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This blog was featured on 09/09/2019
An Author’s Life: Riding Out the Bumps in the Road
Written by
She Writes
September 2019
Written by
She Writes
September 2019

This guest post was provided by Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller Jamie Beck, author of The Wonder of Now.

At eight years and fourteen books into my writing career, I’ve finally learned how to weather the ups and downs of an author’s life. Newbies out there—those shiny, happy writers with extreme optimism—probably don’t yet see the pitfalls. The rest of us can recite them as easily as the Pledge of Allegiance: tight deadlines, nasty reviews, a lack of fresh ideas or neat twists on common themes, and envy and impostor syndrome all spring to mind. If you are struggling with any of these, here are some tips for handling the speedbumps without veering off course.


First, don’t panic. When you work alone, it’s easy to believe you’re the only one butting up against a particular wall. Psst—it’s not true. Every author gets tripped up by these issues, so take a breath and have faith that you will work through it.

This brings me to my second suggestion: lean on your friends. If you haven’t made writer friends, join a local or online writing association or group, find like-minded authors on social media, or volunteer to teach a workshop or mentor a new writer. There are as many ways to build a community as there are reasons to do so, and your tribe will raise you up when you are low. Find your tribe and, importantly, always give before you take (my personal “golden rule” for life).


Now, let’s get a little more specific, beginning with deadlines. At one point in my career, I was publishing three-layered, single-title novels per year that ranged from 85,000-100,000 words apiece.

When it became apparent that I couldn’t keep up that pace and keep my family together, I asked my publisher to drop my commitment to two books per year. It was a risk and my income took a hit, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice quality or my family for money.

The lessons here are: know your values, respect your limits, and advocate for yourself. Once you agree to deadlines, don’t procrastinate. Work toward them every single day. Some days that might mean eight hours, others it might mean one. If you sit and think/research/outline/type before you turn on Netflix or surf social media, you will meet your deadline. But sometimes life throws you a curve (a death, an illness, etc.) that makes you unable to hit a deadline. In that case, speak with your agent and editor as soon as possible so that you preserve your options and professional relationships.


Next, let’s talk about reviews. No matter how good your book is, some people won’t like it. Don’t believe me? Check out Goodreads’s 1- to 2-star ratings on classic books like To Kill a Mockingbird (4% of readers), Pride and Prejudice (5% of readers), or last year’s highly acclaimed The Kiss Quotient (8% of readers).

My advice is to avoid reading reviews.

You have no idea who has written it, whether they know anything about writing, or what biases and personal triggers they bring to their reading experience. I occasionally peek at my books’ overall average ratings, but I don’t dig deeper.

A bad review will mess with your head much more than it will “teach” you anything. This is especially true if, prior to publication, you’ve received feedback from a trusted agent and editor (either through your publisher or as an indie). Now, if someone calls a bad review to your attention, shake it off. Or turn it into something valuable, like a lesson in resilience.

When my publisher informed me of a nasty trade review for one of my books, I shared it with my teens at the dinner table with the hope that they would see me persist in the face of something embarrassing and painful. Note: that book is one of my readers’ favorites and went on to final in two respectable writing contests that same year.

Every single review is only the opinion of one reader, so do not sweat any one of them.


Now, let’s assume you’ve published a few books and enjoyed some success, then suddenly you can’t think of a single thing to say—every plot sounds trite, every character a cliché.

Remember that tribe I mentioned earlier?

This is another area where they can help. Brainstorming always helps to percolate ideas. Don’t like to sit still?

  • Long walks enhance creative thought (this is actually proven scientifically).
  • Reading about current events and researching things that interest you can also form the basis for your next book.
  • Eavesdropping sometimes hands you a gift!
  • And finally, taking a break and indulging yourself (a mini-vacation, a hobby, a massage) will restore your creativity well.


Next, let’s discuss the enemy of all writers: comparison. My closest writer friends and I wear a bracelet with the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

In today’s era of social media and self-promotion, it’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself in terms of quantity, quality, income, fame, and networks.

It’s equally easy to feel like a fraud, especially when you read one of your favorite author’s books and then view your own words as utter garbage.

In those moments, remember that every writer’s journey is unique. Some come out of the gate a darling, others write thirty books before they break out. Today’s hot asset may be forgotten tomorrow. Writing is not a competition; it is a calling. We have something to say, and we each have our own way of saying it.

If you stay true to yourself and your voice, you will find an audience. Work to improve with each book, and, as you improve, your audience should grow. And if someone else is topping the charts, that doesn’t mean there is less space for you and your book. Publishing isn’t a zero-sum game, so don’t treat it as one.

Finally, remember that reading is subjective by nature. You will not always be able to understand why book A is getting so much attention when you think book B is much better, so don’t try. In fact, this frustrating element of the business is actually a blessing, because it means that there will always be some people who love what you’ve written even when others do not. Cherish your fans, cheer on your colleagues, and live your dream.

About Jamie

Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than two million copies. She is a two-time Booksellers’ Best Award finalist and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, and critics at KirkusPublishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing novels, she enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family.

Fans can learn more about her at www.jamiebeck.com, which includes a fun extras page with photos, videos, and playlists. She also loves interacting with everyone on Facebook at facebook.com/JamieBeckBooks.

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