Keep your writing career expectations in check
What’s this episode about?
Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.
In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about what success and failure is, said it depended on the person’s expectation around writing, and highlighted the fact that even if people are happy with their work, society or those in our social bubbles can bring our writer confidence down by forcing on us their often unrealistic and unreasonable expectations about what a writer should be. So in the final episode of this season, I want to deconstruct some of these interactions and hopefully inspire you to take pride in your writing and to have the confidence to stand up for yourself when you feel wronged in any way.
Define what success means to you and stick to your beliefs
As we discussed before, the meaning of success is different for everyone. Yet there are many misconceptions about being a writer that are weaved into the fabric of our society and can make you feel inadequate if you don’t meet them.
Most of those are unrealistic or even undesirable by most writers, yet people who are not writers continue to peddle these ideas like they are the be-all and end-all for anyone who puts pen to paper more than they do.
A few examples are, “I don’t see your name in the bookstore, you must not be very popular’, or ‘you have no agent so your writing must be pretty bad’, or ‘I don’t see you rolling around in money, you must be struggling to find copywriting clients’. I’ve personally heard some of those, and more, mainly from well-meaning friends and family, wanting to set me on a right path to success.
My favorite one of all is when I tell people I’m a writer, and they ask me what I do for a real job. It used to annoy me, because while my office job is in fact real, my writing doesn’t feel any more ethereal to me. In both instances, I spend time and effort on something.
But this is the way our society is, it places big value on monetary gain and while I believe writers do and must make money from their words, for many money is a by-product of their passion, and not the inherent reason why they’re writing. To put it simply, there’s much easier jobs to pursue than writing.
So as you’re faced with a person who diminishes your passion or your efforts, decide whether it’s worth telling them the details of what you do and why they’ve misunderstood what is important about being a writer to you. And if you think it’s a lost cause and there’s no need to explain, agree to disagree and don’t dwell on their jabs at your lifestyle.
Trust both yourself and trust the industry
This, however, doesn’t mean you should dismiss every single criticism you receive about your writing life. No matter what stage of your writing career you’re at, there will be like-minded people around you with something to say. Their opinions will sometimes be in contrast with yours, and sometimes they might force you into an internal conflict between your head and your heart.
For example, if you write a novel and submit it to an editor, who then comes back and says the novel has major issues and you have to go back to the drawing board. No one likes to hear that and it can be easy to dismiss. But think about where a person with vast experience is coming from.
As opposed to the people from my first point, they do not only know what writing is like, they probably know more than you. So in cases like that, you have to really listen. You need to strike the difficult balance between trusting yourself and trusting industry professionals of any kind to know what could be better for your career.
Each decision like that will be different but what I urge you to do here is to always take the time to think about your next step. Never blindly trust someone to choose a path for you but similarly don’t shut everyone out and miss an opportunity to grow because you’re too rigid in your beliefs. Well-meaning people will try to steer you in a direction they feel is best for you. It’s up to you to take stock of your personal situation and see if this is where your writing career can flourish.
The book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway and win some gift cards, books and tea.
All details can be found on my website www.laineydelaroque.com/books. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.
Embrace your journey and don’t get swayed by others
Now that we’ve talked about how you should decide on what success looks like for your writing life, next it’s time to embrace your personal journey. This means coming to terms with the fact that things will happen the way things will happen. You can steer them in a direction you would like them to go but you will never be able to replicate another writer’s journey. Even if you follow their steps fully, the conditions you will be doing it in will be different, and most important of all, you are not them. You have your own unique strengths and limitations and that will shape how your career progresses.
From right now, decide what you’re seeking and how much you want to put yourself out there. Any writing shared in any shape or form, can lead to negative feedback. So if you feel ready to tackle that, brace yourself and learn from any teachable opportunity. If not, that’s fine too, write for yourself and people close to you.
There is no rush to reach milestones, despite what non-writers might say. You don’t need to be a bestseller, a published author, or indeed known to anyone for writing to bring you joy and for you to take pride in your work. All creative journeys are different and there’s no hurry to be first. Considering writing and storytelling are pretty much as old as time, no one can be first anymore. We’re all on the road of creativity and I think there is something really inspiring and humbling in that.
Reflect often and with an open mind
And while we’re talking humbling things, there’s nothing more humbling than returning often to the roots of why you do what you do. It’s important to not let others put value on your work, your time and your practice as a whole. This is a task for you only and I suggest you set yourself a timeframe for when you’re going to look back and see if there’s anything that’s changed in your beliefs, if you’ve strayed from your creative morals and if there’s any room for conscious improvement.
I try to do it every 6 months, and if I miss it because I’ve been bad, I do it at least once per year. Reflection is a beneficial tool in anyone’s self-improvement toolbox. People tend to think a lot about what they did wrong when they reflect but that’s not all there’s to it.
A study in reflection and change argued that “reflection is […] not entirely a tool for uncovering and rectifying deficiencies in performance or practice, but a process of discovery of strengths and successes, and an opportunity to both celebrate those, and to confirm and plan for continuation in that same path.”
So when you next reflect, don’t forget to acknowledge what you did great and to think about how you can ensure continued success, whatever that means to you.
sO, TO SUMMARIZE…
And on that very positive note, I end the fourth season of the Pen Garden. I hope you feel more confident about what you’re doing with your writing. The gist is this: “If it makes you happy and you’re not hurting anyone, you’re doing great and you’re a successful writer.” So keep writing, keep learning and keep growing. I believe in you.
On the topic of flourishing writers, last week I briefly talked about changes coming to The Pen Garden. I introduced a new offering which gave writers the opportunity to apply for free beta reading. It is still open for applications. So if you are about to finish a draft and you’re looking for a beta reader, go check it out for details and accessthe application form. Applications close on the 15th of January.
Now that The Pen Garden has grown too and has expanded to offer beta reading, it means that the schedule changes I hinted at last year are indeed happening. In brief, a season of the podcast will alternate with a round of beta reading. So season five will come out in early April. The reason why I think this is a good idea is because I feel like I’ve imparted all of the writing wisdom I have collected so far. I don’t want this to be a space where I ramble aimlessly, I want to give people content informed both by science and my own journey to inspire them to look into theirs and create a more mindful, productive writing practice. So while I collect more experience and interesting research on creativity, I will be helping authors grow by beta reading their words. I hope you support my choice and remain with me throughout this adventure.
If you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, you’re missing out. I’ve now sent my first few ones and I’m really enjoying the process. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. They all feature a cute animal and a book recommendation which can improve either your mental health or your productivity as a writer. Feedback about the newsletters has been really positive so far, so after you finish this episode, go sign up. And if you think they can be improved, email me and I promise that I will do my best.
If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.
- Writers’ perception on creative success & failure (podcast episode)
- The Benefits of Reflection on Improving Teaching Through Change: A Reflective Model for Professional Development (journal article)
Listen and subscribe
Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:
Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3: