Strategies for Writers to Maintain a Positive Attitude When Their Work Isn’t Getting Published or Read

As writers, we put so much effort into our work. We pour our heart and soul into the words that we write, and sometimes we’re left wondering if it’s worth it.

Our words don’t get published. When they do, it can feel like no one bothers reading them.

It’s easy to feel discouraged and lose self-confidence. But there are some tactics we can try to maintain positivity so we can keep doing the work we love.

Below are four approaches for keeping a positive attitude and staying confident even when you feel like you have little writing success.

Person slumped over their laptop
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Remember, you’re in the company of heroes.

One way to stay positive is to remind yourself that you’re not alone.

Did you know publishers rejected Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, 30 times?

For six years, author Celeste Ng documented her rejections in what she called her “Spreadsheet of Shame” before selling her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You. That book became a New York Times bestseller.

Maybe you feel like no one’s reading what you publish. Look around, and you’ll quickly find other writers complaining online about low reads and views of their stories.

It’s easy to feel discouraged when hearing about bestsellers and people making thousands off of writing online. But for all those tales, there are many of us experiencing the same disappointments as you.

Being a writer means being in a company of heroes who do the work day after day and don’t always get the recognition we deserve. Remembering that can help you feel better about any struggles you’re facing.

Fall in love again

Another way to keep your confidence is to write for yourself. Spend time writing what you enjoy instead of what you think will sell or others will read.

The earliest stories I remember writing were entertainment for me. It wasn’t until much later in life that I developed the idea of getting published and earning money from writing.

Adult goals can pollute the joy of writing.

If you’re feeling down or lacking confidence, try writing something that’s fun for you to create. Or, think of something you’d like to read and write it.

There’s an oft-cited Toni Morrison quote that goes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Keeping that guidance front-of-mind can help us get over the doldrums we sometimes experience in our writing. Fall in love again with writing by writing what you want to create and read.

Refocus on your ‘why.’

Similarly, one way to keep a positive attitude is to write about why you write.

Sometimes, when I’m in the dumps, I take out my journal and start free-flow writing about why I write. Sure, it often begins as a series of complaints, sentences that start with something like, “Why do I even bother…”

But before long, the complaining turns into reminding myself why I write in the first place. It’s not so I can score a book deal and become famous. So why do I get so upset when those things don’t happen?

When we lack positivity about our work, we may need to refocus on why we write. And an effective way to remind ourselves about our “why” is to write it out.

Let the negativity flow. Get it all out there in your journal or on the blank screen. 

Soon, you’ll start remembering why you write. And there’s a solid chance that why is different from why you lack confidence.

Screw the gatekeepers

OK, but what if you try all of the above and still can’t escape the negativity of rejection? Then follow this advice: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em.”

Today, thousands of writers around the world self-publish to millions of readers. Some authors release books on sites like Wattpad and Scribd. In addition, they are self-publishing books on online retail sites such as Amazon and Kobo.

There’s an almost limitless number of options for self-publishing. Get creative.

Elle Griffin is serializing her debut novel on Substack, and John McCrae earns about $6,000 per month publishing on Patreon under the pen name Wildbow.

You can even use Twitter to publish your story. That’s how the story behind the film “Zola” got its start.

It’s never been easier to self-publish. Attracting an audience, though, isn’t easy. You’ll likely have to put in a lot of effort promoting and marketing your work.

Still, if you’re sick and tired of rejection, say, “Screw the gatekeeper.” Instead, take your own route to publish.

Keep writing because we’re reading.

Rejection hurts. Putting time into a story no one reads is maddening.

But we writers can’t dwell on the negativity if we’re going to keep writing. And we need to keep at it because it’s what we love to do and because one thing about our writing that’s for certain is that it won’t exist if we don’t create it.

So, here are ways I maintain positivity and self-confidence, which I think can work for you, too:

  • Remember you’re not alone
  • Fall in love with writing again
  • Refocus on why you write
  • If all else fails, self-publish

Practice these tactics when you’re frustrated and feeling low. They’ll help keep you writing, which is what we, and you, need you to do.

This article originally appeared on Medium.