An Author’s Angst: The Magical, Missing Word

miserable depressed author despair-513529_1280There’s a word out there, I can’t think of what it is. It’s not necessarily narcissism, but it has a similar yet less abrasive connotation. It’s a word authors want — need in their lives. It’s a word that we long to hear or see. But far be it from me to remember what that word was! I even asked my editor and she drew a blank. So you’re asking, what the heck is she on about?

As authors, we have a pretty big place in our psyche that longs for feedback, praise, or even criticism. People might label that as narcissism, but what we experience I think is different. If we don’t get that “candy,” we start to suffer withdrawal. It’s a funky addiction I never gave any thought to until recently. Having published over a dozen novels, I’ve always enjoyed hearing from readers. Yes, they loved the book! Or, yeah, it was pretty good. Even if they hated it, I appreciated the feedback.

But what happens when that precious lifeline to the outside world dries up? Most writers are admittedly on the reclusive side. We like to be alone with our characters and dream up fantastic stories that we hope readers will devour. Once that work is out there for the world to see, we want to hear what people think. This is what gives us reassurance to carry on with our chosen profession.

Without that vital feedback, we feel utterly lost. And right now, that’s where I’m at in my journey. I want to write, I need to write, but I feel no one wants to read it anymore. It’s a horrible, floundering feeling that eats away at your gut.

I’ve tried taking a break — which is easy when you have a large farm to run. That hasn’t helped. Social media hasn’t been much better. I do my best to interface with my fans, and yet am still falling short. Perhaps I’m doing too many things to properly focus and get more books published. I don’t know.

So how about we start a discussion on this? Have you ever experienced it? If so, how did you get out of the “funk” that seemed impossible to escape? Right now I’m open for suggestions. I hate this feeling and know I have to get out of it. It’s not writer’s block — the words and characters are there, but they’re not pestering me like they normally do. Instead, they’re quietly watching from the edge of my brain to see if I’ll give them some attention. I can’t be the only one who has felt like this. There has to be a way out. Help?

Author: K. Rowe

K. Rowe is an experienced and prolific multi-genre author. She draws from over twenty years of active Air Force service. Kathy lives in eastern Kentucky with her husband and a zoo of farm animals. Among her many duties she finds time to offer services as a publishing consultant for new authors. Learn more about Kathy from Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

30 thoughts on “An Author’s Angst: The Magical, Missing Word”

  1. OK – it’s not validation after all. I see now. Validation is what I need, not what you need. 🙂

    I wonder if you need to write about something else? If your characters and plot aren’t pestering you, perhaps you are tired of them? Is this a new book in an established series? Or a work that you’re finding tricky?

    I’d say writing something completely different might get the juices flowing again. Poetry? Short fiction? It will all feed into the longer work at some level, at some point. But in the meantime you can con your cowering inner writer that this is something non-threatening and fresh and see if that helps it come up with some joyful work.

    Good luck!

    1. I have 5-6 WIPs going at any one time. So it’s not the story, characters, or any of that. I can easily switch from one story to another to try and keep things fresh. But it’s the feeling like you are doing it for nothing I guess that gets me. It’s no so much about the royalty checks (but who is gonna argue that?!) I think it’s more about the “atta girl!” we get from the occasional review or interaction with fans that makes this worthwhile. And I guess when you don’t get that, you just feel like you wanna curl up in a little ball and quit.

      Over the last week I’ve managed to write a couple thousand words. Maybe they aren’t my best, but I’m going to keep slogging on them until I can hopefully kick this funk.

  2. When my friends and fans stop feeding my ego, I just let my characters do it, lol. With my writing style it’s not hard to do. Like recently one of the characters finds a copy of “Low Earth Orbit” in an archeological dig, which will be the title of my next sequel. Being sarcastic the character explains that the book was not that interesting and “it was probably written by a tardo”.
    It’s all good, I feed my ego and my readers are reassured that another book is on the way.

    1. LOL, never thought to do that! Could be fun.

      One thing I’m trying is to get my fans to help me with characters. I have my former commander (ret USAF Col) who was bugging me to have a character in my military thrillers, so I told him to create one and I’d figure out how to put him in the book. Yeah, that has worked well — so well in fact his character has become quite pivotal in the outcome of the book! Didn’t see that coming! I have a former co-worker that I approached via Facebook and asked if she’d like to work on a couple characters — and she’s delighted to help. All this comes with interaction with people, which I think might be helping. And, I can only hope that when the book (s) are done that they snatch them up and see just how their character evolves and how they play a part in the story.

      Fingers crossed!

  3. It might be, Kathy, that you’re worrying too much about it.

    You’re correct. We like to get responses.

