How to Survive When Discouragement Slaps You in the Face



Posted in: Writing

sunset-690756_960_720If you’re like I was at the beginning of my career, you have huge dreams.

Maybe you secretly—or not so secretly—want to:

  • Write a book and see it published
  • Make a living doing what you love
  • Communicate your worldview to the widest audience you can

Sadly, the bigger the dream, the greater your frustration when day after day passes without success.

Know what I mean?

How long have you put off your dream?

You can blame it on a lack of time or you can blame it on writer’s block.

But when it comes down to it, you know those aren’t real reasons.

They’re just excuses. And they don’t hold water.

Because you always find the time to do what you really want to do, don’t you?

You don’t miss your favorite TV shows and movies.

You go out with your friends.

You make it to that concert or party.

But when it comes time to sit at the keyboard and accomplish your real dream, fear, discouragement, and insecurity all too often creep in.

Each leads to procrastination, which keeps you from succeeding.

And when you do finally plant yourself in front of the computer monitor, that blankety-blank cursor just sits there daring you to put something, anything on the screen. In staccato time with its exasperating blink, it taunts, “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby, you’re no good. I’m gonna say it again…”

That’s when you say, “No, you don’t have to say it again,” and you quit.

But if you don’t find a way to soldier on, you’re going to have to live with something much more painful:

Wondering what might have been.

There has come a time during the writing of every one of my more than 185 published books—usually while slogging through the marathon of the middle—when I wanted nothing more than to quit.

But I’d never have forgiven myself.

So I’m not letting you quit either.


6 Alternatives to Giving Up

1—Tell your inner critic to take a hike.

You have no idea how good or bad your writing is until you find an expert who’ll tell you the truth. Then force yourself to listen, and don’t be defensive. You’re likely to be bad before you become good, as is true with any new skill.


2—Keep writing.

Yes, writing is a skill. The more time you put into it, the better you’ll get. Study the craft, hone your editorial eye, read great writing to learn what makes it great. Then write! The best remedy for discouragement is action.


3—Avoid being so desperate to be discovered that you’re resistant to input.

For every story you read about an overnight success, there are 100,000 writers who earn their chops the old-fashioned way.


4—Develop a thick skin.

Every piece of published writing is a duet between an editor and a writer, not a solo. No one likes to be edited, but every writer enjoys being published. Lick your wounds in private, then make the changes the editor suggests and watch your sales grow. You don’t have to agree with every change, but you do have to learn to work together.


5—Recognize tightening as an opportunity, not a handicap.

So an editor has chopped your manuscript from 300 pages to 145. Rather than lamenting the loss, welcome the opportunity to write more tight scenes to make it even richer.


6—Keep your eye on the prize.

There’s a reason writing appeals to you. Don’t give up just because you’ve discovered it takes more time and effort than you expected. If it were easy, anyone could do it. The rewards are worth it.

When discouragement attacks, remember your purpose. Remember your passion. Remember the future you’ve dreamed of.

Welcome to the road less traveled.

Will you join me on the journey? Tell me what step you’ll take toward your dream this week.

  • Genevieve Curtis

    For the first time, the stories I have written about all these years with my favorite character have come together in a complete book idea. I’m now writing with the big picture in mind instead of with bits and pieces. This has helped me focus, get more from my character and stay motivated.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Great, Genevieve.

  • Sandee Strunk

    My procrastination this week… “It’s Christmas!”. So the only step I am taking is reading your blog and responding with…”have a blessed season”.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      You too, Sandee.

  • Erendira

    Thanks Jerry. This arrived in my box just in time. My son was recently passed up for a writing contest and I know what the rejection feels like. I think he’s taking it well though; at age ten he tells a good story and has thick skin already. He can sure teach me a great deal. I’ve learned to keep writing despite it all, and to measure my success by how much I’ve accomplished in one or two or three or four stories I’ve revised.

    • Lucy

      Competitions are tough, aren’t they? Always a huge learning experience, and yet it can hurt so much. I can have a lot of sympathy for your son – been there many times.

      • Erendira

        Yes, Lucy. Thanks for your kind encouragement. I appreciate it. My son said he enjoyed the challenge of writing a story and that not everything we do is sure to win. Wise words.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Good thinking, Erendira. All writing is rewriting, isn’t it?

      • Erendira

        Yes, it is. Thanks for this post. It is a good reminder for me about perspective during this process.

  • Beth Rayann Corder

    Got my Merrells laced up and ready for the journey!
    This week I’m dreaming of a productive “word count” in the New Year, finishing your Inspirational Market Course, setting my specific writing goals, scribbling notes and ideas and praying for God’s blessings on the work ahead.

