The 7 Stages of Being a Writer (How Many Have You Experienced?)

The 7 Stages of Being a Writer (How Many Have You Experienced?)If life is a journey and writing is a lifestyle, then we know writing itself is not a destination but a discovery. Some of the stages of being a writer are momentous, life-changing, and unforgettable. (Outlines, story structure, and character arcs were like that for me.) Other discoveries blur past, lost in the hustle and grunt of our forward momentum. But they’re every bit as formative and important.

This spring, I find myself at what feels like a mountain peak within my writing journey. It isn’t the final peak by any means. I can see many a misty mountain looming in the distance. But it has provided one of those rare moments in the writing journey that allow the writer to turn back and look down upon the road so far—to realize I have grown, I am not the same writer I was when I started. Indeed, I’m not even close to being the same person.

That’s exciting. Even better, it’s encouraging, because it means the boulders we all trip over, the mosquitoes we all have to swat, the bears we sometimes have to run from—they don’t last forever.

7 Stages of Being a Writer You Must Overcome

Today, I want to take moment to look back over some of the stages of being a writer that can be the biggest obstacles in the first leg of the artistic journey—and show you how you too can navigate past them on your way up the mountain.

The 7 Stages of Being a Writer

1. I Am a Writing Genius!

Some of us are wise enough to skip this gem altogether. But most of us (*raises hand*) start out writing with the blithe mindset that this is easy, this is fun, and my stories are really, really good. I believe this is actually an incredibly valuable starting mindset, since it prevents discouragement from setting in until after we are well and truly hooked by the addictive nature of creativity.

How to Overcome This Roadblock:

As blissful as this particular bit of ignorance may be, remaining entrenched within it will take the wheels off your writing journey right here and now. You know you’ve taken your first step into the larger world of writing when you come to realize, first of all, that you don’t know anything, and, secondly, you then begin to know what it is you don’t know. You realize there is much to learn about the art and craft of writing a powerful story, and you begin your life’s pursuit of diligently seeking it—sometimes joyously, sometimes painfully, but always doggedly.

Stages of Being a Writer 1 Know What You Don't Know

2. I Feel Guilty for Taking Time to Write (and Then I Feel Guilty for Not Taking Time to Write)

I still remember the agony of indecision in those early years when I started taking my writing seriously. I felt guilty for sitting at my desk instead of doing more “productive” work. I felt guilty for wanting to write rather than ride my horses. I felt guilty for telling people they had to leave me alone during writing time. Sometimes I even felt guilty just because it was a beautiful day outside and I was inside.

And then when I gave in to my guilt and didn’t write, oh boy, there was that whole other wave of guilt to deal with.

Last week, I received an email from reader Cassie Gustafson who perfectly summed up this plateau in the writing life:

I find myself feeling guilty because I’m not writing (which is the worst!), or feeling guilty because I am and have to ignore friends/cat/hubby/social engagements owing to a deadline, or feeling guilty because I didn’t start early enough in my day.

How to Overcome This Roadblock:

This is where the rubber really meets the road, people. If you’re really going to be a writer—if you’re going to make this whole creative lifestyle thing work—this is where it either happens or it doesn’t.

For me, the turning point was a moment in which I found myself angry that family and friends weren’t taking my writing and my writing time seriously. But then it hit me: why should they take it seriously when I wasn’t? From that moment on, writing became a priority in my life. I set up the same daily writing schedule I’ve followed ever since: two hours a day, five days a week. With few meaningful exceptions, writing is first—come rain, shine, holidays, or illness.

Make this commitment and from that moment on, you are a writer.

Stages of Being a Writer 2 Make Your Writing a Priority

3. Maybe Writing Really Isn’t Worth It and I Should Quit

Hey, just because you’re now a writer doesn’t mean this gig is suddenly easy! Some of us will face this conundrum many times in our writing journeys. For me (so far), it was an unforgettable one-time epoch.

Behold the Dawn (Amazon affiliate link)

The spring after I finished what would become my second published book Behold the Dawn, I faced down a quandary of the soul: Am I really meant to be a writer? Is it really a worthy lifetime’s pursuit? Is it what I’m meant to do? I stared into the black maw of this question and all its implications and came this close to giving it all up.

How to Overcome This Roadblock:

Let’s be honest: maybe you won’t overcome this one. Maybe you’ll decide that no, writing isn’t worth it, and you’ll walk away. And that’s fine. As R.A. Salvatore says:

If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.

I believe this is an important question for every artist to ask themselves at some point in their journey. Creating is about sticking your fist down deep in your soul, ruthlessly clawing at whatever you can find, and then dragging out to be shared in the shocking light of day. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life doing that, then you really should spend some time contemplating the nature of your commitment.

Take a walk into the dark night of your soul. Whatever you find, you’ll be a different person when you come out, and if you decide to keep right on writing, then what you find will fuel your art for the rest of forever.

Stages of Being a Writer 3 Make Sure You Really Want to Be a Writer

4. I Can’t Read Other Writers Because They’ll Influence My Voice

The struggle for authors to find their own unique “voices” can be an all-out, feathers-flying, banty-hen kind of a fight in the early years. Most of us don’t even know what a “voice” is, much less what our voice is, so we do a lot of flailing around, trying to find it. Sometimes, within that fight, we become fearful that reading other writers will somehow warp or contaminate our own fledgling voices.

How to Overcome This Roadblock:

The problem here is that reading other writers is, in fact, the single most valuable way to find our voices, to absorb the rhythms of great storytelling, and to learn by example from the best of the best. John Dufresne says it eloquently in The Lie That Tells a Truth:

Don’t be afraid to be influenced by any writer whom you admire. We should be flattered if anyone notices a similarity between our little story and, say, a passage from Melville. If you aren’t influenced by the masters, then you may only be influenced by yourself.

