Wednesday, December 6, 2017

When You Feel Like Quitting by Heather Day Gilbert

Ask any author who's been at it for several years (well, except someone like J. K. Rowling or Stephen King), and they'll probably tell you they reached a point where they thought about throwing in the towel. Writing books is hard, and marketing them is unavoidable and time-consuming.

There are so many ways authors can become discouraged. 

Here are a few that might resonate with you today: 

  • Seeing other authors placing and winning in contests where you were sure you had a shot
  • Seeing other authors signing multiple-book contracts with big-name publishers while you're struggling to get one book picked up
  • Experiencing a lackluster book release after tremendous time and effort went into it
  • Putting in full-time hours on this writing job that barely pays like a part-time job (particularly true for indie authors, who handle everything about book production themselves, so there is far more time invested from the get-go)
  • Getting a string of low reviews that might be completely off-base, but they feel like a barrage of hatred for all your hard work
  • Not hearing back from agents, editors, early readers...whoever it is you've pinned your hopes on to encourage you as an author
  • Dealing with a lack of moral support from significant others/family

I can't say I've experienced all these discouraging things, but I have experienced nearly all of them. And sometimes these discouragements turn into the perfect storm and you just want to Q.U.I.T.

I reached one of those points recently—and the timing is so dumb, because I'm poised on the brink of another book release, with three books contracted in the future. But discouragement is no respecter of book release plans.

So what's the remedy? I can't tell you how many times my husband, my critique partner, my parents, or my readers, have pep-talked me when I was in a pit of despair about my author career. If I hadn't had their support, I know I wouldn't have stayed the course this long.

And to look at the bright side, accolades and awards do come along, and sometimes readers send emails that make your entire month, and sometimes you get a string of GOOD reviews, and you feel, for one beaming moment of glory, like your work is appreciated.

But when discouragement knocks you flat, there's only one way to keep moving forward (and it only works if you know you're supposed to be writing): you have to DIG DEEP AND KEEP GOING. You begin to laugh at discouragement—verily, you even come to EXPECT it—and you sit down in that chair and you write ANYWAY.

Because we know what happens if we don't—our books will slide right off the readers' radar. Sure, we can market and advertise our previous releases, but readers always want NEW and shiny books, and if we're not producing them, mostly likely our income will continue to decrease. And quite possibly our happiness will decrease, too, if we find joy in creating stories for people to read, which I think most of us do.

Please note that I'm not saying we have to write 24-7 and market like maniacs. There are definite times and seasons in life when we have to step back and take extended breaks from writing and marketing. But if we don't come back and stay in the game, we are likely torpedoing our careers, no matter our previous successes.

For me personally, I've put in too many hours and worked too hard to throw my career over just yet. Maybe there will come a day when I do, but today isn't that day. If you've been feeling discouraged about writing, but you know it's what you want to do most of all, don't rely on others to keep lifting you up. Dig deep and find the motivation in yourself to keep producing new books for your readers. I know they will thank you!

And if this post felt a bit harsh, please know that this entire article was really written as one gigantic, personal pep talk to myself. As for me, I've determined I'm going to keep writing. 

How about you? Has there been a time when you've considered giving up your writing career?


HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and contemporary mystery/suspense. Publisher's Weekly gave Heather's Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is "an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership." Find out more on