    May God bless you and your families with a special Merry Christmas and shiny New Year complete with “Energizer Bunny” batteries! :-)

    Raising my Hot Cider and Toasting to Writing from the Heart.
    Smiles, BRC

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Merry Christmas, Beth.

  • Rebecca Hricko

    Thanks, Jerry. The next month is going to be crazy for me, as my sister is getting married in January, but I have promised that I will take little bits of time, even when I don’t think I can afford it, and work. I did it today, and I can do it again. I have also promised to turn off my internal naysayer and look for the moments when my writer’s block crumbles and I can write like mad. Easier said than done, but “With God, all things are possible”. Thank you again, and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Rebecca, and the same to you and yours.

  • Ryan Hoffman

    Thanks Jerry. I feel I needed to hear this message and it feels like it was tailored just for me! My biggest problem is procrastination, followed by fear. I never schedule time to write and when I do get the chance to I put it off. I also start a book and maybe never finish it and think that this will never work and then give up so what I’ve been praying for is a little stick to itiv

  • Susan LeDoux

    You are so right! I found offering to write for my church congregation was a great way to meet deadlines, learn I can write when the well is dry, gain humility, and ask help from the Holy Spirit. “Can do” and “must do” are great motivators.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      They sure are, Susan. Thanks.

  • Lois Easley

    Posted on my blog yesterday and today.
    This is great progress–especially 3 days before Christmas!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Good for you, Lois.

  • Ryan Hoffman

    Tanks, Jerry! I needed to hear this! I feel that now that I just need to finally chose an idea and start writing! I am a mystery writer and have a few ideas and plots going around in my head and I have been worrying on the little details, when I should just get the writing started!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      That’s right, Ryan. There’s nothing like just getting to it, is there?

  • Really great reminder, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! What I’m doing this week (besides Christmas), is taking a huge leap that I thought would never come: The first freelancing job I’ve been hired for. It’s small, but I’m such a perfectionist that this really has me on edge. It’s also the first real deadline I’ve ever had, and it’s making me nervous :)
    With discouragement lurking around, this article is really helpful. Thanks, Jerry!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Reagan.

  • Nicole M

    I am gathering funds to hire a professional editor for my short story collection. *gulp*

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Hope you find it a profitable investment, Nicole.

  • Lucy

    Yes. This is so true, and not just of writing but of almost any discipline in life. As a professional musician, I find that these principles apply just as well when I’m playing my instrument. The most important keys – keep at it and don’t be afraid of criticism.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Amen, Lucy.

  • Michael Sayre mikie

    This week I am going back over my 30 page Alaskan Adventure to make it readable and cutting out all the run-on sentences. I can still remember your web liner when you took 700 words and cut the story down to 400 words.But, that does sound easier than it is.

    Thank you for the steps to fight discouragement.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Michael.

  • 4 Season’s Farm

    Thank you for this article. It is encouraging to know I’m not alone in my need for encouragement. I’m writing for me and I’m pouring my heart and soul into my work. Writing is therapy for my soul and I have the hope it will, at some point, be an encouragement to others.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks for your kind comments.

  • georgie

    My unpublished MS The Emerging One World Church is a writing 30 years ago I investigated a lot of time and money. I placed it on the shelf in 1992 and produced & hosted a TV program on a Fox affiliated until five years ago when the Lord in a clear voice with lots of confirmations insisted I pull my book off the shelf and finish. Now I’m in draft 6, polishing, shining it, checking out references, adding simple notes, and oh yeah, taking most of the “that’s” out. I’m amazed how often we use the word “that.”
    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m attaching the cover of my book. I’m totally excited about the
    completion of the book, and the cover.
    Thank you for your encouraging words to us fledging writers

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Congrats on finishing it. Where did you attach the cover? Are you shopping it to publishers?

      • georgie

        When I posted there was a button for photos, but it didn’t post. Hopefully this
        I’m going to self publish. My material & research would be difficult for a publishing company to publish. I have thought & prayed a great deal about this, and determined self publishing is the best way to go for this book. It is a three part series demonstrating Christianity moving towards a One World Church and society culminating in a One World Religion.
        I have a standalone book on The Emerging One World Order to follow.

        • Jerry B Jenkins

          Yes, it came through that time. Why would your stuff be difficult for a publisher? It’s good that you’ve prayed about this, because you’re going to find this a massive undertaking (especially if you think it’s difficult for a traditional publisher). And you don’t want to give it the handicap of ‘appearing’ self-published (it may seem minor, but ‘One-World’ should be hyphenated and only self-published books use the word ‘by’ in front of the author’s name).

          I do wish you all the best with it and will be eager to see how you fare with it.

          • georgie

            My research in the book traces the heresies within the Church back to their origin, and how this is bringing together a world church with the natural outcome of a world religion. BTW I always look forward to constructive criticism. Its healthy, it hones up my writing..