Stages of Being a Writer 4 Read Widely to Find Your Voice

5. I Must Religiously Follow All the Rules (Except That’s Too Hard, So, You Know What?, the Rules Are Obviously Formulaic Cockamamie Created by Talentless Hacks, So I’ll Just Ignore Them, Phew!)

Way back when we overcame Roadblock #1 and realized all the stuff we didn’t know, it actually seemed pretty exciting—comforting even—to discover there was a method to the madness of writing. But the “writing rules” can get overwhelming fast. Some of them don’t make sense right away. Some of them don’t work at all until we come to subsequent understandings about other storytelling principles.

As a result, many writers seesaw back and forth between obsessively observing all rules to the absolute letter of their perception—and then getting frustrated, deciding “art” isn’t supposed to governed by “rules” anyway, and chucking them all out the window.

How to Overcome This Roadblock:

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that on Wednesdays I always share a post from the site’s archives. I started with the blog’s very first post and have been slowly working backwards, post by post, through what has become a very large backlist. I’m quite happy to say I no longer agree with everything I wrote back then (which is why a number of posts have been deleted or extensively rewritten).

One of the subjects I’ve decidedly changed my views on with time and experience is the value of “the rules”—which is to say, the foundation of established wisdom gleaned from centuries of humanity’s storytelling. I love the rules! Indeed, this entire site is dedicated to sharing those “rules.” But with time has also come the equanimity of approaching those rules from the larger understanding of where they apply, where they don’t, and where it’s okay to experiment.

In short, this isn’t actually a roadblock you “overcome.” Stick with those rules, keep digging away at your understanding of the bigger picture—and eventually, their importance, their (I might even call it) kindness, and their exciting possibilities will put to rest both the obsessiveness and the frustration.

Stages of Being a Writer 5 Keep Learning the Rules

6. Other Writers Are Getting All the Breaks—And It Makes Me Sad/Depressed/Jealous/Angry

The art of writing is uniquely suited to make us feel unworthy. Not only are we baring our souls on the page for everyone to gawk at, we are also working in a field in which monetary compensation is decidedly the primary yardstick for “success.”

What this means, of course, is that in the early days when we’re not making any money, getting any publishing deals, selling any books, or otherwise getting anyone to pay any attention to us whatsoever—we will almost inevitably fight the little green-eyed monster as we watch many, many other authors reach the milestones we aspire to.

How to Overcome This Roadblock:

The first thing you must do is come to peace with your own priorities and your own explicit definitions of success and failure. Do not judge yourself by someone else’s yardstick. Understand what you want to achieve with your writing and, more importantly, why.

During the publication of my first two novels, I struggled mightily with feeling like a fraud because they were not traditionally published—until I came to peace with what I wanted from my writing career rather than what I felt others might expect from me.

The second thing you must do is this: Keep your head down and keep working. Success only comes to those who make it happen. I look back on my writing journey and I am incredibly aware of the opportunities I was blessed to be given. But I also worked incredibly hard so I’d be in a position to take advantage of those opportunities. Don’t worry about what others are doing. It truly has nothing to do with you or the possibilities for your future.

Stages of Being a Writer 6 Keep Your Head Down and Keep Working

7. I’ll Never Be a Good Writer

This is often the most tenacious belief any of us ever has to face. Perhaps it never completely disappears. We could fill a book with beloved quotes from other writers (many of them acknowledged masters of the craft) about their own doubts about their abilities, about their struggles with the simple act of getting words onto the page, about their depression when the stories they produced inevitability failed to measure up to the magic in their heads.

We don’t need any help doubting ourselves—but we get plenty of help anyway. Brutally-honest critique partners and editors leave us sitting dazed and wounded, staring at the litter of Track Changes in our manuscripts. Then the book comes out and the reviews start coming in—some of them positive, but many of them candid, angry, even cruel (and you will remember these comments far more than the positive ones).

It all hurts. And what hurts most of all is the dark belief, down deep in your heart, that it’s all true.

How to Overcome This Roadblock:

Just keep writing. The reason it hurts is that is true, whether to a small or large measure. In the beginning, your writing probably is pretty bad. Certainly what you wrote last year is likely to be worse than what you’re writing this year.

What is absolutely true is that you’ll never be a perfect writer. But you’re getting better. With every word you write, you are getting better. And I can promise you this: as time goes by and you increase in your understanding of the craft as a whole and your own body of work in particular, the sting of harsh critiques and bad reviews will wear off.

I used to get the shakes and a sick feeling in my stomach whenever I found a negative review of one of my books on Amazon. What if it’s TRUE??? Now, I can glance at them, accept the person’s right to his opinion, perhaps even grin in amusement, and forget about it almost instantly. At this point in my writing journey, I am no longer dependent upon the good opinion of others for my validation as an author or a person. It was a long road to get here (and indeed the road continues on), but it was worth every difficult step along the way.

Keep walking, keep writing.

Stages of Being a Writer 6 Trust Your Work is Improving

Perhaps you now find yourself high enough on the mountain to look back and smile at the memory of all of these stops along your path. Perhaps you’ve only passed a few them so far. Perhaps you recognize the current battleground where you find yourself struggling, bleeding, and moving forward step by step.

Wherever you are in the stages of being a writer, remember the path leads ever onward and upward. Every part of the adventure offers its own challenges, struggles, and doubts. But every one of these challenges will find an exciting and invaluable resolution. I look forward to seeing you on the mountain peak, so together we can journey on to still greater heights!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What are some of the major stages of being a writer that you’ve experienced so far? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. I copied & pasted the bullet points and will check back in later with some responses, but I wanted to open with a few general comments.

