Monday, March 07, 2011

Untangling the Frustration and Discouragement

Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology and is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. Her novels include Dead Reckoning, Nightshade, and Digitalis. She speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers.

Ronie can be found at or

Frustration and discouragement seem to be part and parcel of the writing life. If you struggling with waiting and patience, you might want to jump ship now, because you’ll become a master at the two before you hang up your quill at the end of life.

Having dealt with frustration by the oceans-full lately, I thought I’d share some things that have worked for me to help tame the frustration borne out of waiting, rejections, disconcerting and upsetting encounters.

If you’re at one end of the spectrum, with neither an agent nor a contract, the simplest advice might be the most maddening: keep writing and honing your craft.

Between the time of the year-long drowning of my first manuscript, I wrote Dead Reckoning. By the time my agent was ready to move on, so was I, because I’d been working.

Also during this period of waiting, it’s a good time to make sure you’re establishing your “presence” in the social media world. When my first book finally found a publishing home, I discovered my editor had checked me out before acquiring my n
ovel. They’d visited my website and searched for me online.

Like it or not, publishers expect authors to partner with them in promotion of the book. That requires sacrifice. And sacrifice is intentional. It’s not something that “just happens.” And sacrifices are often painful.

For example, I home school and that takes up my days. Later, I prepare dinner, then we eat as a family, but after that—I don’t exist (well, not literally, of course). My husband takes over and I shut myself off and write.

Are you getting discouraged reading this? Trust me, I understand. You might end up being the breakout novelist, but the other 99% of us have the long haul ahead. No matter what stage of writing you are in, discouragement anxiously awaits your beating heart.

Let’s look at discouragement. First, discouragement is “self” focused. That’s not always a bad thing, being self-focused—after all, we need to take care of ourselves, etc.—but when we allow it to eat us up, nobody benefits from that.

Also, sometimes—not always—discouragement is borne out of
either magical thinking or unrealistic expectations. Writing is a hard slog. Once you’re agented, you have to get published. Once your published, you have to market. And edit. And work on the next killer proposal. And write the next novel . . . later, rinse, repeat.

I’m a softie, a “jelly” (see prior post), and all the “rejections and failures” wore me down, right along with watching the wonderful blessings happening to my friends. Discouragement is quicksand! It will suck you in until it’s almost impossible to get out. So, I realized I needed to shift my focus away from myself. I taped a note above my computer that read:


So, make a conscious decision that “I’ve chosen this career, so I’m pulling myself up by my bootstraps and going on.” And turn that discouragement on its ear by:

1.) Send a note of encouragement to someone else. Yep, that’s right—to someone else. Get your focus off you and shine some light in someone’s day.

2.) Help promote another author through a giveaway, posting positive reviews, or sending them an encouraging note or card. . We are all in this together. We really are. So, let’s help each other, shift the focus from “me” to “us.”

3.) On one of your social media sites (you do have a way through a site, either yours or a hosts, for readers to relate and reach out to you, right?), start something quirky or fun connected to what you write. For example, if you write thrillers, start a “Frightening Fridays,” engage your readers by asking them to share something scary that happened to them. Often, on my sites I ask readers/friends/fans to share about a military hero or a loved one who is a hero—connected to my military thrillers.

4.) Start a Brag Book or Joy Journal. In it, record EVERY LITTLE THING that is cool or touched you. Got an email that made you say, “awww, thanks” - write it down. This is your place to be feel-good without guilt.

5.) Visit with a bookstore manager or librarian. NOT to sell your title or your abilities, but to connect with them, to find out what they’re seeing in the market. This is a “getting-to-know-you” time and makes a difference later. Also, it puts you on their radar and gets you out in the sunshine that will awaken your neural activity!

Whatever has got you down and frustrated, find the strength to keep going. In the words of my agent, Steve Laube, the only writer who fails is the one who quits. Tough words to challenge you on this Monday morning!

Please...feel free to share your tips for untangling frustration and discouragement!


Christine said...

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing! Discouragement is a part of life. We need to learn how to deal with it no matter what our vocation. As someone who is fairly new to the writing world (I've only been working at writing as a career for 8 years) I can understand that deep slough of discouragement. I tend to get really, really excited about the good and really, really discouraged about the bad. I'm working on trying to even that out.

Thanks again for the tips!

Ane Mulligan said...

Good advice, Ronie. I think if a writer is serious about getting published, they need to strap themselves in for the long haul. I don't know the stats, but I'd be willing to say less than 1% of all writers get their first book published. Most are on their 4th of 5th. Unless you've gotten a MFA degree, you're apprenticing. The point is to never give up. Stay the course. And be open to new things. ;)

Dineen A. Miller said...

Awesome article, Ronie! So spot on and helpful. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas! :-)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Needed this.

God has been prompting me a lot today with #1!

Thank you for this wisdom.
~ Wendy

Michael Ehret said...

Good stuff Ronie -- and applicable outside of the writing world, too.

Ronie Kendig said...

Thanks, y'all! I hope it encouraged you.

Donna Perugini said...

Very encouraging post! I like the 'out-appreciate others' attitude. There's nothing like sowing good seed!