Dealing with Frustration – The Ups and Downs of Writing

frustrationI liken being a writer to being on a see-saw. One moment you’re at the top of the world and the next you’re crawling in the dirt. What do I mean by this? If an agent requests a partial read of my novel, I’m ecstatic. If I get a rejection letter, I’m crushed. If I get a great review, I’m over the moon. If I get a bad review, I’m back in the dirt, devastated.

Being a writer is a life of ups and downs. The trick with most people seems to be trying to find a way to manage the frustrations that come along with it. For me, when I get a rejection letter from an agent, I try to answer it with TWO new queries. If I get a bad review, well, I usually email all my tight writing friends and whine and they make me feel better. I’ve also found a boatload of sushi and some dark chocolate seems to help when things are very bleak.

But frustration doesn’t always come from reviews and query replies. It can also come from within ourselves. For me it’s the moment where I’m staring at the screen, 250+ pages into a book, at the climatic ending and I’m like a deer in the headlights. “OMG, WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN NEXT?” or “OMG, WHAT I WROTE IS SO BORING!” It’s those moments where you wonder, “what in the world am I going to do?” I usually close the novel at that point, feeling like I’m the worst writer in the world (man, we are so hard on ourselves, aren’t we?) But then, that’s when my “aha” moments happen. I tend to dwell on the book for awhile (maybe a day, a week). I think about it when I’m commuting, when I’m in the shower, when I’m about to fall asleep… and then WHAM! You get that moment when you suddenly see your story go on a tangent you never thought possible and you give yourself “permission” to go there.

So I asked some other writers what they do to deal with frustration.  Then I asked them about their own “aha” moments. First I spoke with author Gwen Choate who has been writing for 70 years (yes, I said 70) – she is my idol, 90 years “young” and just published her YA Novel, THE SACK (although she’s been writing successfully since her 20’s – I should have used her for my persistence blog last week). I also asked author Frank Tuttle whose YA book ALL THE PATHS OF SHADOW consumed my 11 year old Aspie son who was so compelled by the ideas in this book enough to make drawings for the novel and begged me to send them  to Frank. (who by the way, graciously put them on his book’s FB page)

Question #1) Do you ever get frustrated?

Gwen Choate: All the time. For most of us, the writer’s life is a mix of joys and disappointments. The thing that is most helpful for me is my morning “quiet time,” when I journal and meditate.

Q #2) Have you ever had an “aha” moment?

Gwen: Yes, often.  For example, if I’m blocked by a problem, I like to say before I go to sleep at night, “Please tell me what to do about this.” It’s amazing how often my subconscious comes through and I get an “Aha” the next morning.

Q #1) Do you ever get frustrated?

Frank Tuttle: Frustrated is my default ground state. Why am I not rich? Why am I not famous? Why am I not appearing on late night talk shows? As to how I handle this frustration, see also grain alcohol, consumption of. (very funny, Frank)

Q #2) Have you ever had an “aha” moment?

Frank: Yes. They usually involve the Mississippi Highway Patrol and radar-assisted speed traps. But you wanted writing related discussion, so I’ll say this: All good narratives can be boiled down to a simple formula. A character, in a setting, facing a problem. It’s really that simple. It’s not *easy* but it is simple.

Well said, Frank. I believe our own frustrations can also be boiled down to a simple formula. “Our book”, “other’s perceptions of our books”, and “our reactions.” Well, maybe it’s not that simple. But I believe as writers we need to realize there will be ups and downs, difficulties, good times and bad, but at the end of the day we do this because we love it. We must always remember that. Frustration is just a state of mind – one that we have control over, though at times we may not realize it.

Thank you to Gwen Choate and Frank Tuttle for their time. To learn more about them, please check them out here:

Frank Tuttle writes fantasy to escape his real life exploits as a jet-setting international superspy. You can visit Frank’s webpage at http://www.franktuttle.com/ where you will find links to Frank’s blog, his books, and first-aid tips for exotic pet owners. You can also follow Frank on Twitter www.twitter.com/frank_tuttle

Gwen Choate’s YA novel, THE SACK, was nominated by Texas Librarians for the Star of Texas Award as a best Middle School book. It is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sack-ebook/dp/B00CD5VBTO/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1371494846&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sack+gwen+choate She can also be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gwenchoate

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7 thoughts on “Dealing with Frustration – The Ups and Downs of Writing

  1. Yes, those rejections are very frustrating and discouraging to the new (and relatively new) writer. I’ve often delayed going full bore back into submitting because of it. I’m glad you address this in your post.

  2. Well said! The writer’s life is filled with wonderful moments… I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I must admit, there are those constant challenges that must be met and overcome in order to succeed… Great post!

  3. A life without some see-saws would be pretty boring and I think an authors writing would be yawn boring as well. Bring on the see-saws! (I can say this because I am not a writer Hehe)

  4. There I was writing a tender moment between my protagonist and character in my WIP when I had both, the aha moment, and the crawling in the dirt problem you mentioned. Usually, I get one or the other. Not both at the same time. Sheez!

    Thanks for posting this. It’s nice to know other authors have the same issues I do.

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