    I’m a little different in that, while fiction writing is new to me (even if into it’s third year) I have previous experience in creative fields. What I have learned about writing from fiction has helped me organize my thoughts and communicate more effectively in everything from instant reactions in conversations and on Twitter to technical presentations and writing.

    At first I toiled rather anonymously in my office coding software as needed. Later I applied my coding and analytical skills to my hobby and became publicly known as a thinker and writer on the topic. Now I’m pseudonymously pecking away at my fictional tale.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hmm, that’s a great, which I had never really considered, but it makes total sense. A lot of these “lessons” or really just life lessons, so the more experience we accumulate in any field, the more experience we then have to apply to our writing.

  2. Another wonderful post, thanks!

    Believe me, I have been to all seven, several times.

    I think what gave me the breakthrough was realising that my training as an engineer was applicable to writing as well. Constructing a machine and building a story have a lot in common. The parts must fit together and work together, but each part must be as well-made as possible. There is a big structure and inside it a lot of small structures.

    Thanks again, keep up the good work.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes! I’ve often though there are similarities as well. My brother-in-law is brilliant with construction. He often comments how he can look at a house and see *beneath* the surface to the skeleton and how it’s put together. Of course, I found that interesting, since that’s exactly what I do with stories.

  3. Okay, here’s the full point-by-point!

    1. I Am a Writing Genius!
    I early on became full of my ability to code scripts at work. Thankfully I realized that it’s foolish to ever think you know it all. Twenty some years later and I look forward to learning new things about software.

    Whether software or fiction, I can look back at things I wrote even a year or two ago and wonder, “What is this?” It’s often easier to redo it from scratch than try to edit it to current standards.

    2. I Feel Guilty for Taking Time to Write (and Then I Feel Guilty for Not Taking Time to Write)
    See #3. If I spend many hours on the PC I can tell my wife, “I’m making you money” but sometimes she checks in with “Are you working on (my technical, money making work)” and I say yes even though sometimes I’m popping open Word to work on my current scene.

    3. Maybe Writing Really Isn’t Worth It and I Should Quit
    I’ve always suffered from a fear of failure. The more ‘perfect’ something has to be, the more I’m afraid that it won’t be perfect, and the more likely I’ll be frozen by anxiety. I avoid what I should be doing by reading Twitter all day or doing genealogy. Something to unproductively pass the time. Schedules & deadlines have helped, and writing things down as soon as I think of them, going back later to do final editing.

    4. I Can’t Read Other Writers Because They’ll Influence My Voice
    I read a few other online serials and corresponded with the authors and author readers, either on forums or email. I worry about copying storylines but they often given me general plot ideas by seeing characters put in certain situations. By this time I’m familiar and comfortable with with my own style of writing. There are things like “How can they ‘tell’ so well” so I’ll I’ll study their writing to see just how it was done.

    5. I Must Religiously Follow All the Rules
    Know the rules and know yourself. That’s so when you do choose to violate them you know and can explain why. I was able to display my Powerpoint and tell the crowd, “This is where I did it my way, and now I’ll tell you why it works.”

    6. Other Writers Are Getting All the Breaks—And It Makes Me Sad/Depressed/Jealous/Angry
    I go through this still with my technical work. Why did the media quote my competitor but not me? I have better info! It may feel that’s it out of my hands but I know I have to work at branding and advertising – make sure they know I’m out there and have seen my work. Being recently profiled in a national publication certainly helps, but they still have to be able to find my work.

    7. I’ll Never Be a Good Writer
    I’ve been releasing chapters of my fiction WIP. I’ve learned to be satisfied with the 8’s 9’s and especially 10’s even when my overall average isn’t at the top, or when I’ve never cracked the top 15 most read. I still tend to cruse the people who give me 1’s.

    When I started writing technical articles a few years back I knew the critics would be out on the blogs almost instantly. It was publish and duck – but I learned how to defend myself. I had an interview to work full-time in this field and the first question the public face of the company asked on the phone was to defend an article I had written three years before.

    I still fear emails from clients. I see them in my inbox and hesitate to open for fear that there’s something wrong (See #3 above) But I’ve never (totally) failed yet. I fixed a problem last week and got “You rock!” in response.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In regard to your comment on fear of failure, I’ve actually been mulling on that this week, in the wake of finally watching Dr. Strange. It occurs to me that almost all humans (and perhaps we can even drop the “almost”) are ultimately driven by a fear of failure, on one level or another. Being able to recognize and overcome that in pursuit of something more positive is an important step in life, I’m coming to believe.

    • So much is about the mindset on this journey. Thank you!

  4. Hi K.M.,

    It’s those dang rules that get me every time. When I first started writing, I read everything I could get my hands on – especially online and your books. It boggles the mind, as you surf the net, how opinions differ on what “the rules” should actually be.

    I try to follow most of them, but I’ve learned when I can wander away and how far I can wander.

    Great post! Have a fantastical day.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      My approach to the rules has always been (with admittedly varying levels of confidence early on) that they must make sense to *me.* I’m not interested in harmonizing everyone’s opinions. What I’m interested in is finding the value in each person’s opinion (because obviously they find value in it, or they wouldn’t believe it) and then finding a place where that value fits into my own understanding. We can’t make up our own rules, but we do have to make the rules our own.

      • I love this way of thinking about opinions! Well put. It applies so well to writing rules because. Really they’re just tools and building blocks. You use them to develop your craft, but they aren’t necessarily going to automatically make your writing great.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I think that’s where a lot of learning writers go astray. They start thinking “the rules” are some kind of disciplinary rod or something, instead of a very positive *aid* that’s there to help us.

  5. Wow, another one of those super encouraging posts! Though instinctively I know it’s true, there is something very reassuring when I am reminded how successful authors such as yourself have dealt with the exact same struggles as myself.

