The Writer's Dilemma: How to Get up When You're Down

Ok, this is hard to admit but I think it’s important to acknowledge the ongoing pitfall of being a writer:

We get knocked down and
it's really hard to stand up again.


In fact, it’s hard to admit that we’ve fallen at all.

The everyday pressures we experience don’t exactly make it easy to acknowledge our dilemma and our struggle to be true to our creative life. How many people in our lives really understand how important it is for us to tell our stories? (This is true for nonfiction authors as well.)

The Writer's Dilemma

It’s not just about falling and getting up again. It’s about coming to terms with the stories we tell ourselves while we’re lying there. (The kind of stories I’m talking about aren’t the ones you want to publish.)

Do we even know? Lately, I've been so full of discouragement and defeat when it comes to my own work that I’ve stopped paying attention.

According to  Brené Brown (“Rising Strong” – a must-read for every creative!) it means to open your eyes and feel the pain, see where you really are and decide if it’s the place you want to be. 

Then it means noticing the story you’re telling yourself and deciding to change it.

Mine goes something like this:

Writing my second book is too hard and I just don’t have the time right now. I’m working with authors to help them birth their books and that’s creative and I love it (all true!). I’ll get around to MY book when the time is right. Besides I’m just not feeling inspired and that’s ok.

And so on. And while I’m saying all this to myself I just keep lying there. Unwilling to admit that I’ve lost heart. That I’m not connected to my joy. That the spark is gone.

Sound familiar?

So what do we do?  Brené says the longer you don’t sound the alarm and re-engage with your work, the easier it is to stay complacent.

But wait, Brené. That’s a lie. It’s not easy to stay complacent. It’s agony.

So this morning when I saw myself lying down, flat out against the dirt (I had promised myself this was the weekend I was FINALLY going to work on my short story collection), I knew I had to stand up for real. I had to find a way to put my feet on the floor and stretch my arms up into the writing air.

I flipped open my laptop. I searched for the file but couldn’t find it. I groaned. Then I searched again. Finally there it was on my backup drive.

“Wish You Were Here:
Tales of Courtship and Separation”

I printed out the first story and read it over. I felt a spark.

And then I knew what I needed to do. Carve out major time and space to write. Ragdale, my favorite writer's retreat! The work I'd done there years before was critical to my book being published in 2014. I remembered that I had received an email about the upcoming May 15 application deadline. I went to and started an application for 2017 then I decided to email my agent and mentor, asking them both for a reference. 

Fear came up again. What if I get there and can’t write? (Don’t even think about “What if I’m not accepted?”) Won’t I be even more miserable than I am now? I remembered I had felt EXACTLY the same way when I applied in 2009. And what had actually happened? Days of writing in a perfect writer's cottage, sharing meals with other writers, early morning walks on beautiful Spring prairie paths. 

Ready to stand up?

What’s your version of lying face down in the arena? What does it mean to stand up and take real action that you know will take you closer to the book you (and only you) can write?

P.S. Interested in a writer’s retreat or residency? Check out this great resource from Poet & Writers Magazine.

The Value of a Book Manifesto

When aspiring authors start writing, their work is often not cohesive. They find themselves going off in unfocused directions and find it difficult to create a structure that supports their story or subject.

When you create your Book Manifesto, you have a blueprint you can work from. This blueprint helps you stay connected to your core passion and reason for writing. And when you come up against those pesky demons of doubt and discouragement—as we all do in the writing life—you can hold to your vision and resolve.

Hope you find it useful. Have questions? Send ‘em on over: