How the Ups and Downs of Writing Can Improve Your Craft

by | Apr 8, 2014 | Craft | 11 comments

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”  

– Ernest Hemingway

As a writer, you know all about the highs and lows.

When the words spill off your fingertips as quickly as you can type them, when you’re full of confidence and certain of impending success – it’s probably safe to say you’re experiencing a high. These highs can last weeks, months or, sadly, minutes.

They’re often followed by days clouded in panic and uncertainty. Suddenly, the challenge is too overwhelming. You doubt the same scenes you wrote so proudly only yesterday. Your word flow slows or dries up altogether, and you begin to question what the point of it all is.

Writers experience both highs and lows

Author Jodi Hedlund describes her descent into a low in a guest post on literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog:

“In a matter of a few seconds, I plummeted off the high peak I’d been standing upon. And I crash-landed into a deep cavern. Darkness swept away the bright joy I’d felt only moments earlier… My experience is fairly typical, isn’t it? We’ve all had those really high moments where we’re feeling on top of the world. Then something happens that topples us into the pit.”

I empathize with Jodi; a positive review or an acceptance letter can catapult me into the euphoric state of a high. The future is positive! My writing makes perfect sense! I believe! Yet a rejection letter can just as quickly strip away that confidence, plunging me into a dark state of doubt and instability.

This is a natural part of any writer’s life… and here’s the secret: The lows are just as important as the highs. The two moods complement one another, and you can exploit each of them to improve your writing and further your career. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it.)Here’s how.

Your highs are…

  • Productive: they enable you to increase your word count and make progress on your project. This is a time to write freely and without judgment.

  • Social: Use this confident period to make connections. Submit articles for publication or propose a guest post to a well-known blog site. You’ll represent yourself best when you believe in your writing.

  • Fun: Enjoy the process of writing and your positive state of mind. Allow yourself to dream. Dreams encourage ambition.

Your lows…

  • Bring you down to earth: Don’t panic – the lows are your leveler, your dose of reality. Question what you’ve written: how can you improve it? Be your best critic.

  • Enable you to be realistic: Use these periods to identify your challenges. How can you overcome them? Set some goals and make a plan.

  • Make you determined: When you’re at rock bottom, there’s only one direction available to you – upward. Identify what’s making you feel down and do something about it.

Use your highs and lows to your advantage

If you understand the two moods, you have no reason to fear them. Instead, recognize their importance in furthering your career and improving your craft.

If you’re on a constant high, you may have an overinflated opinion of your work. On the other hand, if all you experience are the lows, where’s the pleasure? The secret is to have a healthy mix of both and to adjust your strategy accordingly.

How do you use your highs and lows in your writing?