    A few thoughts:

    “They weren’t taking it seriously because I wasn’t.”
    That one’s a doozy right there. I’m thankfully far past this point and honestly have always been blessed to be surrounded by encouraging people, but until I started taking my writing seriously, every effort was haphazard and guilt-ridden.

    “Creating is about sticking your fist down deep in your soul, ruthlessly clawing at whatever you can find, and then dragging out to be shared in the shocking light of day.”
    Amen! I might quote you on this one somewhere, sometime 😉
    You’re so right about this. No matter what creative expertise we subscribe to, there comes a moment of soul-searching, of asking and discovering why we’re doing it in the first place. Without this, without an answer, we will come to a roadblock which, in Gandalf’s words, we shall not pass.

    I’m familiar with all these stages and, though perhaps have advanced passed them in some ways, I often cycle back as well; it’s a vicious cycle that! But, as you say, I’m getting better at keeping my head down and pressing on.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Honestly, it’s encouraging to me too! You kinda forget about these road bumps as they disappear in your rearview mirror. But when you stop to really consider all you’ve overcome, it’s wildly encouraging and exciting.

  6. This is definitely one of my favorite posts! It’s cool to see where you’re coming from and to realize that none of us in this field of writing, are all that different.
    With that, I think it’s appropriate to share my 7:

    1: “I Am A Writing Genius!” — Haha, I don’t remember if I ever thought that or not. There was definitely a time where I was like you – I thought my writing was at least *good.* Then (like you), I realized how much I had to learn and did an atomic facepalm.

    2: “I Feel Guilty For Not Taking Time to Write/Or Not” — Yep. I still go through some of that. But thankfully, I’ve been listening to you and other authors who definitely recommend getting some solid writing time in each day. I don’t feel too guilty on the other side since I consider what I do, ‘What I Do.’

    3: “Maybe Writing Isn’t Worth It and I Should Quit” — I too, have felt this here and there. Thankfully I am past it now but it’s definitely an important question to consider with anything we do. If we do something, let us do it with full commitment and vigor.

    4. “I Can’t Read Other Writers, It’ll Influence My Voice” — I don’t think I ever thought this. I can see how people could however. I definitely agree with what you’re saying here. Plus I feel picking up the rhythm and word choices from an author is less about voice whereas the intent, themes and messages that play out in my work time and time again. To me, that’s voice.

    5. “I Must Religiously Know All About the Rules” — Haha, I love how this comes across as a cynical-sarcastic voice in my mind. Yep! I’ve definitely said that (in anger). But it’s true: if you’re serious about being a writer and learning, then naturally, you learn everything you can about the craft. Over time I can say I’ve learned most of the rules. Oh! I really like what you had to say there at the end. The longer you do this writing thing, the more you realize the flexibility you have in “rules.” I’ve realized over the years that I work the rules out in my head when I’m coming up with ideas in the early stage. This shows that we absorb the rules over time and don’t even realize we use them!

    6. “Other Writers Are Getting All the Breaks” — I’m glad you wrote this. Yes, it’s so true. We need not focus on others so much as ourselves. It’s SO EASY, SO EASY… to get wrapped around success and basing our development of skills and pleasure of what we do solely on “success” as the world sees it. Write FIRST because you love it. Making money is important but doesn’t precede numero uno. I honestly feel that in time, just about anyone can make a career of writing if they stick with it and NEVER. STOP. WRITING.

    7. “I’ll Never Be A Good Writer” — Haven’t we all? Absolutely. Everyone says this about anything they learn. Read about anyone professional in any line of work and they will admit they’ve said this. It’s natural. Once you realize what it means, use it to push yourself forward, not backward. I like what you said about the Amazon review. The thing is, even a bad review can tell you something. We can all learn from “negative” opinions. Once you’ve been doing this long enough, you realize that everyone’s perspective is beneficial to understanding your audience and/or your market. We all need perspective to get better. We can all tell the difference between a productive comment versus someone simply ranting, or blasting.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In regard to #6, I love Anne Lamott’s quote: “Being published isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But writing is.”

  7. I love to be writing, and I’ve encountered several of these stages. One sentence stands out: “Creating is about sticking your fist down deep in your soul, ruthlessly clawing at whatever you can find, and then dragging out to be shared in the shocking light of day.” Despite getting positive feedback on it, I don’t really like sharing my writing. It’s probably a lack of confidence plus privacy rather than a commitment issue. I think I’m too inhibited to reach down far enough to extract what’s necessary to be a good writer, so I end up writing mostly for myself. :/

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In all honesty, even after all these years and nearly a dozen published books, there’s still a big part of me that doesn’t like sharing my writing either. 🙂 Of course, I love sharing my stories with readers who are as enthusiastic about them as me. But there’s always a part of me that feels a little scared and sick when a new book comes out.

    • I have this too, Carol! I think you hit the nail on the head with the confidence/privacy combo.
      I come from a long line of people with low self esteem, so teaching myself to believe in my own abilities has been a solo fight against nature… And compound that with being a quiet and private person (most likely the other side of the same coin) it’s a real struggle.
      I made a commitment to myself that I would complete and share a story this year, and I am determined to see if through.

  8. Yup, I’ve visited most of these and some of them I’m sure I will encounter again. Right now I feel like I’m somewhere between doubting I will ever be a good writer and trying to apply/remember all the rules. Maybe they go hand in hand; I’m not really sure. But what I’m realizing is that the only way past the doubt is to keep writing despite it. I have to trust that I CAN do this, that though I may not be great now, though the rules all seem to jumble up in my head and refuse to be helpful, I will get them down one day. The only way to get there is to practice, to try, to see how they fit and how they don’t. And to see how other writers use them, and then try that.