    I have two novels on the market around the world. I always feel delighted and satisfied if someone takes the trouble to get in touch with me and they tell me what they think.

    If they liked what they read I often encourage them to tell me what they liked, and why.

    I am often surprised by what people see in a story that I didn’t.

    – Paul

    1. Nice that you got so many responses from your books.

      I think my problem might also be that I’m so busy that getting those THREE novels published a year is not happening. The last thing I published was March 2016 when I released Servo at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention. Yeah, I sold a fair number of copies, but not like I’d hoped. Considering I’m still considered an unknown (even after 15 novels) selling something was a start. Perhaps I just need to buckle down and get some of those many WIPs off the computer and into the internet…

  4. Kathy, I don’t know what the word is but I sure know the feeling. Most of us write because we have something to offer. We don’t do it solely for ourselves. When our “gifts” aren’t even noticed something happens. It’s not desire for attention. It’s much deeper. It affects our self-image – possibly even our self-worth and sens us into a funk that’s hard to break out of.

  5. Kathy, loved the honesty of your post and resonated with it. I write in a difficult genre, Spiritual Fiction, and just finished a trilogy of novels that has taken me 20 years to complete…and bam, suddenly I was in the void – there was nothing I felt compelled to write about, it was like someone just let all the air out of my tires. Anyway, I’ve decided to do what fields do – which is to lie fallow; perhaps there isn’t another big novel in me – if so, so be it. If not, the urge to write will rise again. This way I come to peace with the creative process. All the best, Mira

    1. I think the hardest thing we do as author is to write those two words: THE END. And then we either cry (done that a few times) or we already have the sequel or another book entirely oozing out of us. Writers, we’re a funny breed. It’s feast or famine for us and our minds.

  6. I experience that feeling most when I lose sight of why I started writing to begin with. I felt absolutely compelled to write my first book. I wasn’t thinking about publication at that time, although I’d had short stories and articles published here and there. I just wanted to write it. Even when it was published (by a small publisher with whom I eventually terminated contracts), I didn’t initially stop to consider how it would feel to have strangers read my story. I know how silly that sounds, but when it started to sell a little, and a few reviews came in, I was suddenly terrified.

    The publisher wanted a second book, but I obsessed over every word of it. I no longer felt as if I were writing for myself, because I felt the pressure of writing for someone or something else. What if it didn’t sell, or people didn’t like it? Even now, after seven novels, I still begin to feel that way if I get caught up in sales and reviews instead of losing myself in the stories.

    All of this to say, I wonder if what you’re experiencing isn’t a “word” so much as a state of being – a self-imposed expectation that’s hurting the writing process. Maybe the pressure to get three books out per year, to sell, get reviews, etc., has taken away the joy of writing. Or, maybe that’s just me. 🙂

    1. I think you’re pretty close to the mark- pressure certainly has a lot to do with it– maybe not so much the pressure of the actual writing, but what surrounds me on a daily basis — the farm. Scatterbrain is probably the best summation of me right now. Too many things going and none of them seemingly going well. I’m fighting to step back and try and let my mind relax and focus so I can get words down. Some days I can do it, other days it’s impossible.

  7. Kathy,
    Indeed, it is hard to put into words, much less “a” word, what you are going through. But I do think that many of us feel your pain, know something of what you are experiencing. Maybe it is a kind of loneliness. But maybe it is also an aspect of solitude. And just maybe you are moving through a shadowed valley of that solitude, so benighted that you cannot really judge if you are moving at all.

    I have no advice to offer but this: Write everything as if it will be the last thing you ever say. Maybe then your writing will become a lamp once more, showing a few yards of the path before you, sufficing to guide you until the sun comes up again to better light your way.

    I wish you all the best!


  8. The doldrums…

    I’ve been adrift for a while now, with little hope in sight. A combination of events contributed to my malaise. After six books and a handful of negative reviews, I began to lose my zeal. Then came Kindle Unlimited, “pages read,” and lost sales. Amazon came down hard on authors reviewing other authors’ books, even if we were bona fide fans. For the most part, social media bombed out. Advertising became more expensive and sites disappeared altogether. Millions of more titles poured on to Amazon, drowning the majority of indie authors in a sea of oblivion.

    So, what do authors do when we’re mentally exhausted? How do we put the wind back in our sails? We remember why we started writing in the first place: Because we love to–because our writing is a gift we’re meant to use, whether it produces the intended results or not.

    That’s where I am today. Not pushing myself to produce one book after another. Not looking for validation from readers or reviewers. Writing for the joy of it again; for the fulfillment it brings me. Paltry advice, but the best I have to offer, Kathy.

    It’s comforting to know that many of us are in the same boat!

    Best wishes,

    1. Oh, we are kindred spirits! Your first paragraph really summed it up. I think you’re right in that so much has changed in the book industry and we Indies are just swallowed up by a flood. I’ve always joked that I was a little fish in an ocean of sharks– can’t be wrong on that one. 2-3 years ago I was making a couple HUNDRED dollars a month on my writing, now, I’m lucky if I make $20.

      Yeah, I need to go back and just write for me– or in some cases, I’m writing stories with characters for friends (one is a “reward” for when he stops smoking). Will they get published? Maybe, but I write because I love it. And I need to get that back into my head. Yes, I write because I love it and I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks (as difficult as that is at my stage of career).

      THANK YOU!

  9. I know what you mean: making a connection with a reader, finding someone in your tribe, your book’s tribe. You’re not just talking into the void.

    The more buried meaning/message there is in your work, the deeper it has to be buried, and the ground above it must have better flowers. So to have a reader bring a shovel, and dig down, and then like it – as some of mine have done – is as much confirmation of the book’s value as it is validation of your abilities as a writer, and the worth of the message.

    Not all writers are looking for that. NOT ALL WRITERS ARE LOOKING FOR THAT. (It seemed necessary to repeat that in all caps.) But I am. The writing is important, and the message – that disabled people are just people, disabled – is a tough one in a world which expects perfection and adherence to perfect-body and healthy-fitness standards few meet.

    That reader-connection is electric, and can recharge your batteries for a week.

    Suggestion: save every word of praise you receive. Put it somewhere you can read through easily when the erratic nature of real-world feedback (affected by everything from snowstorms to elections) fails you. It is legitimate to go read those WORDS, because what caused them were YOUR words, given to the world. Highlight the best parts for a quick skim.

    Let your readers continue to support you – by a method they’d approve if they knew it results in more of the same.

    Just as you might pick up an old favorite book when you need a comforting read, pick up your supporters’ words.

    1. That’s a good idea. Sometimes I’ll go look on Amazon to see if I have any new reviews (usually not) but while I’m there I reread some of the old ones and it makes me feel good that someone took the few minutes out of their day to review a book that might have taken me months or years to complete.

      It’s the little things that count…

  10. I think what you’re going through is perfectly normal for a writer. Even famous and best selling authors experience it from time to time. If you believe that what you are writing is worthwhile, and might help even one person (I am talking about fiction, by the way), then this knowledge makes it possible to eventually pick yourself up and carry on.

  11. Where I come from in the Far North (10 blocks from the 49th parallel) it’s called SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Caused by a lack of Vitamin D. Usually solved with a liberal applicationg of Vitamin W (Which comes in white, red, rose, rye, or scotch).
    I’m fighting it pretty well this year, because I just signed a contract to do a storytelling session at a local elementary school. The enthusiasm of kids is a sure cure.
    Now if I could only sell some books 🙁

  12. Here are four simple words you all need to hear, so please take them to heart my dear fellow writers. Scribble them down on post it notes, or hide them where you may often look: in a sock draw or on your fridge, or someplace like a coat pocket, purse or wallet, or even use as a book marker. Do say or read them out loud! Ready here they come, just what you need, from my heart to yours, read them aloud right now:

  13. I agree with everyone else, we all have the same feeling – wanting a little recognition, or a pat on the back. It’s difficult to keep going not knowing if our effort is worth it. But just remember, someone out there has read your work and loved it. He/she may not have left a review, but that person is your spark. Take a break if you need to, but keep going. If only to keep that spark glowing.

  14. Kathy,
    Your missing the source. The fundamental essence of WHY, why we bother at all with anything. The psychological definitions are irrelevant, the reasons even less significant. Because what you seek to recapture hasn’t left in the first place. It’s just been clouded. Your a retired Master Sergant. Your life is about discipline and structure, your rank made you significant on most all levels of your personal and professional life. You mattered. Your works , and your subconscious knows this, don’t really matter. Had you publish nothing the net result to you is the same. Your lacking the inherent importance of you mattered. I suggest you tap into your discipline , your technical experiences and write a peice of work that matters. That teaches, illustrates or otherwise enlightens those of us in the dark. When you KNOW your audience is walking away with new found data, you mattered. Just like an E 9 matters. This is what makes us (of the military type) get up at the crack of dawn and PT for two hours before most even wake to begin their day. We mattered and we know it. Stick with your roots and I’ll bet you will find that “can do” spirit again. Best of skill.
    P. De Franco
    UT of the fighting SEABEES 1995 -2000

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