          • Jerry B Jenkins

            Great attitude! Kudos, Georgie. Keep me posted.

  • Thank you, Jerry. My next step is to edit my book, then send it to 10 beta readers.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Intriguing. I’ll be interested to hear how that goes. I’ve never used beta readers. Seems you could tie yourself in knots with all those opinions when you could be shopping it to publishers, but let me know.

      • Hi, Thank you, Jerry. I value your opinion. I have a publisher. They suggested I do the beta readers before I send the manuscript. May you and yours have a Merry Christmas.

        • Jerry B Jenkins

          Wow, before you submit it to them? Seems that should be their job once they’ve seen it. (Maybe they don’t trust their own instincts? :))

          • It is a small publisher. I won the contract at Writer to Writer. Thank you for all you do for us, Jerry. I appreciate it more than you know.

  • Becky Cantrell

    Thank you for reminding me to make the time to write. It seems impossible to squeeze more but I keep having the dream. Who needs sleep? I don’t mind being tired but hate not feeling satisfied.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      I hear you, Becky.

  • Robert Murphy

    Thanks! Looking back, the one that gives me the most trouble is “inner critic”, that’s the one putting up most of the roadblocks.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      And you know who that is, Robert. :)

  • Kim Armstrong

    Thank you for the encouragement. God seems to remind me every day of His presence in my writing life. The road is cluttered with interruptions but I’m pushing through. I hope to share one of my finished manuscripts soon.
    Blessings; Kim

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thanks, Kim.

  • Lamar Ennis

    I take one step forward, then two steps back, Jerry. By that I mean, I write consistently for say three days in a row, then stop for a week or two. Goal: write at the same time every day, for the same amount of time, on the same project, for SIX days in a row. Merry Christmas!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      That’s a good goal, Lamar.

  • Frances Wilson

    Jerry, I thought I slayed the dragon, but my ‘lion in the way’ fear – my own making, keeps appearing even after I submitted my manuscript and discovered I made a minor error. My goals are to recognize tightening as an opportunity, not as an handicap, correct my errors, and keep writing.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      I find errors even after books are published and editors and proofreaders and I have been over it a dozen times. It’s the nature of the beast.

  • #5 When I decide to cut something down so it’s tighter, I won’t lament that I have that much more to add. Instead I will see it as a better piece of work, what we all want.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Great, Anne, and while you’re tightening, you can even cut “down” from the above. :)

  • Tracy

    Excellent advice, Mr. Jenkins. These are the same steps that I took in keeping myself from stopping in writing my book GOD’S BREAKTHROUGH. It took me six years to complete it, but I made it. Now it will be looked over by a book agent/editor. I’m excited! :)

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Great ,Tracy! Keep us posted.

      • Tracy

        I will! :) Thank-you, Mr. Jenkins. I follow you on twitter.

  • Pam Richards Watts

    Gee, if only my inner critic were that musical…mine usually just barks, “Crap, crap, crap!” What a relief to know I’m not the only one….thank you as always for such spot-on, timely encouragement!

    This week’s step forward: my family and I are about to drive 700 miles away from home and daily duties. On the road I have no assignments, no deadlines…just a chance to dig in to some of the many first-rate resources I have that help teach good writers to become better ones.

    Hoping to return home refreshed and newly resolved!

    Thanks so much Jerry. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      There’s nothing like a road trip to put things into perspective, is there, Pam? So learned Dorthy Gale. :)

      And you know who that inner critic is, don’t you? You see her every day in the mirror.

  • Kathleen Thackham

    I really needed this today. This last month or so, has been so busy I have had no time for me, no time for my my writing, no time for my 2016 goals and I got very discouraged, upset and started to lose what was left of my sanity. My family tried to help but it was one thing right after another and the lack of me time reduced me to tears on too many occasions. I have a feeling I am going to have to fight for my time and I am always used to putting everyone before me so thats going to be hard. This year I will have some lessons to learn. So glad to have time to read your blogs again Jerry. I have missed your encouragement. Thank you.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Thank you, Kathleen.

  • kristinemcguire

    Thank you. I find it hopeful to know I’m not alone in these fears. Having real steps to take to overcome the inner critic is very helpful.

  • Jo Helen Godspureloveforyou

    I´m kicking the mean, inner critic out, and inviting the blessed Encourager in (continually)! Thank you for your teaching on how to not quit. :) I´m taking notes on that!

  • Gregor Southard

    Is anybody else having trouble getting their website link on their Disqus profile? It keeps saying “enter a validate url.”

    • Support

      Hey, Gregor! Be sure to add http:// before your website link. Did that fix the problem?