Writers and Disappointment

[Note: this post is written to accompany CC’s and my podcast on how writers can deal with disappointment. There’s great ideas there, too. Have a listen!]

Writing a book makes us vulnerable to a wide range of emotions, not unlike falling in love. There’s the same highs of accomplishment, passion, and excitement, but there’s also the lows, and there’s no low like disappointment, especially when our books don’t move the world like we think they should. Disappointment can be crushing if we let it.

For me, I’ve learned I must prepare for disappointment before I start writing a book, not when I publish it. The hardest challenge is managing my expectations. Every act creating the next Great American Novel can be a positive one, but believing that everyone will love my GAN is not realistic. I focus on what I can change, do my best along the way, and savor “the job well done” feeling when I click “Publish”. If the book is an amazing success, then that gravy’s on top of everything else.

I try not to fall into the trap of “sales=success”. Otherwise, I will believe that one thing, and one thing only, will make me happy about my book. If my book fails to sell a million copies, that’s not the worst thing in the world, and having that “million copies” expectation to begin with is ridiculous. Honestly, I’m setting myself up for failure if I let myself believe sales matter.

And disappointment is that it’s not always a bad thing. It’s a great tool for introspection, in fact. What did I do right when I wrote, edited and published my book (probably more than I think)? What lessons can I learn from my disappointment? And how can I use these feelings and lessons to better my writing and improve my craft?

I agree that this is simplistic, but gosh darn it, overthinking about my writing got me disappointed in the first place. If you see yourself here, then listen to Grampa: slow down, enjoy the moment, and be easy on yourself. You got this far, so you’re doing a lot of things right. Keep going and keep learning to do better next time!

These folks did a lot better job than me:

One thought on “Writers and Disappointment

  1. I’m always disappointed when what’s in my mind poorly translates to the words on paper. But like you said, thinking about what’s beyond our control is unproductive, and doing our best on what we can control is the way to go. Thanks for this post!

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