Success and your writing routine

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to Episode 2 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 this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be disruptive and how to pre-empt any issues and establish a routine which will stand the test of change.

Success and depression

Firstly, we need to discuss why success can have a negative impact on our lives. A great article by Forbes writer Alice Walton looks at why the most-successful people get depressed. In theory, they have it all, so what do they have to be unhappy about?

She identified six research-backed reasons for it. Some of these definitely apply to the successful writer too, while others are more corporate.

The fact that we perceive successful people unlike us, the regular people, adds up to two of the reasons Alice puts in her article. Successful people may feel detached from their former selves, leaving them with a fractured identity if the success is too sudden, or they can be less resilient because they’ve always had privilege propel them forward. Difficult times will get those people down easier than when their self-made counterparts experience them.

Successful people often work a lot and without taking too many breaks – this doesn’t allow them time to focus on the small things in life which normally bring joy and are natural anti-depressants. The industry culture and competition can also wear a person down to the point of depression, something which is less common in writing circles but still could be an issue depending on how writers see their peers.

Finally, the values of successful people can change, and they might find themselves in an environment they no longer want to be a part of. Which is terrifying, and can happen to anyone. Do any of these apply to your writing career so far? Let me know after this episode.

Avoid the dark side

A lot has been said in the media about the dark side of success. The evidence that succeeding is not just rose petals and prosecco is very obvious when one looks at child musician and actor stars. As these people grow up, they frequently pick up a number of unhelpful or downright damaging behaviors.

Are writers safe from that? Writing is, in its essence, something that requires a lot of practice so children authors who become bestsellers are rare. If you encounter success as an adult are you then safe from its disruptive touch? Children celebrities grow up under pressure and many have a skewed view of their worth because so much importance has been placed on their achievements. Unlike children, however, the pressures successful adults receive are not only external.

Writer Jeff Goins, speaking about his experience with success on his blog, argues that fear of losing what one’s gained and a desire to appease consumers is what sets a person on a dark path ultimately leading to their loss of creative self. When he reached what he thought was his success and he had a chance to ask himself why he was doing it all, the answers surprised him. He was doing it because of three reasons:

  • People expected it and he didn’t want to disappoint them.
  • He felt like this is what he had to do to succeed.
  • He was too afraid of being ignored or irrelevant to try something new.

And for many of us these immediately sound like the wrong reasons. But the key here is writers are often oblivious to their own ways, their own fears and the mental obstacles they set for themselves. It takes courage to stop for a second and evaluate your practice. Jeff Goins managed to avoid a full-scale descent into the dark side of success and I know you can too.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

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.

Change spares no one

If you think perceived success pitfalls are for those of us who are just starting out with our writing careers, you’re wrong. Success, as we established, is a change in circumstances, and change spares no one.

Bestselling author Lorraine Mace faced a new challenge when she was signed on by one of the top-five publishers. It was the launch of her fourth book in a series, and she had gotten used to the marketing strategies of her previous small publishers. Part of her promotion plan was holding a book signing event in a bookshop.

Here is how she describes her initial feelings in Writer’s Magazine: “I was excited about the idea of taking over a book shop for the launch, but it didn’t take long for the doubts to kick in: what if no nobody turned up? […] What do people eat at these things? I asked the bookshop owner, but she only added to my anxiety. […] By the time it was necessary to make a decision about the drinks, I could barely think straight.”

This sounds exactly like the stress and anxiety that comes from new-found responsibility. And then unfortunately for her mental health, a series of things led to a lot of people canceling their attendance, leaving her fearful that all her nightmares would come true. This couldn’t have been easy, but she went through it anyway and ended up having a successful launch with lots of people who hadn’t indicated they were coming.

In the end, it was her willingness to push through no matter what that made her event a success. That attitude is closely linked to adaptability and grit, skills we established in the last episode were crucial to successful writers.

Your rough action plan

So let’s say I’ve convinced you that achieving whatever you perceive as success is not all fizzy drinks and rainbows. What can you do to prepare mentally for the time your hard work pays off? Or what to do if you’re already stressing out about it and kind of lost in your career because you’ve achieved great things but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore?

Well. This won’t come as a surprise – you need to take a deep breath and then a longer moment to evaluate your practice. Why are you writing? What are you writing and for whom? These all have to align with your current goals and aspirations – and if you’re not clear on those, don’t worry, we’ll tackle that issue in episode 4 of this season.

Consider if you have taken too many new responsibilities that are negatively impacting on your previous commitments. Be realistic about your time – you’re a writer and if social media, marketing or other activities keep you from writing, you’re going to become unhappy in no time. Decide what the main things are for you, and don’t neglect them – anything else can be a bonus for when you have some free time.

And last but not least, remember that you’re only human. Don’t get sucked in a fairytale – burnt-out writers stressing about life each day might be interesting to watch in films and series, but in reality, being one is not fun – and not sustainable.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Before I discuss how to set proper goals for a successful writing career, I will look at the other side of the success-failure coin. Next Tuesday, in episode 3, I will talk about how to accept criticism and avoid the mental health traps that rejection and critical feedback inevitably bring. Writers of any kind will encounter this at some point in their practice, be it from agents, editors, clients, readers or even family members and friends. Learning how not to be discouraged is immensely useful both for your writing life but also for your overall mental health too.   

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.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    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 […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 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. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 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. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 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 this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to 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. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to 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.

Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact your writing routine. I’ve asked writers about what they perceive as success and failure and their answers were eye-opening. Listen on to find out why these two seemingly opposing things can affect a writer’s mental health in unexpected ways and how the pandemic has contributed to lowering many writers’ self-esteem.

