If You Can’t Let Go of Instant Gratification, Don’t Be a Writer

It’s time to let go.

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I am not a patient person. So I do understand why many writers struggle to stay on the creative path.

I’ve written about patience and the waiting game many times before on this blog – because, like you, I often struggle to come to terms with the fact that I’m going to publish things that don’t produce any instant rewards. And even the empty rewards that do sometimes arise – likes; comments; subscribers – are short-lived.

You work really hard on something, and you’re so, so excited to reveal it to the world (finally!). Yet when you finally do, it’s met with one of the many things writers can’t stand: silence.

It is a writer’s goal, after all, to facilitate conversations. Even when it’s a controversial topic, at least people are talking – even if they’re angry. (Side note – apparently I’ve never actually written out the word ‘controversial’ before, because I had to look up how to spell it. Really?)

So when no one says anything … when there’s no reaction whatsoever … all the doubts pour in.

Ohmygosh. They hate it. I can’t believe I actually published that. It was probably so bad.

It might even end up that hours, days, even weeks or months later, you do get some praise for all your hard work. But, like, gosh – why’d it take so long?

It took so long because, most likely, your writing is not the rest of the world’s first priority. It took me embarrassingly long, as a teenager, to learn this. No one taught me – I just figured out that as long as I kept producing work, eventually, people who were interested in reading it or who I’d reached out to about it would get around to it.

That’s how you have to think – people who want this will find their way to it, in the sense that just because you publish something at 11:15am does not mean someone is going to click on it at 11:16am. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

The reality is, instant gratification when it comes to writing does not exist. Especially not for beginners. People don’t know who you are or what you do yet. There is absolutely nothing wrong with promoting your work. But you can’t expect people to drop everything to flock to your masterpieces. The internet just doesn’t work that way.

So how do you get over your obsession with instant gratification?

You write. A lot. And you publish. A lot. You pitch. A lot. You wait. A LOT. Because the more you do these things, the more normal it becomes. THIS DOESN’T MEAN IT GETS EASIER. I’ve been doing this for a LONG time, and it’s still practically unbearable when I submit something and I don’t get a response within the same day. Gasp.

It just means you come to expect that you’re not going to get feedback or reactions or answers nearly as quickly as you’re going to want them.

This is the harsh reality of the writing life. Is it horrible? Yeah, sometimes – because we’re so used to always being digitally in the know that being in the dark is terrifying. You either learn to cope with it, or you don’t. You either keep writing and publishing and trusting that you’re doing the best you can without someone else having to tell you so or otherwise … or you just walk away.

I don’t want you to walk away. And if you’re already away, I hope you’ll come back. Just because that one editor from that one big literary magazine didn’t respond to your submission doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It means you’re just never going to know whether or not they read or even received your work. That’s something we all have to live with, no matter how hard it is.

In terms of finding feedback, many suggest finding Facebook groups or forums where you can pair up with a critique partner. I don’t do this – because at the moment I don’t have time to critique others’ work, and therefore can’t expect them to do the same for me – but it’s all about finding a healthy balance between engaging with other people’s work as much as you want them to engage with yours. But even then – again – you’re usually not someone else’s first priority. Waiting is hard, but it’s also necessary.

These things take time. But it’s about more than patience – it’s also about confidence. You have to have faith in yourself. Because there aren’t always going to be audience members around who will tell you how you’re doing. You have to believe you’re doing OK. You have to keep trying, and keep trying, and keep trying. You can never fail when you try – only when you don’t.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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