For Those Who Write: Three People Who Steal Your Writing Joy

You can pour yourself into what you write and leave a trail of blood, sweat, and tears along the way, only to produce low sales numbers and tepid responses.
on Nov 1, 2019 · 16 comments
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The joy of someone telling you that your writing, your story, moved them or lifted them up during a rough time in their life is something that can’t be matched. The joy of crafting the perfect scene or getting excited over a new plot idea or a hundred other creative sparks that fire in the writer’s mind is an experience that’s hard to quantify.

However, as with any creative endeavor, the roadblocks are many. You can pour yourself into a story and leave a trail of blood, sweat, and tears along the way, only to produce low sales numbers and tepid responses. Art is subjective and you’ll encounter your share of detractors along the way. These people, some with well-intentioned advice, can steal the joy right out of your writing journey. It’s best to prepare yourself for the common offenders beforehand, and ready your tools of recovery.

The Bottom Liner

You’ve met this person, typically it’s an extended family member or a friend of a friend. Right after they ask what you do and in a foolhardy mood you respond, “I’m a writer,” they ask, “You making any money with that?” I don’t fault them for their curiosity. It’s an honest question. After all, everyone has to make a living.

Photo by Eduardo Rosas from Pexels

The problem is, until you’ve tried to make it as a writer, you don’t realize it’s about the long game. Becoming a full-time writer takes a lot of, well, time. Stories of new writers who hit it big with their first novel are the rare exception to the rule. It takes years of reading, falling in love with storytelling, followed by years of writing and learning the craft, followed by years of publishing and slowly building an audience, etc… Like I said, it’s the long game. So, when someone wants to know the “bottom line” on how much money you’re making, as if that’s the only metric to measure the value of a pursuit, it’s a difficult question to answer in a comprehensive way that makes sense in relation to most careers. So, once you fumble through an answer of your paltry earnings, the typical person dismisses your efforts with a response like, “Oh, well, I guess it’s a fun little hobby then, right?” The bottom line often buries artistic dreams.

How do you recover your joy after such an encounter? Know why you write. What are your motivations and expectations? What’s your purpose in writing? If it’s just to make money, The Bottom Liner will be your biggest nightmare. As a Christian writer, grappling through the reasons why you write is the only place to find peace. If you come to the point where after seeking God’s will and much prayer you discover writing is your calling (and this could be a part time calling) then your expectations and motivations don’t have a price tag. It’s about being faithful with your gift, finding joy in pursuing excellence in your art, and leaving the results to God.

Captain Maturity

Once you let it slip in a conversation that you’re a writer, some people might actually seem impressed for half a second. Until they ask, “What kind of books do you write?” If you’re a speculative fiction author, this is usually where things fall apart. Once you start talking about magic, dragons and spaceships, prepare for the Peter Pan Syndrome diagnosis.

Many will see this pursuit as childish or frivolous. At this point, Captain Maturity will often (sometimes even with good intentions to redeem your lost cause) turn into The Bottom Liner and ask, “You making any money with that?” At this point, the conversation has flat lined.

How do you recover your joy after such an encounter? Similar to the previous method, if the Lord has laid on your heart the desire to write these type of stories, His is the only approval you need. Look at the impact of “childish tales” such as The Chronicles of Narnia. I’m sure CS Lewis suffered many a turned up academic nose when he first released them.

The Righteous Writer

Inside the publishing/writing world, The Righteous Writer has a preconceived list of what constitutes “worthy writing.” If the genre or style of your writing falls outside of their list, your books could be dismissed as a waste of time. Speculative fiction is often a target of attack, even within the Christian publishing world where authors like Lewis and Tolkien were pioneers of the category.

A book about riding dragons or discovering the universe in your spaceship might be labeled “fluff” by those who consider books on theology or guides to Christian living to be the only redemptive use of your reading time. Occasionally, the Righteous Writer will allow a brief trek into a fantastic world as long as it abides by their strict guidelines. These usually include overt messages, allegories, or close parallels to Biblical stories.

How do you recover your joy after such an encounter? Hopefully you have a close group of Christian friends and writers that offer constructive spiritual guidance on your writing. When you have the support of Christian friends, it’s easier to laugh off the judgmental types. Our God is a big God. Most genres and styles have their time and place. Just as God has created a wide variety of talents and abilities in the body of Christ, there’s room for a wide variety of books and writing styles to reach a wide variety of readers.

