5 Writing ‘Setbacks’ That Are Actually Tiny Miracles

It might feel like the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. Maybe it’s actually the best thing.

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Everyone has setbacks.

It’s true. They’re what shape us into the writers we’re meant to be.

In the moment, it can feel like these are the tragedies destined to end our dreams.

They’re not. Let me show you why.

1. Giving up on a project you’ve been working on for months

After weeks or more of constant frustration and dragging your feet — avoiding the inevitable, perhaps — “giving up” might seem devastating. And in many ways, it is. It hurts. It probably feels wrong.

In actively deciding to put something aside, though — either for now or forever — you’re making a conscious choice to move on. You have enough self-awareness to realize it’s not the right thing for you at this time, and you’re allowing yourself to direct your creative energy where it can better be used.

2. Getting rejected by your dream publication/employer

Rejection hurts, especially when you dared to take a big chance and ended up falling flat on your face. It’s not the worst thing that can or will ever happen to you.

This rejection will either inspire you to work smarter or send you in a different, perhaps better direction in terms of your career or writing focus/niche. Though it might feel like it, rejection is not the end of your journey. It only makes you stronger.

3. Receiving negative, even ‘mean’ feedback/criticism

There’s criticism, and then there’s straight-up meanness. If you’re a person who spends time on the internet, you’ve likely encountered both. One mean comment might send you spiraling — but only for a moment.

You might come to one or several revelations when dealing with trolls (or constructive criticism). You might realize their opinions don’t matter and don’t apply to you. You might realize some improvements you can make, and how. You might even realize you’re a pretty great person, in comparison. That’s nice!

4. Taking a ‘break’ from writing, whether by choice or necessity

Many people feel guilty when they take a hiatus. And if they’re doing it for the wrong reasons, they should. But most of the time, breaks are good. Recharging is good.

Sometimes, we need gaps. We need segments throughout our lives in which we can take a few steps back and reorganize our thoughts and responsibilities. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. In fact, chances are you’ll return to your keyboard more ready to tell stories than you’ve ever been.

5. Doubting whether or not you’re supposed to/you want to be a writer at all

We all have those moments in which we start to question our existence, our purpose, whether or not writing is really the thing we should or want to be doing. This is not a terrible mindset to find yourself in.

In reality, these moments of self-reflection are essential to every writer’s growth and development. You’re SUPPOSED to question yourself, to ask those “why” questions. It’s how you remind yourself why you do what you do, and where your place is in this world.


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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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10 thoughts on “5 Writing ‘Setbacks’ That Are Actually Tiny Miracles

    1. That’s great to hear! Rejection stings no matter how ‘seasoned’ you are, but you learn over time that usually it’s the work they’re turning down, not you, the writer. :P

  1. Walking away from a project you’ve been working for months on – I just did this one, and I have no regrets. The last month was the worst, I was literally forcing myself to write a story I had no interest in, so I could say I didn’t “give up”. It sucked.

    Deciding to move on was tough, but once I made the decision, a weight was lifted. I don’t think the time was wasted either, now I know what the feeling of writing the wrong story feels like and I won’t have to waste another three months fighting against it. Learning! Yeah!

    1. YEAH!! Never stop learning. :) When you walk away, but feel relieved, that’s your sign you’ve done the right thing. Glad you made a hard choice even though it was a tough one.

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