Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Staying Motivated

In the last three days, I've been in conversations with writers from different parts of the country who write in different genres, but who have had the same complaint: Staying motivated in the face of continued lack of success (Note: I didn't say "defeat"; I said "lack of success.")

In the first conversation, a friend talked about a fellow writer who had gotten discouraged and dropped out of a RWA chapter when it seemed that everyone else was getting published. This writer simply got tired of watching those around her succeed when she hadn't. She gave up.

The second conversation was with another friend who was looking for a new critique group. She said that all the members of her previous critique group were now published except for her. Her former partners were too busy with re-writes and marketing and no longer had time to participate in the group. She was choosing to soldier on and find a new group instead of giving up.

There are classes and support groups for all kind of writers' problems, but I don't recall seeing anything on the subject of staying motivated. In fact, the only time I remember hearing it addressed was at a Sisters in Crime meeting last year at which Linda Castillo was the featured speaker. Linda is a very attractive, humorous speaker who has a number of romantic suspense novels on the market.

She talked about the fact that she spent ten years writing without any success. In fact, she was once invited to be on a RWA panel. She was flattered until she learned that the title of the panel was "Staying Motivated When You Can't Get Published." And, yes, she did participate in the panel, and she now writes for two different publishers.

I did a Google search and found that there is a book called "The Writer's Book of Hope" by Ralph Keyes. In it, Keyes cites the following: "You'd be surprised by how many successful writers were once discouraged ones. Did you know that Samuel Beckett's first novel was rejected by forty-two publishers? That a dozen agents chose not to represent J.K. Rowling? That Beatrix Potter had to self-publish 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'?"

So, I say, hang in there. Talk about what's going on with you. Find ways to stay pumped. Take classes. Join a support group. Find a new critique group. Do whatever it takes to keep writing and submitting. Do what Catherine Wald did and start a website (

And, remember William Saroyan. The now famous author reportedly amassed 7,000 rejection slips before selling his first story.

1 comment:

Sherrill Quinn said...

The hard part for writers to remember is that this is really a sales business. We're selling ourselves, our blood, sweat and tears. And every successful sales person knows that the "no" she just received puts her that much closer to a "yes."

It's tough to keep soldiering on in the face of no after no after no. But you're closest to success right about the time you're ready to quit. I think there's a Chinese proverb that says something like that...