Many of these people types listed above are well meaning people trying to understand why you spend hours in front of your computer writing about dragons and laser guns. Honestly, if I didn’t have the writing bug and I wasn’t such a nerd, I’d probably ask all the same questions.

Finding our joy in writing comes with the understanding of where we find our peace, motivation, and purpose. It’s asking the hard questions of why do we write? Who are we writing for? What expectations do we have for our writing?

When you realize that your desire to write is a God given desire that should be pursued with gusto regardless of the results, it’s a freeing experience. And knowing that your particular style of writing, while frivolous to some and a financially questionable pursuit to others, is valued by God, just as you are valued by God. He created each of us with unique talents and abilities to bless others and communicate His truth.

If I could sum up my thoughts on this matter, it would be this: No matter what people think or say about your writing, it makes no difference to what God has called you to accomplish in this life. If you have a calling to write from God, as cliché as it might sound, you are writing for an audience of One. Revel in that calling, use it to recapture the joy in your writing, and leave all the rest behind.

Author Bio

Paul Regnier is a speculative fiction author perpetually lost in daydreams of spaceships, magic, and the supernatural. He is the writer of Paranormia, an urban fantasy/supernatural comedy (read an excerpt here), and the Space Drifters series, a sci-fi/space opera comedy (read an excerpt of the first book here).

Paul is a technology junkie, drone pilot, photographer, web designer, drummer, Star Wars nerd, and a wannabe Narnian with a fascination for all things futuristic. Paul lives in Treasure Valley, Idaho, with his wife and two children.

Paranormia is presently available at Amazon in various platforms, including audio book.

Featured Image by Bruce Mars from Pexels

  1. Pam Halter says:

    “Finding our joy in writing comes with the understanding of where we find our peace, motivation, and purpose.”

    THIS ^^ So much this!!

    Thank you, Paul!

    • Paul says:

      You’re very welcome! It’s been a process for me to get to this point of letting go and being at peace with God’s plans and not my own. It’s crazy when I think how faulty my plans are next to God’s perfect plan and yet somehow I keep falling back to my own understanding.

  2. “How do you recover your joy after such an encounter?” I love that you repeat that question. It’s the perfect question. Blessings on your writing, Paul! Thanks for sharing.

    Honestly, if any of those people enjoy eating cinnamon rolls, they immediately disqualify their own arguments. Normally, my response to all three types of people is similar. “Do you watch television? Or enjoy sweet tea? etc.? There’s no difference between preparing those things, and me writing what I write. My work is useful and good precisely because it’s not a sermon. How about I replace every jar of sweet tea with a sermon? Or every television show with a sermon? Yeah, you wouldn’t like that very much, would you?”

    • Paul says:

      Yes! Great points. Couldn’t agree more. Thanks Brennan.

    • Travis Perry says:

      I don’t want to be too harsh on you Brennan, but there seems to be some faulty logic here. You almost seem to be saying that if a person ever enjoys a cinnamon roll then they have no right to say “vegetables are good for you.” Which doesn’t really make sense, because the person may in fact only very rarely eat a cinnamon roll and might recommend others generally avoid them, too. That is, a person eating any cinnamon roll ever does not really disqualify statements about some things being better to consume than others. Only if a person said, “I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating cinnamon rolls” would your statement fully apply. But again, a lot of health food nuts, even if they occasionally do eat them, would NOT actually say that.

      Though maybe a more on-point criticism would stem from the fact most health experts would agree that cinnamon rolls, while okay in moderation, would be totally damaging to your health if that’s all you ever ate. In the word of nutrition, it’s actually quite difficult to produce something that is pleasant to eat that has no effects whatsoever on health, either positively or negatively. It would have to be zero calories with a good taste to qualify–I suppose diet drinks might do for that, though some people would still insist they are bad for you.

      I don’t know if you meant to say that you write stories that provide pleasure but if that’s all a person ever read they’d be in danger, but I suspect that isn’t what you meant. Generally, when people make the case for the pleasure of a story, they make the case that pleasure is simply harmless–that it’s part of the cycle of regeneration maybe, but that it doesn’t have to mean anything.

      But I think that notion, one of harmless pleasure in stories, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny very well. Is it possible to produce a story with no moral meaning at all? Since stories involve conflict and conflict generally involves someone being in the right and someone being in the wrong (conflict thus involves concepts of good and evil), it’s actually really difficult to come up with interesting stories that have no moral value–that are for pleasure alone. Almost all stories wind up being morality plays–with very few exceptions–so the question really becomes “What kind of morality?”

