In the last year (and a few months), many writers have posted blogs or articles about how they are feeling discouraged, sometimes too discouraged to write. It can be hard to see the value in writing fiction when the world is burning. Other writers face crises in their personal lives, or struggle with depression. Sometimes it's easy to find reasons not to write, and hard to find reasons why you should.
At our January SCBWI Shop Talk meeting in New Mexico, we discussed this issue. How can you feel motivated to write when times are tough? How can you dedicate time to writing when there are so many other important things to do? How can you keep believing that your writing has value, when you're not getting published?
In the Writer Unboxed post Write a Book, Save the World, Bryn Greenwood quotes people describing the book that saved them. For one it was a book that showed someone surviving the Holocaust, letting the reader know she too might survive her dismal life. Another mentioned the first time he read a book where being sensitive was shown as a good thing. For others it was the first time they saw a representation of someone like themselves
When writing for young readers, you never know what effect your book might have. It may be the novel that helps a child fall in love with reading. It could be the book that inspires them to be better, stronger, kinder. My favorite fan letter came from a young reader who said of The Well of Sacrifice, "It inspired me to never give up, just like Eveningstar."
Our books can show kindness and courage. They can help young readers explore different ways of living. They can act as mirrors and windows.
And they can offer escape. Never underestimate the value of escape. Many readers have gotten through terrible times, such as medical treatments or the loss of a family member, by escaping into books.
What about unpublished books? If you've never sold a manuscript and are losing hope that you might, you might find it that much harder to keep writing. But the books you write can still benefit you. “If you only have to save one person to save humanity, then saving yourself counts,” Bryn says.
Anne Lamott notes that publication won't heal you – “But writing can.”
I am a full-time writer who needs to make an income, and I have deadlines, which means I have to sit down and write even when I don't feel like it. But most of that work is nonfiction educational publishing. I could give up on writing my own novels. Yet I know I feel better when I'm working on a personal project. It feeds my spirit in a way nothing else can.
If you can't write anything else, keep a journal. Not only will it give you a way to share your thoughts, but it will keep you in the habit of writing. When things improve, or when you're feeling stronger, that will make it easier to get back into writing stories.
So please, keep writing. For the world, for yourself. If you need more advice on how to survive the hard times, check out this article on “How to Stay Sane if Trump is Driving You Insane.”
Anne Lamott adds one more tip: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” It's okay to take a break once in a while.
For more thoughts on how to combine your writing and social justice, see my August post on Art and Activism.
Chris Eboch is the author of over 50 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs.
Chris’s writing craft books include Advanced Plotting and You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.
Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.