It sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? “Stages”. Yet, lurking in places that authors gather like abandoned bookstores and Tumblr, I’ve noticed three common struggles that absolutely devastate authors.

And here they are.

 

STAGE ONE:

Self-doubt.

Am I good enough? My writing is so childish. But that author was famous when they were only twelve. Why can’t I be like them? Nobody will ever like my work.

It’s the same paranoia that drives all authors and artists, believing that their work is mediocre in comparison to the work of their contemporaries.

HOW TO DEFEAT IT:

This never truly goes away. But there’s a couple steps you can take to break out of this vicious cycle. You can stop playing the comparison game and start making your worldview narrower. Stop  putting your achievements on the grand scale of BUT THEY DID IT SO MUCH BETTER WHEN THEY WERE ONLY -BLANK- YEARS OLD! Want to know something? Sure, some people are born with genius. Mozart composed entire works while he was still losing his baby teeth. But you’re employing something here called confirmation bias. You forget all other hardworking composers who cried tears of blood and didn’t create their magnum opus until they were near the end of their lifetime. Work hard, and you too can become just like Laura Ingalls Wilder, who didn’t write her famous Little House on the Prairie series until she was already in her 60s.

 

STAGE TWO:

Writer’s Block. (Or just a period of low creativity or mental sluggishness)

I can’t think of how this story ends. I can’t find the flow of the story again. It just doesn’t feel right. Nothing I create feels right. How am I supposed to go on when everything feels like it’s been done already?

Writer’s block is the nightmare of every author. We worry that we’ve hit the final wall, the end of our writing careers. We have that nagging thought in the back of our minds that our lives are over because of it, that we can’t go on due to this lack of expressing ourselves, of having the characters take control.

HOW TO DEFEAT IT:

Step away from it all. Take up something else. You’ve forgotten why you love writing so much, worrying so much about the minutiae that you’ve lost yourself amongst the fragile structure of your lovely story. Take a walk. Find how much you miss writing. Talk to your characters. Talk to loved ones or hold your favorite pets. Read your favorite authors, falling in love with their work just like you did as an imaginative, un-stressed child. Remember to love yourself, and you’ll learn to love your writing again too.

 

STAGE THREE:

Where’s my publishing house? Where’s my three-book-deal? Why isn’t the literary world noticing me yet?

This is the stage where so many authors flounder. It’s like they’re sailing a ship. But they built this ship while they were still on land. They found the cloth for the sails, the crew, and the perfect location. They’ve written that they’re seeking a captain and taught themselves how to become the perfect navigator, how to create entire journeys using only the stars. And they’re all ready to sail, but the captain isn’t there yet. They put out an advertisement for a good captain, but nobody’s bit the proverbial biscuit just yet. They wonder whether they should just take the captain job’s themselves and head out onto the high seas. But there are pirates and they just don’t know how to go about this. All these other sailors have their captains, and they’re already coming back from their destinations with plundered gold and wondrous seafaring tales.

NOW, I got taken away. The pirates on the sea are the vanity publishers, people trying to scam you away from your book. They want to take your money and give you tons of pathetic fees for flying you to sketchy destinations to take “author photos”. They’re lying to you. If they aren’t a legitimate publishing house or agent, run in the other direction. They aren’t publishers. They’re pirates.

Your captain is the “trad-route”. It’s the traditional publishing house or literary agent. It’s the seasoned, war-in-their-eyes professional who’s navigated these seas a thousand times. Some people find their captain on the first try, others just choose to be their own captain.

To choose your own captain is a metaphor for self-publication. The final route is just going ahead and publishing your work yourself. Now, depending on how studious you’ve been, you either know exactly what you’re doing while you’re navigating the Oceans of Writerdom, or you got shipwrecked before you’ve even left port. Maybe you feel like you’re a tiny raft, lost in the Bermuda Triangle of marketing, editing, and endless emails.

 

HOW TO DEFEAT IT:

Pick a route and go for it. Go for the traditional route and never lose hope. Know that for every J.K. Rowling, there’s someone who took seventy rejection letters before they even published a single poem.

If you self-publish, know that you’re valid. You’re new at this captain thing, but YOU ARE THE CAPTAIN NOW. You will have to do everything in making the best book you can, publishing the best work you can, editing, marketing, and producing. And you’ll have various levels of success, mostly based on how much work you put into it. Never give up.

And always, ALWAYS avoid the pirates. Unless you decide to engage in a legal high-stakes battle with cannonballs and broadsides firing. In which case, go ahead.

You are the captain, after all.

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