      It could be though I’m taking your cinnamon roll analogy too seriously. But I think the things I’ve said should shape they way writers think. Certainly chefs in the routine course of their business have to think about nutritional value, likewise we writers should be thinking about the moral impact of our stories. Which doesn’t mean we can’t ever write something equivalent to a rich dessert. But even dessert has /some/ nutritional value, either good or bad…depending too on circumstances of who is eating and why and how much…

      • You’re not taking it too seriously, you’re drawing faulty conclusions from misunderstanding what I wrote. What all three of the people Paul referenced are implying is that you’re doing something essentially “sinful” (either a social “sin” or an actual sin) by writing entertainment–wasting your time, wasting other people’s time, or disobeying God. I believe entertainment can be pure and good without containing a sermon. That’s it. That’s the point of contention with everyone who belittles you for writing fiction. And, in fact, a well-delivered story can potentially be even more God-honoring than a poorly-timed sermon. I am saying there’s a time and place for everything, and in the same way some people are called to focus on things you would never focus on.

        • Travis Perry says:

          Brennan, I of course believe stories can have more power than sermons and don’t have to be like sermons at all.

          It’s the position that stories are only for pleasure and pleasure generally has no deeper meaning that makes stories into a true waste of time.

          A story is better and more meaningful if it deals with actual evil and genuine good. That’s not calling for sermonizing–but it does call for people to stop claiming stories are for pleasure alone and that’s all.

          So I’m glad you in essence said you don’t actually believe that…

          • Yes, though I don’t believe pleasurable activities with no deeper meaning are always a waste of time. We need simple pleasures, and God made them for us to enjoy. Otherwise, what’s the purpose of a cup of hot cocoa? Certainly not anything but pure pleasure. Doesn’t mean it can’t be a good thing. It’s not just a simple “pleasure + nothing else = waste of time” equation. And, in fact, that belief is at the center of some of the attitudes mentioned by Paul in his article.

  3. Jes Drew says:

    Writers are in constant need of encouragement. Thank you for this. I enjoyed both your Space Drifters series and Parnormia.

  4. E.F.B. says:

    Excellent and encouraging article! I am so grateful that I haven’t run into people like this, at least, not yet. I’ve told many of those I encounter that I’m a writer and tend towards fantasy and everyone’s been nothing but enthusiastically supportive.

    Tbh, those very few people (actually only one that comes to mind) I’ve encountered who might have turned their noses up at my being a writer didn’t reach the point of asking me what I do because they thought I looked like a teenager, didn’t have a job yet, and were therefore too busy judging me for other things. 😛

    • Paul says:

      Thanks EFB! Yes, unfortunately I’ve had my share of run-ins like this. But, like I said, I can understand the motivation behind the questions. Speculative fiction writers like us are a peculiar breed. But God made us unique to share a unique perspective of His truth.

  5. Travis Perry says:

    It’s interesting to get an insight into how other people see the world. While I might find any of the three people you mention to be mildly discouraging, none of them would bother me all that much.

    My top ten discouraging list would have to head up with things that have nothing to do with other people at all–like having a desire to produce a great piece of prose, but then going back over my work and thinking, “Ugh, that’s awful!” But even worse is thinking something I made is actually good writing and putting it out for sale and finding total book sales hover at cold-day-temperature levels. Or similarly, some of the articles I wrote for Speculative Faith concerning the apologetic topic of the origin of the universe (The Car Universe Series) received absolutely zero comments on the posts and nobody ever told me they thought what I wrote was good–with a grand total of one exception concerning that series. Because you were the only person who ever directly told me that he appreciated what I wrote in that set of posts. Though I think Kerry Nietz, who was standing there when you brought it up at Realm Makers, seemed to be in general agreement with you.

    I also find it discouraging when another writer whose work I know seems to be selling a lot better than mine, but also seems worse. That may sound mean-spirited as in not generous to another writer, but I have honestly had the thought pass through mind of “What do people see in this writer–and does that mean my sense of what is good and bad is hopelessly wrong?” But it’s definitely not more encouraging for me to know a writer who is selling better than me whom I clearly perceive to be better writer! Because that engenders thoughts of, “I’ll never be as good as _____.”

