by Colleen M. Story
You know what it’s like to be a frustrated writer.
It goes something like this.
Jenna put out three different freebies on her website to attract new subscribers to her newsletters. None of them were as successful as she hoped. After months of work, she’s only increased her subscriber list by 10.
Scott spent a couple of years on his self-published novel. He had high hopes that it would sell well. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Scott doesn’t get it. It was his best work yet.
Amy has been blogging regularly but after six months, her readership has gone nowhere. She’s worked hard and it’s like she’s throwing her posts to the wind.
All three of these writers are frustrated for the same reason.
Can you guess what it is?
If you could ask these writers to tell you why they feel frustrated, you’d likely hear one of these three answers:
These statements are true. The writers did work hard and did what “they said” to do. And yes, the market is tough and it’s hard to succeed.
But if you dig a little deeper, you can see that these reasons don’t get at the true source of the frustration. Working hard, doing what other successful writers say to do, or dealing with a difficult industry isn’t the reason these writers are frustrated—because those aren’t the reasons the writers failed.
These writers are all frustrated because they did what they thought they needed to do to succeed, but instead, they failed.
They could simply say, “I failed, and I’m frustrated.”
Now we are getting closer to the truth—and better yet, closer to a place where the writers can begin to figure out why they failed.
As long as you remain caught up in frustration, your writing career will stagnate. To get back on track, start by putting everything aside—your hard work, your good intentions, your disappointment—and just say it out loud:
It’s okay. It’s no big deal. Writers fail all the time. The more we can embrace it, the braver we'll become, and the better we'll be able to handle the ups and downs of the job.
You’re frustrated because you failed. Okay. Now what?
The next question you need to ask yourself is: Why did I fail?
Because of one very common reason why all writers fail: they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
Confucius said: “True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.”
But that’s not easy to do. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. Know what I mean?
Let’s take Jenna. She doesn’t know why her freebies didn’t work to attract subscribers. There are many potential reasons:
How about Scott? His book didn’t sell well. Some potential reasons:
Amy, too, could be facing several roadblocks to her blog succeeding:
For these three writers, any or all of these issues may apply. The one commonality is that the writers don’t know what the problem is.
And that is definitely frustrating!
The first step is to realize that the problem is a lack of knowledge. It’s not that you’re not good enough to be a successful writer (as many writers feel when they’re frustrated). It’s not that there’s something else wrong with you. It’s just that you need to learn more.
In other words, it’s time to go back to educating yourself.
Anytime you feel frustrated—particularly if you start slipping into self-doubt—ask yourself, “How can I learn more about this?”
If you're not sure how here are a few suggestions:
Today, there are online workshops available that address just about every facet of a writer’s life. You can find workshops on building your email list, self-publishing, launching your book, creating a successful blog, finding your niche, and more.
If the success you were expecting doesn’t come your way, don’t assume that it was bad luck, the market, or your lack of abilities. Instead, educate yourself—the sooner, the better!
Just as you can find a workshop for just about everything you need to learn as a writer, so too can you find a book that will address it. There are books on marketing your work, building your online platform, increasing your email subscribers, and more. Buy a few and start reading!
Podcasts exploded over the past decade, and there are a lot of them out there now that cater to writers. You can start with those, then don't be afraid to branch out to other topic areas. Check out the straight marketing podcasts, the "grow your online business" podcasts and the entrepreneurial podcasts. You're likely to learn something from all of these too.
Do you know someone who has succeeded at what you’re trying to do? See if they may be willing to help you. Maybe you can hire that person to be a mentor, or even just to spend an hour with you.
This can provide you with a huge step up. While you can read books, listen to podcasts, and take courses, there’s nothing like getting some personal attention from someone who knows the ropes.
Jenna, for instance, could have a mentor look over her freebies and her website and potentially give her some insights that would practically guarantee that her next freebie would be much more successful.
That’s money and time well spent.
