The Courage to Keep On Writing

Writers live interesting lives. We toil in solitude, sometimes for weeks on end, churning out words, perfecting our prose, and trying our darnedest to persevere in the face of rejection (after rejection, after rejection…) in pursuit of publication. Our lives can sometimes seem like endless stretches of self-doubt and emotional struggle, punctuated by short-lived – but euphorically high – moments of triumph. Sometimes, it can be hard to slog through those long stretches; when you’re not getting any positive feedback or signs of encouragement, how do you find the courage to keep going?

Personally, I always look for the answer in a book. When I start to feel low or panicky, when I’m faced with a daunting task or a looming deadline, when I get a bad critique or rejection letter, I’ll turn to that shelf mounted just above my desk, the one that’s loaded with books I find to be particularly inspiring. And I crack the spine and turn the pages until I’m feeling good again.

The crazy thing is, it works every time.

Here are just a few of the books that never fail to pick me up when I’m feeling down:

  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. This might be a considered a classic by writers and creators everywhere. It’s a quick read by Stephen Pressfield, and focuses on methods writers (and all artists) can use to fight back against all those nasty negatives that prevent you from creating your best work – forces Pressfield refers to as “resistance.”
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. This is a new addition to my shelf. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, released this self-help guide in September, which is structured very similarly to The War of Art. Written like a letter from your own personal writing coach, Gilbert draws on her own experiences – both as struggling rejected writer and wildly successful celebrity — and whittles creativity down to its essential elements, which is basically: showing up, doing the work, and not allowing your fear to make any decisions for you. (For an abbreviated version, you can also check out her TED talk.)
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “That sounds awfully rigid and business-oriented.” But my favorite part of this best-selling book is where I define my core values, goals, and personal mission statement. I wrote these years ago, and whenever I need to remind myself of what it is I want from life, I read through them and feel reenergized. This is also a handy method for determining what deserves priority and attention in my life, and what merely serves as a distraction from what’s most important to me: namely, my writing.
  • Old Favorites. Reading my all-time favorite books in this genre remind me of why I embarked on this journey in the first place. Some of mine include:
    • The Queen of Babble series, by Meg Cabot
    • Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie
    • Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin
    • Basically anything by Kristan Higgins (who, coincidentally, will be our guest at the November literacy event!)

Hopefully, you found something worthwhile on this list that might help you in your hour of personal writing-related despair. What about you? What are some of your favorite books that inspire you to keep on writing?

3 thoughts on “The Courage to Keep On Writing

  1. I love The War of Art and I’m reading Big Magic right now. Another book that always inspires me is The Artists Way. Julia Cameron has a great method for dealing with negativity and blocks and being more creative.

  2. I’m with you, Kristin and Janet. Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC does a good job getting us writers back on the right path. And so far Rebecca Crowley’s contemporary romance, STRIKER’S CHANCE, which I was lucky enough to read on my Ireland trip, showed me that romance didn’t just have to do with calisthenics or the female’s POV. Her books appear to be primers on intimacy in relationship. Crowley reminded me of the direction I’d like to take my writing.

    Click on the following links to see my five-star reviews of these inspiring works:

    BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert

    THE STRIKER’S CHANCE by Rebecca Crowley

    Susan Burns (S.B.K. Burns)

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