    When it comes to interactions with people I find discouraging, again, these would not be the things I find most discouraging, what I find worst is people who make disapproval evident, but don’t actually say why. It’s much more discouraging for me for someone to roll their eyes when I say I’m a writer or a speculative fiction writer than for them to actually tell me why they think what I do isn’t worth doing. Or when I bring up what do, they reply with stony silence, saying nothing at all, just staring at me. Saying nothing I find far worse than a confrontational person who will think there’s something wrong with what I do and will actually say why.

    If a person actually makes a statement about the bottom line of sales, I or anyone can actually make a reply about the long game of book sales. If they go with maturity or righteousness, you at least get a chance to make a case. Maybe they will still scoff at you in the end no matter what you say, but confrontational people at least give you a chance to say something.

    Non-confrontational people, people who maneuver around you and make disapproval known without saying a word to you, those people I find much more discouraging than any form of confrontation. I realize some people avoid confrontation because they don’t know what to say or hope to avoid being negative, but I think some non-confrontation is simply to allow a person to attack someone else, to disparage someone else, while maintaining plausible deniability. So if someone rolls eyes at me saying I’m a speculative fiction writer and I should actually try to find out why by asking, “Is there something wrong with that?” and the reply that comes is, “Oh, no, nothing at all–did I say there was anything wrong?” (eye roll)

    I find such people who launch covert or hidden criticism, launching sniper attacks while keeping themselves safe from any counter, actions that do not even allow me to offer a defense or explanation, to bother me much more than any overt critic.

    So as I started saying with this comment, I found your article interesting. None of these people would bother me all that much–though they’d bother me more if they insisted even after I defended myself that I was wrong or crazy or whatever. But in my experience, confrontational people often will at least “agree to disagree” and let you go your way and they theirs. But the non-confrontational types give me no such satisfaction.

    It’s fascinating that you see the world so differently from how I see it.

    • Kind of agree with you, at least in terms of how it feels to want to write good stuff and then have a hard time measuring up to that personal standard. Or not getting much feedback through comments or sales.

      If people gave me the criticisms mentioned in the article, it might annoy me, but I wouldn’t find it discouraging per se. More like annoyed because someone is judging me according to incorrect standards or thinking that I should do things their way. But there’s enough people out there that are encouraging and think that fantasy writing is cool, so the naysayers on that front aren’t as big a deal.

      With the lack of feedback or feeling frustrated over the quality of my work, I’ve been kind of used to it my whole life in a way. Like, it’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, artists and writers just have to ask themselves how badly they want this art thing. As much as artists might want people to enjoy their work and have positive experiences because of it, artists should also want to continue because they themselves enjoy making art and want to improve.

      There’s a lot of intangibles to getting noticed or not, though. Where is the person posting their work? How frequently do they post? What are the habits of the community they are posting to? What are they posting? Many times it’s easier to get attention for posting fanworks than original content, quite frankly because people know the fandom exists and are directly searching for those keywords. Pretty much all my subscribers on youtube, for instance, were because of one parody I did for Wings of Fire Legends: Darkstalker. The rebooted version of my Naruto fanfic has been doing pretty good as far as feedback goes, maybe even better than one or two of other people’s fanfics that I think are better written. But there’s a lot of reasons for that.

      One is that the writing of that fanfic is a million times better than it’s original version. The second one has to do with what chars it features. Itachi is very popular in the Naruto fandom, and his popularity has grown significantly since I posted the original version of the fanfic. So when people search for stories involving him and see my story’s description(which contains an interesting but rarely seen AU idea) lots of people are willing to bite. It’s also important to note that sometimes people like the idea of something more than the quality of the prose and whatnot.

      But the platform makes a difference. On, a lot of people probably scroll through all the recently updated stories in their fandom and pick things to read from there. Tumblr would probably be harder to get noticed on, especially since that site is for everything and not just fanfiction.

      So there’s lots of intangibles. The only thing to do often enough is to keep honing one’s craft, and when something is successful(whether it’s one’s own work or someone else’s) it’s important to study even all the intangible aspects of it to figure out what works.

    • Paul says:

      Of course, it’s not a comprehensive list, LOL. I think we all have our soft spots, the comments that hit our insecurities and make us doubt our path. It sounds like you are your worst critic. I will double down on my comments I made to you in person to say that I found your Car without a motor/universe series was incredibly valuable and informative. It’s possible that an article like yours that had so much research invested made readers feel a bit intimidated to leave comments. However, please be encouraged that a scientific and philosophical defense of Christian views like the ones you argued for in your articles are so valuable and important in our current culture.

What do you think?