5 Ways to Adjust Your Attitude to Run the Writing Marathon

Have you ever asked: “What on earth possessed me to want to be a novelist?” Are you starting to realize this journey of being an author is not a short sprint but a marathon—and often a grueling one at that? I bet a lot of you doing NaNoWriMo are thinking this by now.

With the hundreds of thousands of novels submitted to agents and publishers each year, you sometimes think winning the lottery offers better odds than getting traditionally published.

But then . . . you finally break through and get a contract, and months later are holding your brand-new brilliant release in your hand, feeling as if you’ve finally arrived at the finish line.

The Daunting Task Ahead

Yet . . . if you’re like me, the flashbulb moment of that exhilaration lasts a very short time, only to turn into something akin to another stark, depressing realization—that the odds your book will become a huge hit or best seller is . . . well, about the same odds as winning the lottery, and you’re back to the same place as you were when you first starting sending out your first queries to agents.

You cringe knowing that, whether a publisher picks up your novels or you self-publish, you have a daunting task ahead to market and promote year after year to build a fan base and name recognition.

The thought of that next “finish line” so many miles up ahead can make you want to pack it in and take up something easier like belly dancing or wrestling alligators.

We have been programmed to believe many things that sometimes contribute to our disappointments, frustrations, and feelings of failure as writers. I believe it’s time to redefine, truly and in our hearts, what success means and looks like to us.

Tighten Your Attitude, Not Just Your Shoelaces

Rather than give you a list of practical things you can do, such as blogging, tweeting, scheduling your time better, and improving your writing craft, I’d like you to think about adopting a fresh, new attitude about your writing journey.

In order to turn your hard sprint into a marathon you can complete without collapsing halfway to the finish line, it helps to have the right mind-set. You want to win the race (i.e., reach your career goals), but you want to enjoy the experience and not destroy your spirit in the process.

Here are 5 key attitude shifts that can help you put one foot in front of the other:

  • Success is not defined by numbers or money earned. Instead of trying to be successful by worldly standards, think about significance. How can you deepen your writing and reach out to readers in a significant way? Believe that what you have to say through your words is significant and important. And put the care and attention into your writing that you and it deserves.
  • You are not writing to please the masses. You may never please the masses. And writing to please yourself is not the goal either. We write for an audience, and know the kind of hearts we want to touch. Write, then, for that audience in all sincerity and passion and trust that from that place your voice will ring out.
  • Don’t validate yourself based on other’s opinions of you or your writing. Accept helpful criticism and critiques and keep improving your craft, but know you will never please everyone and it’s foolish to try. In my writers’ group, we always applaud loudly when an author gets her first scathing review. It’s a badge of arrival.
  • Find a few really supportive writer friends to be on this journey with you. Encourage one another, promote one another, critique for one another. One way to stop focusing on your own sense of failure is to help others. There is nothing wholesome in jealousy, envy, or a competitive spirit. Believe your audience is out there waiting for your books, and write for them.

There will always be terrible writers enjoying incredible success with terrible books. It’s easy to want to throw your hands in the air and say “I give up!” when you see the awful stuff getting praised as great writing. Right, it’s not fair. Now, get over it. Really. If you don’t, it will drive you nuts.

  • Know that traditional publishing is undergoing radical changes. This is actually great news for authors, for now, with the trend of ebook publishing and social networking and marketing, any good author can get known, grow a true fan base, and connect with readers who love her books.

And that’s what we need remember—that we are writing for that connection between writer and reader.

So take heart and a deep breath prepare to run your race with a fresh attitude—one of optimism, enthusiasm, and a renewed dedication to write the best novels you can, knowing that your readers are out there and in time you will find them—and they will find you. If you do so, one day you will cross that finish line surprised at how much fun you had despite all the hard work and sweat it took to get there.

Have you tried to shift your attitude in these five ways? Which do you struggle most with?

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  1. Thanks for the post. I am already getting tired a bit. But I will keep writing, with enthusiasm and optimism

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