On feeling defeated and other fun activities
Raise your hand if writing is one of the best parts of your life. If writing is your passion and your happy place? *enthusiastically raises hand* Ok, now, raise your hand if writing is one of the hardest parts of your life? If writing makes you feel ill-equipped and uninspired and defeated? *tentatively raises hand*
What's silly is that I thought I was strong enough never to feel that way. I thought I could bear the ebbs and flows of writing in stride and never experience the low lows. I thought I'd only see the silver in the lining, the lemonade in the lemons, the light at the end of that stupid tunnel. After all, I did love writing, right?
But that's not been true. I've had such a lack of inspiration that taking a day off of writing ended up being three months off. I've had such overwhelmingly bad editor experiences that I gave up writing for over a year. Sometimes it feels like it's winter every day, every day struggling with seasonal writing depression.
And in all that, I've realized that writing has seasons. And just like the four we experience in our trek around the sun, all of those seasons are healthy. Whaaaaat? No, I'm serious. We need spring, summer, fall, AND winter to have real growth in our writing journey.
Hear me out.
Spring is so refreshing.
New stories, new ideas, new passions, new energy. It almost feels as if we're writing 🎶 "for the very first time!" 🎶 (you were singing Madonna, right?) We're planting seeds and ready to see some growth.
In spring, we're refreshed and excited about our projects. We're bursting with so many stories that we buy journals to keep track of our ceaseless creativity. These seasons are vital because we need to remember our passion, our love, our "why" for writing. Then spring leads to...
Summer is a good news/bad news situation.
Good news: You're writing. You're writing and it's hard, but you're getting it done. You're putting in the time and the energy. You're taking classes and reading articles and books and blogs. You're finding your groove, discovering your story, and... and you find yourself enjoying it. You're doing it—you're really doing this writing thing. And that's good because...
Bad news: It's hard. You had this dream that writing would look like sitting with your laptop in a corduroy plush chair, snuggled up in a faux-fur blanket, drinking tea, enjoying the tender heat from a hand-made fire, looking out your cottage window to a rainy day as creative ideas organically populate in your refreshed mind.
But it's so much more than that. It's sitting with your laptop in a hard, metal chair, wrapped in exhaustion from late-night and early-morning writings sessions, drinking lukewarm coffee, freezing because the air conditioning is roaring with too much ambition, looking at the same picture every day because you're always writing in the same spot, waiting for just one creative idea to organically populate in your half-asleep mind.
It's a lot. But the hard work feels good. You know you're toiling and struggling, but you also see it producing something. Something amazing.
And you push through because you know what's coming...
Fall. The seasons of harvest. *deep sigh* If we could stay here forever.
Fall is the best. We're basking in the glory of our hard work. Maybe you win a writing contest, or you get that publishing contract, or your pieces are accepted in an anthology. People love your work, and your desire to be a writer is affirmed professionally and personally. No matter the rays, you're da boss.
Your character arcs are phenomenal, your setting is so real you feel as if you could live in them, your tension is so tight it keeps you up at night. In a good way.
Those seeds you planted in spring and cultivated in summer are bursting with life. All around is color, opportunity, and a crisp—you can almost taste it—sweetness in all you do.
We need these seasons to embolden us. Courage literally means to "put courage in another" and fall gives us the courage to work through...
Winter. Ah, a ghastly experience, as it were.
Your editor just smashed your work to pieces. Your coach just exposed a giant hole in your storyline, and all the tension in your plot is snuffed out. A writing friend said your MC lacked depth and seemed lifeless on the page.
Everything you submit is rejected, every contest you enter, you lose, every time you sit down, your creativity is as far away as the moon, as absent as the sun in Seattle. And even worse, YOU hate everything you're writing. You can't get your thoughts down on the page, you can't get the scene right... you're just... defeated.
Can't we just skip this part? Can't we just go back to spring? Can't we just sit in summer? Can't we just bask in fall? Why do we have to go through this disappointment, this disillusionment, this complete stop in creativity and ambition?
Let's take a step back and look at nature. Did you know that winter is actually good for the world? In winter, the days are shorter, and the temperatures drop, which helps plants become dormant. In this dormant stage, they deepen their roots and store energy for new growth. If a tree is not given this dormant time, its buds will be weak come spring.
These cold, dark, barren seasons are, in many ways, crucial as a writer. Because in them... in the disappointment, disillusionment, and defeat... we find something we didn't know was there.
We find courage.
I'm not sure who needs to hear this, but here it is: You can do hard things. I don't know who you are, but I believe in the determination of the human will, and you can do this. Whether you're starting back on page one, in the middle of a massive re-write, or working through a new character arc for the MC,
You Can Do This.
You may be screaming, HOW?? How can I do that?? Here are some practical things you can do in winter.
Write every day. I don't care if all you write down is the color of your socks, write every single day. Winter is the perfect time to establish good writing habits because spring is coming, and when it arrives with its shiny new idea, you want to be already practicing good writing disciplines. When it arrives, you can clasp that story and sprint into spring.
Stay in your writing community. Keep that session with your writing coach, take that call from your editor, answer/reach out to your writing partner. It's so easy to isolate yourself after being discouraged, but it's vital for your writing's health (and your mental, emotional, and physical health) to stay in community. Don't run away. This season is NOT for naught (don't roll your eyes at me, you know I can't refuse a good play on words).
Be honest with yourself. Being in this season is hard. It's not fun. Don't pretend you're enjoying a summer or fall experience when you're just not. Talk to someone in your writing community and/or journal about it. There's no reason to pretend you're not where you are, but you must have hope that you won't be here forever. Feel your feelings, but they don't own you.
Take this wintery season to deepen your roots as a writer. Let your buds strengthen so when spring comes, those baby flowers will be strong. Your determination will be chiseled, your endurance will be potent, your faith in the stories to come will be robust and ready.
Don't abandon the journey. Being in winter doesn't mean that you did something wrong or that you didn't do something right. Know that this season is GOING to happen, and when it does, don't run from it. Sit in it and wait because...
Spring is coming. And you will be ready for it when it does.