Success and failure

Maybe you’re listening to this hoping to hear how to be a successful writer, or how to avoid failure. But I can’t tell you that, and beware of anyone who claims they can define this for you and get you there. How writers, and people as a whole, view success and failure is deeply personal. For some, success might be selling a million copies of a book, for others it can be research being noticed by a renowned scholar. It could be writing every day for a period of time, or sharing a piece with loved ones after dinner. I wanted to explore what writers believe success to be, so I asked around a few writing communities.

Most of them put great emphasis on tenacity and determination. Author and blogger Eden Gruger argues what makes a writer successful is their “perseverance, [to be able to] put words on a page even when life is really challenging. Which […] can be a lot of the time.

Others say success is for a writer to not ignore their true self and write because there’s no alternative, because of that compulsive passion within many of us. The answers all circled around the same idea of putting words on a page and focusing on bettering your writing craft always and without excuse. I was interested to find no one mentioned money or fame.

Many writers avoided giving their opinion on what constitutes failure in your writing practice. A few brave ones mentioned that stopping to write renders a writer unsuccessful. Going from their definitions of success, it’s pretty much impossible to fail at being a writer, because if you stop writing for a time, it’s a hiatus, you can go back to it when you’re ready, on the path to success once again. And if you stop forever, you’re not really a failed writer, you’re simply choosing to step away from being one.

A reaction to change

If you are wondering why I’m looking at success and failure together, it’s because they’re two sides of the same coin. And for many creatives, when you put something out in the world, it’s like the flip of a coin – there’s so many variables, it’s hard to predict results.

What is almost certain though, is that if you hit is big, or receive a disappointing response to your work, your resolve to continue working the way you were will be tested. Perceived success and failure brings about change and throws people’s routines off. They’re either celebrating or wallowing in despair. No matter which, they’re not being their most productive selves.

Writers’ desire for things to remain within their control and their comfort zone is not surprising.  A study on people’s resistance to change asked students to abstain from a habit and record their daily experiences for 3 weeks. Most of the students found that challenging in many different ways. Some found they set themselves up for failure by focusing on a big, difficult to reach goal; others self-sabotaged by putting themselves in situations where the cues for their habits were screaming at them and they had to work way harder to resist them; others found “ the actual amount of difficulty that a person encounters when implementing a change could be vastly different from the level of difficulty estimated by others”, meaning the people around you might not understand how difficult it is for you to go through with the change. All these barriers make people resistant to change.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Before I continue with the stories of a couple of fellow writers, I want to plug 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.

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.

Success and failure in the time of a pandemic

Unsurprisingly, when I asked writers about success and failure, there were those who referred to how the pandemic had affected them. It’s hard to imagine what the world was like when one could plan ahead comfortably, and rely on their surroundings to be predictable.

With chaos comes uncertainty, anxiety and inevitably, change. That same change that people fight against for the sake of known comfort. And I’m not judging anyone’s response to the difficulties of current times here, I’m only saying it’s unsurprising many people have slipped into unhelpful habits to cope. I’m one of those people too.

Here’s how Writer Jerry Greif shares his experience of writing and the pandemic: “I am finding that a general environment less engaged, less motivated, less focused is quite prevalent, understandable, right now. It’s reciprocal, I perceive and I contribute to it. Without an author partner […] I languish, doddle and develop more convincing (to me) distractions and excuses. I have two books well on their way developmentally and they currently are proficiently collecting dust. One is on pandemics and Covid for kids. Couldn’t be more appropriate and timely!

To Jerry I want to say that his book on the pandemics will be relevant for years to come so he shouldn’t feel too bad about being distracted by an international health crisis. Now is not the time to be harsh and punish ourselves for diminished productivity. From episode 1 of this season, which focused on self-care, I’ve been advocating for writers to treat themselves with respect and kindness, and take time to rest and replenish their creative energies.

While we’re in the middle of the pandemic, it’s difficult to see the big picture. Writers feel they’ve failed if they haven’t written anything during these turbulent, stressful months. But the truth is, this too will pass. And writers will write again. So be gentle with yourself and take it easy, one day at a time – if you can write, great, put pen to paper, if not – you’re not failing at being a writer, you’re just taking a much needed break to take care of the other parts of your being.

Author and Activist Victoria Noe shared her story to motivate those of us who think the pandemic is doom and gloom. Here’s what she said: “I think the thing that has enabled me to achieve what success I have is a willingness to adapt and learn – to be open to change. This is my fourth career, so I’m used to making big transitions. When all of my speaking engagements for the year were canceled in March, I had to regroup, because that was the major focus of my year. I was not resistant to change or to learning new skills. So success to me is a constant willingness to grow.

So, to sum up, while it is pretty much doom and gloom, there’s always opportunities for those who are prepared to be flexible and to embrace a little bit of discomfort to welcome change. The ability to pivot after a rough time is crucial to develop. Especially after we’ve established the path of a successful writer is one of perseverance and grit.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Overall, success is in the eye of the beholder. Writer Terri Thomas commented that “the basis of mental health and success depends on a persons personal definition of success. If its defined by other people or by the expectations of society, then the person may feel failure and never see their accomplishments as success.

And I fully agree with that. Which is why in the last episode of this season I’m looking at exactly how to manage those external pressures and expectations and how not get discouraged while on the journey of being a writer.

But before that, next Tuesday (15th December), I will teach you how to deal with growth and success, whatever that means to you. It can introduce new stresses and unexpected time black holes in your writing practice, so reestablishing your routine and keeping your focus on the important things is crucial.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter – sign up form available on the right (or bottom if you’re on mobile). Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. As a bonus, all of them feature a cute animal and a book recommendation. So no spam, only cups of writing joy.

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.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    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 […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 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. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 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. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 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 this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to 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. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3: