feel about it. If something doesn't hurt while you're writing, then I'm inclined to think something's wrong.
Unless, of course, you are writing humor. Maybe humor doesn't hurt, but deep emotion certainly does. Or should, at least in some way. If you aren't touched by what you're writing, how do you expect anyone else to be?
So maybe I'm feeling the blues because I've turned a book in and I'm waiting for the inevitable revisions. Believe me, it needs them. If my editor didn't give me any, I'd really be worried!
Or maybe it's all the gloom and doom in publishing today. Every day, there's some new article about the death of the bookstore and the predatory nature of a certain online retailer.
I'm sure it's any number of things, but the truth is I'm just at one of those low points in the cycle where I think maybe the gig is up and my editor is going to figure out that I don't know what I'm doing. And that my agent is going to quietly stop answering my emails and start avoiding me at conferences.
Oh, I also believe at these times that I couldn't write a good story to save my life. This is not the time to look at reviews, I tell you. Because someone definitely agrees with that assessment (though thankfully there are plenty who don't!). Every idea I look at in my file seems trite. That single title manuscript I'm supposed to be revising? Lame, lame, lame.
Times like this, I just want to say, “I quit.” But I won't. It's like that old Lynn Anderson song: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. There is no rose garden in publishing.
So what can we do to get past the writer blues? Here's my imperfect list. Feel free to add suggestions in comments!
1. Realize that this too shall pass. All moods are temporary.
2. You really aren't as important as you think you are — which means there is no giant conspiracy of people out there talking about how awful you are either. 🙂
3. Do not read reviews. Yours or others. If you can be disciplined about not reading yours, but you still go see how Suzy Author's praises are sung to the high heavens, that's going to make you feel bad too. Don't do it, at least until this mood passes.
4. Disengage from negative people. There will always be those who make you feel worse simply by their own complaining and whining — whether it's about writing or life, it's still going to get you down.
5. Go back through your praise file. You do have one, right? That file where someone told you how wonderful your story was (and if you are unpublished, this could be your CP's comments or a contest judge's), the good reviews you did read and keep (RT Book Reviews, for instance), and your editor's praise about something you wrote (if you don't have an editor yet, see aforementioned CP and judge comments).
6. Go for a walk or a run or something that gets the endorphins flowing.
7. Read a good book (unless that depresses you too). I love reading a good book because it always makes me say, “Oooh, I want to do that!” Good books never depress me; they motivate me. Though don't read Suzy Author's book if you went and read her fab review and you're feeling bad about it. Read something else. Save Suzy Author for later when you feel better. 🙂
8. Indulge in a hot shower or a nice hot bath. Or go get a pedicure. Something to pamper you as the person, not you as the author.
9. Find something good about your work and celebrate it. Champagne (or sparkling juice, etc) is always appropriate. Finished that awful chapter? Celebrate. Wrote 1K today? Celebrate. Realized that scene doesn't work and you have to cut it? Celebrate, because you recognized something important about your writing.
10. Remember that everything is in cycles. Next time, Suzy could be the one reading this list because she's feeling the blues. A career trajectory is not straight to the top like a rocket blasting off. It's more like one of those barnstorming planes, with high climbs, dizzying dives, loop-ti-loops, and a lot of screaming.
So that's my list. And you know what, I already feel better by writing it. How about you? What are your suggestions for staving off the writer blues?