Many professional writers credit their success to both hard work and to being in the right place at the right time (note: Writer’s Relief can help with the latter!). But sometimes, being in the right place and working hard simply aren’t enough. Unless you’re truly open to success, you’ll have stacked the deck against yourself even before the cards are dealt! Here are five signs that you might be self-sabotaging your own writing career.
Sign #1. Writing doesn’t make you happy anymore. Maybe, at some point, you truly loved your work. But lately, your stories feel flat. You find yourself twitching and getting distracted when you’re supposed to be working, and when you finish a piece, you don’t get that lovely glowing feeling that follows a big accomplishment.
SOLUTION: Get back to basics. Stop and assess where your listlessness is coming from. What used to make you happy about writing that isn’t making you happy now? Make a list of what you love about writing, and read it before you sit down to work. Then, focus on what you love, and let the rest go.
Sign #2. You don’t feel your writing is strong. Perhaps you have many publication credits, perhaps you have none. Either way, you’re feeling down about your writing—and that feeling is leaking into the actual words you write.
SOLUTION. Time to reevaluate how you look at your work. Take drastic measures to do whatever it takes to begin to love your own stories and poems. Ask friends and family to tell you what they like about your work. Make a list of what you like about it. When you love your writing and are confident in your own talent, your chance at success improves!
Sign #3. You sit down to write, but there’s no inspiration to be found. You want to write but your fingers remain quiet on the keyboard. How will you become a well-regarded writer if you’re not writing? You’re caught in a downward spiral.
SOLUTION: Time to reinvigorate your muse—but there’s absolutely no reason to do it alone. Find a local poetry reading series—even if you don’t write poetry, you’ll be inspired. Join a writing group or a book club. Just being around words that inspire you—or even words that fail you and make you long for something better—will revive your muse. Also, consider going to an art museum or a concert, or take a class on glassblowing. Sometimes changing the direction of your creativity, if only for a moment, will reinvigorate your passion for words.
Sign #4. A great opportunity comes your way—maybe a literary agent is interested in a book project, or an editor wants to publish one of your poems, but she or he requests a few revisions. You worry. You worry so much that you end up sending multiple emails to the agent or editor in a single day. You call and pester. When you finally do get in touch with the agent or editor, you’re cranky and suspicious—you question everything. You feel you’re not getting enough attention. You think you’re being mistreated. You wonder why literary agents and editors aren’t taking you seriously and why good opportunities dry up.
SOLUTION: Your nerves may be blocking your path to success. Time to relax—but also to be aware of your own proclivity to botch situations that could help your career. When in doubt, treat people as you want to be treated—with trust, patience, and kindness.
Sign #5: You’ve finished your book, short story, poem, or essay, and after a period of procrastination, you send your work to a handful of literary agents or editors. Rejection letters ensue. You think: Well, I’ll send it out to a few more people, but then you don’t actually do it—or you do very little. Your work, which you suspect is quite good despite your handful of rejections, languishes and remains unpublished.
SOLUTION. Rather than relying on vague goals (I will send out my work), it’s time to make concrete, specific goals and stick to them (I will send my book to X number of agents per week/month). Tell others who will hold you accountable to check in with you and encourage you to stay on track (and remember to be nice to them even when it feels like they’re nagging you). Then, even if the prospects look glum, you won’t lose momentum.
Writer’s Relief can help you if you’re having a motivation problem. We keep our clients writing and submitting. Our system works and gets results!
BOTTOM LINE: This list of five signs of sabotage are symptoms of deeper issues. If you’re self-sabotaging your writing career, it’s time to do some deep introspection. Although you’re going after success, is there something that’s keeping you from getting it? Journal, listen to your own voice, and learn what may be blocking you.
QUESTION: Did you ever catch yourself in the act of self-sabotage? What steps did you take to curtail the problem? Share your story for the benefit of other writers!
Ronnie L. Smith, President of Writer’s Relief, Inc., an author’s submission service that helps creative writers get published by targeting their poems, essays, short stories, and books to the best-suited literary agents or editors of literary journals. www.WritersRelief.com