Who Am I To Be Discouraged?
“Every great work, every big accomplishment, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement.”
~ Florence Scovel Shinn
I haven’t written a post in six months. I had plans for them, but not the interest. Now I think this could be a good place to ruminate again. So I will.
Who am I to Feel Discouraged?
I’ve found it difficult to talk about discouragement among certain colleagues. Why? Well, I’m published. I have an agent. One of my books recently won an award that surprised, delighted and humbled me. What do I have to be discouraged about? How dare I feel that way?
And yet I do sometimes.
I think it’s better to be honest, to show all sides of my experience even if it pisses some people off or they think I’m ungrateful. I’m not ungrateful. I cherish my success in all its forms. And I also feel discouraged sometimes. And angry. And frustrated.
Why Do I Feel Discouraged?
Merriam-Webster defines discourage thus: “to deprive of courage or confidence : dishearten”
The root of course, is “courage.” I actually don’t feel deprived of courage, but I do feel disheartened sometimes. Here are some reasons for my discouragement recently.
Time: Look how much time has passed. If Your Monster Won’t Go To Bed was submitted in 2013 and accepted within a few months. My agent and I worked on other picture books and continued to submit for the next two years (2014-2016), coming close on a couple, but ultimately not getting any contracts. Monster came out in 2017, but I haven’t produced another picture book since 2016 that we both feel is submission-worthy. Nothing has gone out on submission for nearly two years. Ouch. Ack. If I only look at the fact that nearly five years have passed since we placed a manuscript with a publisher, I can get very disheartened.
Should: I should have another book under contract. Why do I feel that way? Part of if is that damn time thing above. I should have another book under contract because five frickin’ years have gone by and I’ve written and/or revised a lot of picture books. But there’s no rule that says that I should have one. So then I ask:
What’s Wrong with Me/My Work? This arises when I’m in a less than confident state and play that most dangerous game: comparison. Friends and colleagues around me are placing manuscripts so what’s wrong with my work? What am I doing wrong? Are all my stories really just crap? Am I deluding myself? This all sucks!
How to Get Out of This Discouragement Funk?
Sometimes I just have to let it run its course. I talk about it with other writers. When they commiserate and share their stories of discouragement, I ask if I’m a bad person for being glad we’re in the same boat sometimes. They say no. I usually agree.
I let go of stories I may love but am tired of working on. I start something new or resurrect something I loved, but haven’t worked on in awhile. That gets me excited. Gets my creative juices flowing.
So much of this business is out of my control. So I have to keep returning to what I put on the page. That’s my job. To work at the story. Improve it. Make it the very best I can make it at this moment in time. That’s all I can do.
Careers, like life, go up and down. Sometimes the down times will affect me and I’ll feel discouraged. Other times I shrug it off and move on.
I do get discouraged sometimes, but I’m an optimist at heart so I cling to what Florence Scovel Shinn says in the quote: “just before the big achievement…” Hope springs eternal. That big achievement is right around the corner. And it may not even be an acceptance – it may be completing this young adult novel, which would be a big achievement, indeed.
When I think of discouragement as a precursor to something great, it’s not so bad. 🙂
P.S. Happy Independence Day tomorrow!
Your honesty and openness are heartening to me, Denise. I often feel very much the same and get very frustrated with the ebbs and flows and balance of life. It is affirming to know it isn’t just me. You are an inspiration and very accomplished, and I appreciate your willingness to share your discouragement. Good luck as you navigate this time, and I look forward to seeing what your next great thing will be!
Oh, I’m so glad, Karin. Thank you for saying that and for sending luck my way. It was cathartic to write about it and I’m planning to pick up the blog posts again, writing about this part of the journey. It can be helpful to process it and if it helps someone else or makes them feel less alone in their experience, that’s a big plus!
Denise, thanks for being honest. As an unpublished writer, I think that just getting my foot in the door with one manuscript will make the second manuscript a lot easier to sell. Obviously, that is not the case. I need to focus more on the fun I have creating and not beat myself up that I’m not published.
Stephanie, Thanks so much for reading the post. I did hesitate a bit because I don’t want my discouragement to discourage new writers. 🙂 But it’s a reality for me and I thought it was worth sharing. I know other writers who have a better “hit” ratio than I do, and others who get as many passes (or more) as they do acceptances, similar to me. Moving through such a subjective world can be tough sometimes.
I LOVE that you included “Yet.” That is exactly the right approach. Good for you and keep going!