The writing life is more like a continuous marathon than a slap dash sprint. More than talent, luck, or discipline, a resilient writer needs to develop persistence and endurance. The following 5 traits can help build your resilience.
1. Learn New Things
A published writer from one of my workshops says she loves being a writer because there’s always more to learn. This attitude creates an open mind and invites fresh opportunities for you to keep developing your craft. No matter how much you think you know or don’t know, take a class, listen to a podcast, or go attend an author’s reading. Knowledge and inspiration are always available to you when you are curious and willing to learn.
2. Accept Failure
Anyone successful at anything will admit they experienced failures along the way to success. They just didn’t let it stop them. Small and large failures can be end points or stepping stones. Rejections, criticism, botched projects, and periods of inertia are inevitable in a writer’s life. Build failure into your plan for success and you will be able to pick yourself up more quickly after you trip over those stepping stones.
3. Create Community
Writing can be a lonely vocation so it’s wise to create a community of like-minded loners. Writers’ blogs, forums, and Facebook groups, online and live workshops and writing retreats are a few places to find people. While meeting in person is great, it isn’t necessary with the technology at our fingertips. One of my longest running writing groups has been meeting via Skype for 10 years. What’s most important is to find a handful of people that 1) you can trust 2) will give honest and constructive feedback and 3) will support you through the lows and celebrate you through the highs.
4. Maintain Balance
Though you are a writer all the time, you can’t act like a writer 24/7. Your writing life exists within the context of your human life. Keep it balanced. Exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, spend time with loved ones, play, learn, read, and consider taking up a hobby that has nothing to do with writing. Knitting, painting, sculpture, woodworking, golf, and sailing are some of the writer-hobbies I’ve heard mentioned. These other areas of your life, which at times may feel less important to you than writing, are actually the source of your writing. No matter what imaginary worlds you may be conjuring, the real world provides the foundation for the depth and authenticity of your imagination.
5. Practice Often
I was going to say practice daily but that simply isn’t realistic for many people. Daily practice is the best way to stay limber mentally, emotionally, and physically but if it’s not possible to do this, don’t beat yourself up about it (which is what I spent years doing). Try to find a regular rhythm that works for you, a routine you can maintain for several weeks or months. You may need to experiment a bit. Try getting up early and doing morning pages. Set aside a half hour after the kids go to bed. Take an extra 15 minutes at your lunch break if that’s all you can manage. Reserve a weekday evening or weekend morning that is solely dedicated to writing. Try different approaches until you find something you can live with and commit to it for a minimum of 30 days to establish the habit.
A resilient writer creates habits to support the act of writing. Such dedication to your writing, to your creative self, will build confidence and strength. Ideas will flow. And soon you’ll be running the marathon of a lifetime – the one with no finish line.