Your writing friends can be a great resource for helping you to overcome frustration.
Sometimes, all you have to do is reach out to 5-10 fellow writers with one request: Will you help me?
Most writers are more than happy to say “yes.”
Scott, for instance, could ask his friends to look over his book, his description, his cover, and his website, and offer their thoughts as to why his launch didn’t go as well as he hoped.
Amy could ask her writing friends to read 2-4 of her blogs and offer their input as to why they may not be attracting other readers.
This can be a scary thing to do. None of us want to admit that we failed—or that we need help, for that matter.
But if you can find the courage, you will probably be rewarded with some very helpful suggestions. And remember—there’s not a single writer out there who hasn’t failed at one time or another.
Not all of your friends’ ideas will be useful. But you may be surprised at what you discover. Particularly if you hear the same suggestion from two or more writers, take that suggestion seriously.
Then arm yourself with your new knowledge and go back and try again. Because once you have an idea of what you need to do, your frustration will fade—and you’ll be one more step closer to success.
How do you ditch your inner frustrated writer?
Note: To Unlock the Key to Your Writing Motivation, check out Colleen’s FREE quiz and report here. You’ll also get FREE chapters of her writing books!
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In her new release, Your Writing Matters, Colleen M. Story helps writers determine whether writing is part of their life’s purpose. Her book on author platforms, Writer Get Noticed!, was a gold-medal winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards, and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book. Her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews' INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.
Find more at her author website and Writing and Wellness, and connect with her on Twitter and YouTube.
Top Image Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
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Your timing is impeccable, Colleen. I have SO much to learn, last night, I wanted to chuck my laptop out the window, lol. But today, I will educate myself instead. My laptop thanks you.
Ha ha. I know that feeling, Karen! But it usually passes once I figure out what I was missing. Good luck! 🙂
This information is invaluable. Thank you for posting this, Colleen!
Some years back I made the mistake of joining a group of writers, not of my genre, for a promotion that included an eBook as a prize. I ended up with many email addresses of people who were not interested in my work.
This led to lots of unsubscribing and then complaints from MailChimp. They understood once I explained what happened. It was a hot mess.
Thank YOU, Ellen. Oh my gosh. That sounds like a stressful disaster! And one you wouldn't see coming. Thanks for sharing--a great warning for the rest of us.
Colleen, your post has given me the courage to reach out for help from other authors who write in my genre. I've read where our writer community can be generous with suggestions and encouragement.
I started a writers group at my local library but none of them wrote in my genre. It was as hard for me to get into theirs as it was for them to embrace mine. I loved the group in that we all had one goal in mind...to finish our book and to be published. What I needed was someone with like ideas and thoughts and a passion for our genre. I didn't get that.
Fingers crossed, I'll let you know if I do.
I've found that to be true for sure—most writers are happy to help. I have really appreciated my colleagues' thoughts on titles, self-publishing, and the like. For help on an actual story, though, I'd highly recommend hiring a professional editor. A good one will guide you well. I've never regretted it!
Thanks for your suggestion. Maybe that's the question to ask...tips on finding a good editor!
Yes! A great one. Many writers have someone they'd recommend. Genre would make a difference there too. I know most editors specialize.
I think this is a message every writer needs to hear. This is a tough business - we must be creatives and marketers and bookkeepers and businesspeople until we get big enough to hire those jobs out. And most of us have day jobs on top of that, even before we get to taking care of families.
Without help, very few writers will prosper. That stark fact is part of the reason we started this blog in the first place. Thank you for the help and common sense encouragement you provide to our readers!
So true, Jenny. When you think of how much we have to learn, we are in life-long school! But that's one of the things I like about writing. The learning never ends. :O) Thank you!
It's always good to review what isn't working in order to move forward.
Right Denise--and sometimes we don't know what isn't working, especially as writing/publishing has so many different parts (as Jenny was saying). That's where a mentor can help too.