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!