    Now I just have to remember this when I sit down in front of my terrifyingly blank word document. 😛

    Also, I’m not sure I’ve ever been to “I can’t read other writers because they will influence my voice” stop. At least, for me there have always been writers whose voices light a fire in me, make me want to sound like them. They are the ones who I read on purpose to be inspired. Without them, how in the world would I ever know what voice I wanted, what style to asspire to? Of course, there are also writers whose voices I have found I don’t like or just don’t sing like my favorites. Those writers I have tried to avoid reading while writing because I was afraid they might seep in. But perhaps that is a fallacy; after all, if I know I don’t want to sound like them, then surely it can only help to know their voice and what I don’t want.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I actually think “being okay with the rules” and “believing you’re a good writer” do go hand in hand to some extent. Certainly, for me, coming into wider understandings of story theory has made all the difference in my ability to manage a story skillfully–and to *know* I’m managing it skillfully and to find a certain rest in that knowledge.

  9. This post is blowing my mind! Wait, you’re saying this is actually a thing? That all or most writers go through these stages? That I’m actually NORMAL and progressing at an acceptable rate??
    Seriously, thank you for breaking this down. I’m so pleased to find that I have slowly blundered my way through the foothills, made it past the majority of the battle alive, and am enjoying my stroll through the countryside of Step 5.
    I’ve reached a point where I am testing my writing by applying more of ‘the rules’ and mentally preparing myself to put my work out there more.
    I’m having a bit of a struggle with my perfectionist tendencies – I have to keep reminding myself that learning and ‘mastering’ the rules will NOT turn me into an all powerful sorceress who can produce fully functional stories with a snap of her fingers.
    I’m working on it, though.
    All in all, it is a huge relief to know that I’m not alone here, and that I’m actually doing okay!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I used to struggle with perfectionism as well. It’s certainly useful in its place, since it encourages us to be our best selves. But there’s a point where releasing it and just surrendering to the messiness of the process–indeed, learning to love the messiness–is empowering and, in its way, even more effective.

    • “I have to keep reminding myself that learning and ‘mastering’ the rules will not turn me into an all-powerful sorceress who can produce fully functional stories with a snap of her fingers”

      This really resonates with me. I have a tendency to want to learn more than practice, and it’s sometimes really frustrating when I know the principles and what I should be doing but still can’t get it to come out right. Learning has helped me a lot, but there’s only one real way to get my stories to where I want them to be, and that’s practice.

  10. All I need is the T shirt version with your great reminders. When are they on release, please.

  11. Thanks, K.M. Weiland, for this post was so timely as I seriously needed a little motivation on this sunny Monday morning preparing for CampNaNoWriMo with outlines and character development along with seeking inspiration for Aprils’ Poetry Month.

  12. Two and Four have my name on them. I battle these constantly.

    Two because my schedule is erratic because of my lifestyle and necessity. It means I can write at just about any time of day anymore (and some weeks, writing is the first thing I do in the morning or the last thing I do at night a few times a week.) But I also feel guilty for doing something else creative–like knitting or painting–when I am in the middle of drafting my next book.

    Four I actually witness in my writing. I read Jane Austen or Jim Butcher or JD Robb, and finish the book, and notice their patterns in my writing for a while after. Austen is especially bad because the style is dramatically different from my own. Butcher and Robb aren’t quite as bad–they are at least sort-of in my genre! (Just have to keep their jargon out of my story world.

    Good stuff, this. 😉

  13. K.M, thank you for the relevant and inspiring post. All seven ring true for me. First of all, I do know that my writing is much better because I read a lot of books and learn and rewrite my stories more and learn. Also, your posts validate my writing experience positively. I have a friend who writes Urban Fiction( a very popular genre) and I know I was disturbed ( my euphemism for jealous) because her books always sold better than mine. Also, I used to fear that I wasn’t a real writer if no one read my books. Now I realize that a humongous readership and financial success of others, even my own, doesn’t entirely define me as a writer. I am Saja bo Storm and I am a writer!! Thank you for believing in us.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      You rock! 🙂 Success and failure are largely imaginary paradigms. How we measure up within them depends entirely on our desires, priorities, and definitions.

  14. I never really bought into the idea that I couldn’t read other authors. Aside from that, though, all of these apply. But the two I am sitting with right now are #6 and #7.

  15. What an incredible piece of encouragement for those on the journey! As an occasional writer, I haven’t really hit some of these as hard as others, but I recognize the truth of them all the same. Thank you for your honesty and transparency in this post.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for reading! 🙂 For me, those moments in the journey when you’re suddenly able to *see* things with transparency are some of the greatest epochs of all.

  16. M.L. Bull says

    Thanks for this encouraging and amusing post! ?Despite not yet being published, I experienced all 7 of these stages. But, though I’ve been close to quitting at least three times, I never could actually give up, so I must be a writer. Writing is a passion of mine, though my oldest sister wonders how I could write so much. Lol. ?

  17. I started taking writing ‘seriously’ when I was about 15 (31, almost 32 now)

    Genius – ages 15-22, just long enough to keep me writing, reading, and motivated to learn.

    Guilt – throw that in every writing moment between 15 and 28 haha (because as yet unpublished, its not yet ‘concrete enough’ to be worth the time, leading to the not worth it, i should probably quite feeling. And I almost did. Got over that sometime in the past few years. Probably thanks to you 🙂

    Can’t read other writers — that was never a conscious decision, but for several years it sure as heck happened. I leaned more into movies and ‘good’ tv shows to get my storyline fix.

    Rules were never an issue for me — structure especially helped me put a framework on what I already instinctively knew through being such an avid reader and movie buff, and pulled me up to that next level of understanding, which really helped free me as a writer.

