Striving for Contentment

Would you call yourself a contented writer? Are you happy with your current situation and writing progress?

Or are you a dissatisfied writer, striving to better yourself and always pushing hard toward your goals? It’s something we are faced with all the time, but especially at goal-setting time.

Embrace Opposite Traits

To be honest, if you want to enjoy the writing life–if you want to enjoy the process, and not just the final product–you’ll have to find a way to embrace both contentment and the urge to grow and  improve. Why? Because BOTH traits are important to your well-being as a writer and directly influence your career.

At Peace with Writing

First, you need to be grateful for what you’ve learned as a writer. If you’re a student, or you’ve been writing on your own for several months or years, take a look at your earliest stories and articles. You’ll groan, or maybe grin, at what you considered great writing back then. You’ll see how much you’ve learned about the craft of writing as well as the business of publishing. You can be grateful that your skills aren’t what they used to be!

Giving yourself credit for how far you’ve come is important in keeping your spirits up. We melancholy writers are too quick to get down on ourselves, our abilities, our ideas, and our publishing record. This critical mind of ours (so very valuable during the editing phase) can also be our greatest enemy if we don’t “think about what we’re thinking about.”

It’s probably true that you aren’t where you want to be as a writer (I’m not either!), but be thankful that you’re not back at the very beginning. Take note of your progress with writing skills, marketing skills, how deeply you read, your new blog, and how your lessons are improving. This is being content as a writer. “Whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) It will allow you to enjoy the writing process.

[Caution: don't confuse being content with being complacent.  A complacent attitude says, "I've arrived. You can't teach me anything. I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I can coast from now on."  A complacent writer stops reading and studying and working at his craft the minute he emails his final lesson or makes his first big sale. Complacency keeps you stuck in one spot--and eventually you start sliding backwards.]

Striving to Grow

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the desire to mature in your writing, and the inner gumption to press forward and make it happen. It’s enjoying your progress while at the same time moving forward to learn even more.

It’s being consistent in your learning curve. (By consistency, I mean devoting a certain amount of time almost daily to your writing growth. Maybe it’s thirty minutes of reading writers’ blogs or writing magazines. Maybe it’s studying a good writing craft book or taking an online class or webinar.)

Juggling Act

Like so many things in life, you have to find the balance here. You want to have enough “drive” to make steady progress in your career–but not end up “driven.” Trust me on this–”driven” is no fun. It comes with ulcers and headaches. On the other hand, you want to enjoy your writing life, and that means learning to be content in whatever stage you’re in. BUT you don’t want to be so content that you become complacent.

It sounds confusing, but it’s not really. Being happy with your writing while striving to learn and write better is akin to being in the zone for me. Slipping out of that zone, on either side, brings doubts and pressure. Pay attention to how you feel about your writing. Make course corrections, if necessary, to remain a happy writer.

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2 Responses to Striving for Contentment

  1. Suzanne says:

    Hi, Kristi,

    I know exactly what you mean by this balance. I find that it’s fun to continually study and read and learn all I can about writing. But it’s also nice to look back at where I started and see how far I’ve come. When I see how I’ve grown, I realize that while my writing can still improve, I’m more confident now that I CAN and will become a better writer with each passing year.

    All the best in 2016,

    Suzanne

    • kwpadmin says:

      Suzanne, I totally agree. It IS fun to study and learn. In fact, I have to watch it that I don’t overly focus on learning (taking online classes, ordering writing books) and forget that I’m also suppose to be APPLYING it to my writing. That’s where the rubber really meets the road, as you know. :-) All the best to YOU too in 2016!

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