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Staying Positive Through Hard Times

Publishing a book often becomes an emotional experience, no matter your personality or intention. Perhaps you initially claimed that you would be happy just to see your name in print, regardless of how well the book sells. Or, for you, positive reviews and accolades might take priority over sales figures. If you’re entrepreneurial, you might even insist on treating your book like a product, not art, to make it a success. All attempts to achieve emotional distance are valid but all crack at some point when exposed to reality. This is because, when cast into the midst of a creative project, most writers start to care about the outcome, even when they convince themselves otherwise.

Whether it’s your cover, reviews or sales that trigger angst, getting emotionally invested is inevitable. After all, writing a book takes time and energy. It becomes an exercise in self-reflection even when you don’t mean for that to happen. Hence, your books must be perceived as perfect and sell in socially-acceptable numbers. We don’t say these things, but we think them because they end up linked to how we see ourselves. The slightest criticism becomes an attack on us. A slight on our personality.

Perfection, of course, is not only subjective but also temporary, so our books do get attacked and this negatively affects our happiness. Eventually, we all have a bad day – ruined by a one-star review, a drop in sales or criticism about an aging book cover. In this industry, most of us don’t see constant success. Those who manage to stay emotionally bright while working unseen in the dark aren’t impervious either. They are just more equipped to deal with hardship and, as a result, are far more likely to endure the night and experience more sunrises. If negativity regularly tempts you to give up on your author dream then read on for some actionable strategies you can practice to stay positive during hard times.

Find Positivity

Social media detoxes are fashionable nowadays because society has realised that too much screen time can negatively alter how we think. We compare our mundane lives to the carefully edited highlight reels we see on Instagram. Add to that all the doomscrolling through scandals and the public fury of Twitter’s cancel culture and you can accidently mix a cocktail of mood-ruining brain chemicals that causes extensive damage. So addictive is this cocktail that it sucks you into the cycle of tribalism and humble-brag posts until you become an active participant, inclined to spread that toxicity both in your real and virtual actions.

Authors are no more resistant to this behaviour than the average person. Only instead of envying someone’s abs (which don’t look that defined in real life), we compare our publishing profit to their turnover on Book Report, or we lust over their number of reviews. We lose sight of our positivity because we’re blinded by competition, bitterness and conflicting information. Given peace and emotional distance, you will re-encounter the joy you once found in you writing. Unplugging from websites and real-world communities that harm your mentality will start the process. And intentionally choosing to consume only educational or optimistic content for a while will reverse the tide of negativity. It takes discipline and self-awareness but this strategy can leave you feeling calmer, happier and more fulfilled.

Use Positive Self-Talk

There is no shame in admitting that some moments in life make you frustrated, angry or sad. We feel these emotions because we’re human and, without them, we wouldn’t appreciate the good days. However, problems arise when you dwell on negativity and allow it to control your voice and actions. People do this all the time, making so many defeatist or bitter comments born out of feeling helpless that they become a reflex.

“I can’t do this. I’m just not talented enough!”

“If my stupid boss let me work from home, I could save time commuting and write more!”

Comments like these might feel justified when you’re low, but all they do is let the power of excuses swell in your mind. Each time you utter them, they become truer, if only in your head. They don’t help; they convince you that you’re powerless and lead to self-sabotaging behaviour.

A more constructive approach would be to entertain a new perspective. Instead of obsessing over the talents and advantages of other people – the good bits they want you to see – remember that they omit their struggles, imperfections and insecurities. At the same time, acknowledge that you have advantages and talents that you normally overlook. Knowing that, flip the script and think:

“I am talented enough. I can’t do this yet, but I will with hard work and practice.”

And:

“My job is a blessing that pays for my covers and edits. Without it, my progress wouldn’t be possible.”

The world won’t change but you will see it differently when you start thinking this way. As a result, not only will you stop ruining your own day but you will work with more purpose, confident that you can improve your situation.

Prioritise Systems, Not Results

It’s easy to react badly to things you can’t control, but allowing them to affect your performance will not help. Giving up on your writing session the moment you discover that traditional publishers have an unfair advantage won’t fix the issue. Nor will fretting over paperback delivery delays or the fact that Amazon isn’t pushing your new series. All of these things – while annoying – are uncontrollable, so they should not sabotage your plans and ruin your mood. Yes, sometimes you have to step back and reassess your strategy when your whole author business is trending south, but most publishing setbacks are temporary and self-correct. Your time is better spent focusing on your systems, which you can control, rather than your daily results, which can fluctuate or be temporarily misreported.

To focus your energy in a way that will benefit your business and happiness, start by creating a routine with creation-based targets that you can guarantee to achieve. That could mean setting a daily minimum wordcount or creating a certain number of ad campaigns each week. As long as you don’t allow yourself to get side-tracked or influenced by social media, you will keep making progress and will feel more satisfied knowing that you are doing everything in your power to achieve whatever is most important to you.

Take Proper Breaks

The human brain’s ability to sustain concentration is limited. Work too hard for too long on a creative project and you will inevitably experience brain fog, fatigue, irritation and physical health issues. Do that for months and the process can end in full-blown burnout, whereby you become totally unable to work. People talk about this type of long-term, creeping fatigue all the time. How it affects their happiness and motivation. How self-care can stave it off to ensure a longer career. Indeed, taking weekends or even lowering your workload for certain weeks of the year can help by allowing you to clear your head, decompress and return to your work with a rejuvenated mind.

What many authors forget to address, however, is the bad nuts-and-bolts habits that cause micro-blips in their energy and mindset every day. For example, you might switch off on weekends or take a Christmas vacation to recharge but do you set office hours on work weeks and break for a proper lunch? For most authors, the answer is no. They half-work, half-procrastinate all hours of the day and night, feeling frazzled and never able to pinpoint exactly how much time they have truly spend working.

This lethargy and discontent, however, could be avoided if you set hours and worked when you were meant to work then took real breaks. Not the kind where you sit elsewhere and check emails on your phone. The kind where you unplug and walk in the fresh air, if only for ten minutes. Police your breaks just as you would a writing sprint, and you will feel the full rejuvenating effects. You’ll get more done and feel happier, no longer hindered by doubts about whether you have really been working. This, in turn, will add to your sense of satisfaction and allow you to let go when you should be enjoying your time away from publishing.

Admittedly, talking about staying positive is easier than doing it when you’re in a creative slump or haemorrhaging money, but it’s helpful to remember that being an author is a dream job. It’s like being an athlete, an astronaut or a YouTuber – the kind of job school kids daydream about getting one day. There are far easier ways to make money and impress strangers, but this one is meant to be fun. Just by doing it, you’re living out the dreams of millions who will never publish anything. So enjoy yourself and be grateful that you understand the difficulties of living out your dream career – most people will never experience such a luxury.

Daniel Parsons

Daniel Parsons

Dan Parsons is the bestselling author of multiple series. His Creative Business books for authors and other entrepreneurs contains several international bestsellers. Meanwhile, his fantasy and horror series, published under Daniel Parsons, have topped charts around the world and been used to promote a major Hollywood movie. For more information on writing, networking, and building your creative business, check out all of Dan’s non-fiction books here.