    Other writers get the breaks — yeah I try at all cost to avoid this thought haha, as it leads to too many negativity rabbit holes, like why is this published when it stinks and so many other good stuff gets passed up, etc, etc.

    I’ll never be a good writer…Maybe, maybe not, that’s a subjective point anyway, isn’t it? But I will continue learning the craft as long as I’m alive. Papa Hemingway, I’m looking at you 🙂

    Thanks for this post 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Excellent point about subjectivity. I actually find that one of the most encouraging thoughts about art. Write what you love. Some people might hate it, but others will love it right along with you.

  18. I found that if I have just a little success I shut down and think ok, I did it. It was no big thing …im a and get very very depressed. Then I realize that I’m afrqaid I wont be able to step up to the next challenge. Unfortunately, I have spent really lengthy periods of time
    where I remain stuck in this phase.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. Success can often breed an even greater fear of failure. Again, what’s important is really hammering down what *you* believe constitutes success and failure–and rejecting other people’s definitions.

  19. Thank you so much for the email of these articles. I don’t do any social media just now so the format is as helpful to me as the information itself. I am curious whether you mean these steps usually happen in the given order? I am on chapter 16 of my first serious effort at a novel, (I have “dabbled” before,) and (editing, I see my answer to your question got longer than expected, so I hope you were serious in asking and don’t mind.)
    I have seldom experienced #1, at least not for longer than thirty seconds or so. #2, absolutely. I have never felt #3 seriously because whether I ever make a living at it or not it is a gift from God and those are meant to be used for something. Skipping #4 briefly. I’ve never had a problem with #5 because I am a natural rule follower with a splash of I-want-to-be-different; I have a lot of practice knowing where it is safe to push the boundaries. (Although circling the dark recesses of my heart like a shark on the scent is the notion that eventually, somewhere, I’m going to have to plow through a guardrail…) I have no reason to worry about #6 yet; the first step is to finish the book.
    Now back to #4. Thank you! I was afraid I was the only one who had experienced this fear! When I read Austin, my inner monologue develops a British accent and I suddenly crave tea all day. When I read Evanovitch I feel a need to wear a ton of mascara and really want to learn to shoot a gun. When I read Rowling I wave the nearest stick-like object at all my housekeeping woes and pronounce pseudo-Latin gobbledygook at them hoping they’ll go away. I am a total immersion reader and have been terrified that if I read and write at the same time I will borrow a Burrow or embezzle an Elizabeth without knowing it. So to make progress, I’ve only been reading Smithsonian online articles and gardening books. I miss mysteries!!
    And yet, as you said, #7 tops them all. I first dabbled at my novel twenty years ago but have only recently made any real progress. I can put a little blame on some fairly all-consuming life events, but mostly? Mostly, as long as I didn’t actually finish and try to sell a book, I could assure myself that if I ever did, I would have been GREAT. But if I finished it and discovered no one liked it, then, since I always thought of myself as a writer, what would I be then?
    So I guess #1 and #3 were bigger than I thought, because when I finally decided that even if NO ONE wanted to buy or read my book, I wanted to write it because I wanted to WRITE it…16 chapters and counting. 🙂
    Thanks again for the supportive articles.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m not saying this is the order in which these steps occur for every writer (or even that every writer will experience every one of these steps). This is just the progression I recognize in my own life.

  20. I think you’re absolutely right about Stage 1 being helpful. I’ve never really gone through Stage. What I have had is another Stage that I think is common, especially among English major types — where one’s level of “taste” always outstrips one’s skill as a writer. It’s inspiring to read the great writers of world literature, and I think it’s ultimately helpful to have a refined critical faculty. But having an overly refined critical faculty too early can be paralyzing for a beginning writer. I can see why it would be good to start off writing with confidence and the sheer joy of creativity, and have a more established habit (and skill level) before becoming a critic. This is a big advantage of starting off in the early teens — probably no one is more paralyzed in writing than a college-aged English major (with all the insecurity and vanity of youth) who doesn’t yet have the writerly practice to push through the paralysis.

    But then, our journey is what it is, and it’s best to be thankful for what we get to experience than to wish for something else! 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s one thing I try to be really aware of in mentoring new writers–especially children. Creativity can be a fragile thing in the beginning. Nurturing it is far more important at that stage than getting things “right.”

      • I completely agree! It’s so easy for children to give up on something if they think they aren’t good at it. As a younger person, I was much more worried than I am now about whether I was “naturally” good enough as a writer. I was afraid to write anything, because what if I read back through it and discovered I wasn’t naturally good? But this was silly — no one needs to be naturally good in the first draft. (And of course, I wasn’t — and that was okay!) Underlying all of it was what you describe in Stage 2 — the sense that if I wasn’t going to writing something “great,” I should be doing something “useful.”

        But this isn’t true, and it’s valuable for all of us to write and do our best, without worrying about whether that best is “great” or just “good.” (That judgment is going to depend on the reader, anyway.) I’m reading a good novel right now, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. Gaskell wasn’t a genius like her friend Charlotte Bronte. Her book isn’t a Great Book. But it’s a good book, and I’m glad we have it in addition to all the “genius” works. Sometimes a good book at the right time, with the right emotional resonance, can mean more to an individual’s life than any lofty Great Book.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Although aptitude certainly plays its role in writing, it’s no joke that writing is at least 85% discipline and work. In short: don’t worry if you have “talent” or not. :p

  21. Tony Findora says

    This was a great post and it ALL really spoke to me. I need to Remer to keep writing and not let doubts creep in and stifle me.

  22. Very good article. I haven’t really experienced all of the stages you mention, but I communicate with other authors on various forums and have seen all of the stages represented at one time or another.

    For myself, I think I struggle regularly with 3 (is writing worth it?), 6 (other writers are getting the breaks–what my wife and I call “the comparison trap”), and 7 (I’ll never be a good writer–a variation of the comparison trap).

