In the ‘business’ of mentoring writers, I come across a lot of people who get discouraged. Often.
I mean, it doesn’t surprise me. Everyone gets discouraged, especially when you’re a writer trying to convince the world your words matter.
Okay, fine. Yes — I GET DISCOURAGED TOO. I don’t think you can be a creative individual — or a human being, for that matter — without doubting yourself every once in awhile.
The ‘fixer’ in me constantly tries to come up with new ways to solve common problems like these. (Hence, uh, this blog.) Discouragement is a problem. It draws a lot of creative, capable writers away from their work. And that’s dumb. You shouldn’t ever feel like your words aren’t worth writing (or reading) simply because your brain doesn’t want you to believe you’re awesome.
How do we combat discouragement? There are the usual solutions — keep trying! Don’t let other people bring you down! Suck it up!
And then there’s the more creative approach.
(And just to warn you — it involves some digging.)
Here’s the problem with all these generic ‘solutions’: they either assume you can rely on someone else to lift you up, or that you’re good at talking yourself off the figurative ledge. These things do not work. In general, other people are unreliable accountability partners (not always), and when you’re feeling disgusting, the last thing you’ll want to do is tell yourself you’re being unreasonable.
So while you’re feeling relatively good about your ability to write good things (these moments do bestow themselves upon you, I’m assuming), I want you to dig through your past writings and find your favorite phrases, lines, or paragraphs.
And I want you to put them all together and create a “you don’t suck at this as much as you think you do” poster, box, folder, document, or collage.
It doesn’t matter what the thing is. It just has to include — in your opinion — the best tiny pieces of writing you’ve ever produced.
When you keep snippets of your best writing — and don’t necessarily look at them often — you give yourself something to turn to when you feel like you’re doing a terrible job.
A snippet could be a few sentences you just loved writing.
It could be something funny, something insightful, something that gives you chills.
It doesn’t matter what the snippets say. As long as you think they’re well-written, and looking at them will make you feel good about your capabilities as a wordsmith, they count.
How you collect and keep these snippets is really up to you. A bunch of sticky notes stuck to your computer monitor? A file folder on your hard drive? You could even create a physical scrapbook, printing out and decorating your favorite small doses of writing to cheer you up when you need it most.
Doing something like this forces you to be proud of your work — an added benefit to actually doing this activity, instead of just reading about it here, reblogging it, and moving on with your life. You’re forced to look at something you’ve written and go, “Huh. Yeah. That’s pretty good. Wow.”
Is this time-consuming? Oh yeah.
Will it be worth it in the long-term? Probably!
Sometimes you have to be the one to encourage you to snap out of your funk and keep writing.
You can do this. Make it fun! (And if you do end up doing it, and remember that I told you to, snap a photo or screenshot and send it to me!)
When I get around to doing this (at the time of writing, I’m about to move, and I can’t do anything extra or I’ll probably die) I’ll share my results with you too.
Save your work. Go back to it. Remember that you aren’t terrible at what you do — at least not all the time.
Just … don’t forget to actually get some new writing in this week, too.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.