Posted on March 6, 2012 by Dan Blank
It can be lonely to be a writer. It is often a second identity, where even your friends and family define you by your family role (mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter) or what pays the bills (your day job), and not by your passion – your writing.
You sneak away writing sentences in stolen moments, as a squirrel stores away nuts for the winter. Your year is filled with resolutions to get back on track, to find a system that works to really finish your book, to really grow your audience.
I love social media, but do notice that my feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere are filled with mostly positive affirmations. We update Facebook to tell people we just ran 4 miles, not that we just at an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, then ate half a bag of potato chips. And then had a slice of cold pizza.
We don’t talk openly about things many writers face on a daily basis: the loneliness and depression of developing your craft and of building your audience.
Writing can be a lonely endeavor, with many ups and downs that those around you never see. You are creating something from nothing. You are trying desperately for an idea to be born, to grow, to spread. I often look at writers as entrepreneurs because of this. Most businesses fail. Most writers’ work goes unpublished, or worse yet: unread.
I work with writers to help them build and engage an audience for their work – to grow their author platform. Now, when you hear about a successful writer – you often imagine that they started with more than you did. What you don’t see in their story is the long lonely months and years of effort that went unrewarded. My favorite website is Mixergy.com, where Andrew Warner interviews successful entrepreneurs, telling their stories of how they went from a lonely idea to really having an impact in the world (and often earning millions of dollars along the way.) Here is a 30 second story that is not unusual, about how one interviewee’s wife’s blog went from nothing to something. Does the first part of this story sound familiar?
This applies to most creative endeavors, and certainly to many writers. No, we don’t talk about it often, but it’s there. I like how Rand talked about the need to start with a small team – just a few people around you, supporting your work. I spoke about the importance of building a team in another blog post about how writers can learn from Weight Watchers. That we often need support and accountability in order to reach our goals.
A profile of author John Locke makes a similar point. He wrote his first novel only three years ago, and has since sold more than 1 million ebooks on Amazon. Even after he went through the process of writing and publishing his book, it was a lonely road:
“It took nine months before anyone bought anything. It wasn’t a matter of price point but word of mouth, people telling others, one sale at a time — just like insurance.”
How many would-be successful writers would have thrown in the towel at month 3 or month 8? Just moments before they would have found their audience and had their dreams become reality?
I recently came across some blog posts from the startup world about how to help reduce depression & loneliness when developing something new. I think writers may find lots of helpful tips here, things such as:
- Get an advisor/mentor.
- Be open with those around you about your challenges, not just your successes.
- Create rituals.
- Create stability in other parts of your life.
- Connect with colleagues.
- Break large projects down into smaller milestones.
- Know when to step away and recharge your batteries.
- Focus on one thing at a time.
Here are the articles, be sure to check out the comments in those posts as well for other stories/tips:
- Obliterate Startup Depression
- Depression, Burn Out and Writing Code
- Fighting micro-burn-out
- Sad, Tired, and Alone: My Ongoing Battle With Startup Depression
I work with a lot of writers via online classes, workshops, one-on-one consulting, and a mastermind group. I have found that these types of things often provide the structure and support to help folks stay on track in developing their craft and grow their audience. They provide not just a framework, but a team that works with you. This is not a pitch for my services, but just an observation about it’s value. LOTS of folks offer classes, groups, workshops, and events that may help you in your writing career. Find a partner that speaks to you, aligns to your purpose and goals, and take that step to reach out.
And of course, if there is any way I can be of assitance, just let me know:
973-981-8882 | firstname.lastname@example.org | @DanBlank