    My writing career has had many ups and downs. I’ve had four figure months and two figure months. Those results are a direct reflection of my primary failure as an independent author: my unwillingness to market myself or my books. As is probably typical of a “publish and forget” author, my books do well upon release and then fade into obscurity. Although I have fans who like my stuff, I have trouble finding new fans. I think this might be another stage that isn’t mentioned in your list, and it’s one I struggle with endlessly.

    As for stage 1, I’ve never deluded myself that I’m a genius writer. Although I wrote nonfiction for a long time before I tried my hand at fiction, I approached fiction cautiously, knowing it was a completely different animal. I started with zero expectations and pantsed the first part of my first novel just to see if I could write something that didn’t make my wife (an English major) cringe. That went okay, so I immediately began studying the craft of writing so I could learn how to finish what I’d started. I am eternally grateful to Randy Ingermanson, Larry Brooks, and James Scott Bell for teaching me the mechanics of storytelling. I’m also grateful to Roz Morris and Victoria Mixon for answering some tough questions when I was getting started.

    I experienced a bit of stage 2 (guilt over writing/not writing), but managed to avoid it for the most part by compartmentalizing my writing time just as you suggest. I dedicated the early morning hours to writing, so it didn’t interfere with my day job. As long as I used my writing time for writing, I had nothing to feel guilty about. My wife, also a writer, was busy with her own projects and was very supportive of my fiction writing experiment.

    Although I’ve seen other authors fret about #4, I’ve never worried about it. I feel comfortable with my writing voice and it seems to come out no matter what I do. I attribute that to having written nonfiction (mostly instructional) for many years. My fiction voice is different, of course, but it’s still me.

    #5, following the rules, has never been difficult for me. Every vocation has tools and techniques that help its practitioners produce their work. When I got started, I didn’t know the rules, but I knew the rules were out there somewhere. After I got proof of concept on my ability to write something readable, I went in search of the rules and got started on what I knew would be a long learning curve. The learning never ends, so I don’t expect to ever reach “genius” status.

    I’m now at a place where I’m comfortable with my progress as a writer, but I’m not sure if I should continue. After five published novels (and a sixth close to publication), I’ve earned a level of income comparable to a traditionally published midlist writer. In other words, enough to make me feel “validated,” but not enough to live on. And I don’t expect things to change any time soon if I can’t get over myself and put some effort into marketing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Nothing wrong with coming to a place where you’re ready to walk away. Life is full of experiences. For some of us, writing is just one of them.

  23. These are all true for most creative endeavours, but the ones where we beat ourselves bloody seem to be particularly relevant to writers. As an editor, I’ve worked with people in all stages you mention. As long as they are willing to listen, we get along fine. Of course those who don’t want my help aren’t likely to ask for it.
    The one about the rules… ugh. I can’t tell you how many long, acrimonious, overly erudite discussions I’ve seen about rules on various writing sites. They all have these conversations and they all run about the same way.
    Personally, I have one rule – does it work? That’s the final measure of whether we should be slashing adverbs, or finding repeated words and deep sixing them. That doesn’t mean I ignore all the other rules, but they are ruled by the one rule. So if you can break one and make it work, go for it. If it doesn’t work, you might want to reconsider naming everyone in your story Bob.
    There are also rules which are more trends than rules, things like sticking with past tense (Hunger Games is written in present.) Avoiding omniscient narrators. (Lemonny Snicket) and so on. For every trend there is a trend breaker, and in a few years when their course comes out, we’ll have a new set of rules to break.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I like to say there is only one rule in writing: “Obey all the rules–unless you can break them brilliantly.”

  24. The one I’m currently struggling with is definitely the rules. I get irritated when people try to tell me how to do my writing, what is “correct” and what isn’t. I always thought art was about breaking the rules, not being forced to stick with them. But your words have given me something to think about. Thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      There’s no denying there’s a pattern to successful stories. But the biggest moment in the journey is when you come to understand how to *find* and then strengthen the pattern in your stories, rather than imposing it upon them.

  25. J.M Barlow says

    Thanks for the encouraging post; came at a good time. Got a lot on my mind right now.

    My friend is also a creative mind, but sometimes I wonder about his commitment to the process. He likes to ride the highs of a new idea and getting things started, but tends to trail off because he doesn’t keep at ‘er every day… or when it begins to feel like work. On to the next idea. It’s a little frustrating to watch, as his ideas are very solid.

    The problem for me was that this friend of mine is supposed to be working with me on the graphic novel project – we were partnering up to do it. Except that he doesn’t seem to feel like contributing once it feels like a commitment. He told me he’s starting to work on this other idea he had and showed me stuff – ignorant to the fact that he’s basically jumping ship. That’s the message he’s sending me…

    So it’s frustrating. I know this is a bit of an aside to the topic at hand, but I think it’s applicable as he isn’t taking his aspirations seriously. Not like I am. My schedule fluctuates some, but on a good week I dump 15-20 hours into my work (I’m a full 40 hours a week at work with 4 hours of commuting, and a single father half the time. So the REST of my time goes into this, pretty much. Thankfully, a lot of my interests lie in my research so it’s enjoyable most of the time. I enjoy the process. I love working. I love trying to improve things I’m not good at – or need to be better at. I love it. I know I’m meant to do this.

    I am at a crossroads with the project at hand, because of my friend. Do you have advice on this matter?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve written elsewhere about how it’s not enough for an author to be good at either ideas or execution–we must be good at both. Ideas are, admittedly, more fun. Execution is where discipline really comes into play.

      Honestly, it sounds to me as if this is a relationship issue as much as anything. If he’s holding you back, you have to be willing to either cut him loose or work your way forward in the relationship.

