Keeping Up When You’re Feeling Down

Up and Down
The title of this blog post came easy. The rest I’ve rewritten at least a dozen times. And that’s pretty much how its been with me lately. It’s all a little twisted. Like I put my shirt on backward or got out on the wrong side of bed.

Not that I’ve done those things. But every time I start to write, the words seem somehow wrong. No sooner do I type, I’m hitting the delete key. I write, rewrite, edit, write some more. Then I scrap the piece and start over.

It’s frustrating, annoying, downright depressing.

Why do I do it?
Sabotage my writing before it has time to sit on the page. This week, it’s due to a large dose of negative feedback.

The first came on Monday from an agent I had queried a while back for my newest work, Charmed By Charlie. “I couldn’t connect to the story as much as I wanted to,” she wrote.

Okay…I get it. Not everyone will like your work. But I had such high hopes for this one. I’ve been offered a contract from a great publisher. How could the agent not see how beautiful, wonderful, special this story is?

She seemed nice when I met her back in June. I really wanted her to be the one.

Bummer.

And then on the heels of this email, I received word the manuscript also failed to final in a contest I entered. What? I was so sure it would do well. I read over the feedback. The judges made statements such as, the goals, motivation and conflict weren’t clear.

But I plotted out the goals, motivation and conflict before I began writing. What went wrong?

Major bummer
Before I knew it, I found myself sliding, slipping, drowning in a sea of self-doubt. How could I write another word of my current manuscript, which is only sixty-six percent complete, with this kind of feedback?

The answer is I couldn’t. I stopped writing, walked straight to the freezer and downed the rest of the vanilla ice-cream left over from my son’s birthday party. Then I gorged myself on cottage cheese and granola bars–two late night snacks that have no business mixing together. And the next day…well, you don’t want to know how I felt the next day. Let’s just say, it wasn’t good. I’m grateful I can work from home.

Getting back in the chair
I started thinking about what drives me to write. From where does the passion come?

I love the feeling of starting a new project–the spark of inspiration, which motivates me to type for hours when I should be sleeping or doing laundry. Or the surge of excitement I feel listening to a favorite song or movie or reading a good book. Or the exhilaration of seeing the sun set or spotting the perfect piece of Lake Erie beach glass.

A favorite shot of beach glass I gathered from Lake Erie with a quote from my upcoming release, Mind Waves.

A favorite shot of beach glass I gathered from Lake Erie with a quote from my upcoming release, Mind Waves.

These are the stuff of creativity. They stir the pot of ideas and keep me moving. They’re a jolt of energy telling me I can take on the world or at least my small piece of it. Nothing’s gonna hold me back.

Until someone throws out a negative comment about something I’ve written, and I come crashing back to earth with a resounding thwack.

It hurts.

And then I calm down
Time brings perspective. I go back and reread the letter from the agent.“I’d definitely be open to seeing something from you in the future,” she wrote. “So please keep in touch and hopefully we can work together on a different project.”

Hmm…she must like my writing to offer to look at new material.

I also take a closer look at the contest feedback. The final question asks for overall commentary. Here are excerpts from the judges:

“The important points being brought up indicate a strong storyline being crafted: a boring boyfriend, disappointment at work, an unpredictable best friend, a hot new co-worker…all these are excellently introduced. I think the story will be very compelling once some pacing issues are addressed and the hero makes his GMC known to the reader.”

“This is a manuscript worth pursuing. The setting is interesting, the characters compelling, and the writing make me want to turn the pages!”

“This is really nearly there. Your voice is good, easy to read and entertaining, and you do banter well. Some very funny lines.”

Okay, so the manuscript needs some work. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great story. Stop listening to the world and listen to your gut. It knows what no one else does.

“This is gonna be a great one,” it says.

Okay, where’s my iPad? Time to get back to work.

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14 Comments

  1. Becky Lower

    You are experiencing the feelings of every writer in your blog, Amanda. Who hasn’t suffered rejection? Who hasn’t wanted to through in the towel at some point? But there’s something drawing us back to the keyboard every time. And that’s what keeps us going.

    • amandauhl

      I know Becky, I really shouldn’t let it derail me. But it’s deflating, especially when you haven’t finished the work being criticized.

  2. Danielle Haas

    Okay, so I have no tips for how to not let rejection keep you down, but I can comisserate :o) It’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be to get all of these, “Thanks, but no thanks!” And the, “I didn’t connect with your writing the way I wanted” line kills me every time. But it sounds like you’ve gotten some amazingly positive feedback! I’m sure your WIP is going to be awesome, but keeping the wine stocked always helps me when I’m feeling blue ?

    • Jena C. Henry

      Amanda, you are so brave to share all this. You know I am cheering you on! And I am always happy to meddle, I mean give feedback.

      • amandauhl

        I will finish the manuscript Jena and I still want you to read the whole thing!

    • amandauhl

      I definitely like the wine idea Danielle! Great coping mechanism. And I hate that line, too:)

  3. Lynn Shirk

    When I read the comments, I interpret them as that is great work, but you still have further to go. They are pushing you to be even better. This is not a bad thing. Just wait and see as this story develops.

    • amandauhl

      Thanks Lynn. I know I will get there. It’s hard to explain why I let the criticism derail me. I guess cause I’m “words of affirmation,” haha

  4. Mary Campisi

    Hi Amanda: Great post and it reminded me of a period of time when editor and agent comments ruled my world…and not in a good way. One editor didn’t connect with it, another connected but not enough, and yet another….on and on it went until I wrote and re-wrote work that I didn’t even recognize as my own. It was an attempt to “fit” into that nebulous “we’ll know it when we see it” I used to hear from editors and agents. For me, the key was gaining the confidence to tell my story my way and shutting down the “noise” of other opinions on what it should look like. (Of course, I continued to study craft, read, ponder, and above all write and re-write.) That made all the difference. It wasn’t easy, but ultimately it freed me to open up and just let the words flow – good luck to you!

    • amandauhl

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Mary. I appreciate words of wisdom from a seasoned pro. Your comment validates something I need to work on — confidence in myself and my work. I need to learn to shut out all the noise or I won’t be able to write anything let alone well.

      • Mary Campisi

        I think shutting down the noise is essential, but it’s also one of the most difficult things to do, especially if the “noise” is coming from a respected source…. I actually wrote a blog about this a while ago because I was experiencing similar issues. For once, I did take my own advice and shut down the noise – it worked wonders! Stay focused and continue on….!!

        • amandauhl

          I’ll have to search for your blog post….or if you have it handy, please post a link.

  5. Anita Kaltenbaugh

    Amanda, everyone has a different opinion, where one may hate a book I love, others couldn’t put it down. Even family members can give opposite views. Charmed by Charlie already placed in a contest how great is that!! Keep writing your story telling is great.

    • amandauhl

      Thanks Anita! Great advice that I’ll do my best to follow! Has your book come out yet? Please make sure to let me know so I can preorder a copy.

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