  26. I’m still working on some of these!

    I am a writing genius!
    I’ve felt like this a lot of times; those times get fewer and further between, as I realize more how much I still need to improve. But I have also learned to appreciate the writing that I can look back on even after several years and still think, “Wow, that’s really good!”

    I feel guilty for taking time to write (and then I feel guilty for not taking time to write)
    I’ve never really felt guilty about writing; I definitely have for not writing, though. There have been long periods where I didn’t write at all, and I felt really badly about it although I needed those breaks.

    Maybe writing really isn’t worth it and I should quit
    Yes! Many times. I guess the fact that I keep coming back to it has convinced me that I must really be a writer.

    I can’t read other writers because they’ll influence my voice
    Strangely, I’ve never had a problem with this. I have had the problem of reading an author I really admire and falling into depression over the fact that I could never match up to that author, so why even try anymore?
    I have gotten to the point where I can read really good writing without jealousy or despair, but try to find out what it is about them that makes me like them so much.

    I must religiously follow all the rules
    I really got caught up in this one for a while. When I realized that there are a thousand rules, and 500 of them conflict with the other 500, I decided to take each one with a grain of salt. There are plenty of them that make sense, but even the best ones can’t be followed 100%, so I have to decide which ones are most important, and when.

    Other writers are getting all the breaks — and it makes me sad/depressed/jealous/angry
    I used to get so mad because I would read a published book with bad writing or a lame plot or whatever and I would know that in all likelihood my (I thought) far superior writing would never be touched by any publisher.
    I’m now content mostly to write, no matter if I ever make a dollar off of it or not.

    I’ll never be a good writer
    Yep, I’ve had this one in spades. It’s probably the hardest one to overcome, and I’ve never fully overcome it.
    Bad reviews do bother me a bit, but mostly they bother me if I feel like the reader missed the point or something; but I can usually brush it off after a while. It can be hard, though, to take a negative review. It hurts, somehow, especially when it’s a criticism of something you’re proud of. Sometimes I’ve found that the reviewer actually has good points and the review has helped me to improve my writing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Personally, I believe one of the most empowering realizations/decisions any author can come to is that of realizing the art is an end in itself. Yes, it’s great if we also earn money and adulation. But if that’s the only point, something’s missing. And if it’s *not* the only point, then the art is capable of fulfilling and rewarding us in far greater ways all on its own.

  27. I am currently on the sixth stage of my writing journey. And it is looking pretty tough to overcome this roadblock. Because I know for a fact that it takes every other writer almost as much time as it is taking me to get success, but still, it is a hard spot, the feeling of being the only one left behind. Even though I know there are others struggling in the same way. :,(

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      You’re definitely not alone. Even some of the writers we now consider our literary greats suffered in silence and rejection for decades before finding success.

    • Nadia Syeda says

      I realize that I might never become an author. I might forever publish my books on online sites like Wattpad, but I decided to cherish that. I’m trying to cherish every comment on my passage, laugh along with my readers, and feel proud when a person cries at one of my words. Sure, it’s not a “book”, it’s online, but I’m still reaching people, I have an audience, and even if I die, and I’m still not published, and forgotten, I think it was worth spending my time like that.

  28. I have to thank Chautona Havig for introducing me to your site. Your blog posts are far superior to the overwhelming “noise” of writing advice on the web.

    As I read The Seven Stages of Being a Writer, the numerous truths astonished me. And surprisingly, I discovered something about myself. I am not unique in my writing journey.

    For example, I have struggled with the guilt of “I should be writing” so this year I set a new schedule for myself. Yup, two hours per day five days a week. First year I committed to four hours per day 6 days a week – writing became drudgery rather than pleasure.

    While editing my second book I decided that the Rules don’t apply to most of the art world so why should they apply to writing? Later I determined that was a stupid analogy.

    I only recently came to the realization that writing is a journey, not a destination. While I know I have a great deal to learn, and that my sensitive self has to toughen up, it’s definitely a trip that most days I want to take – if only to see where it leads.

    Bless you for taking the time to do what you do and for reading these rambling thoughts. BB

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I have always been someone naturally adapted to organization and schedules. But something I’ve been learning of late is the blessing and power of letting life guide us. Discipline is, of course, crucial. But when we’re struggling to stick to a difficult schedule, sometimes we do more harm than good. Sometimes the best thing we can do is take a step back, listen to what life is telling us and give ourselves just a little more breathing room. I’m discovering sometimes I’m actually more productive than ever when I do this.

      Great to hear you’re enjoying the site!

  29. Eric Troyer says

    Nice post! I part caught me particularly:

    “From that moment on, writing became a priority in my life. I set up the same daily writing schedule I’ve followed ever since: two hours a day, five days a week. With few meaningful exceptions, writing is first—come rain, shine, holidays, or illness.”

    I’m wondering a couple of things. Do you still follow this schedule or do you spend more time writing? If more, how did you ramp it up? Also, what do you consider “writing”? Brainstorming? Outlining? Blog posts? Responding to blog post replies?

    I first started lumping all my writing activities together. Finally, I realized I was spending a lot of time reading about writing and little time actually writing. I read a post about an author (Gertrude Stein?) who wrote for just a half hour a day. So, that’s where I’m at now, actually writing for a half-hour a day. I plan to ramp that up as I shed some other commitments.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yep, with the occasional exception here or there, this is still the schedule I follow. “Writing time” is always for fiction. Marketing, blogging, and non-fiction books/projects are given their own slots in the daily schedule. That said, I consider *anything* that has to do with fiction to be game for “writing time.” It just depends what part of the process I’m focusing on: outlining, researching, drafting, or revising.

      • Eric Troyer says

        Thanks for the info. You’ve put out an impressive number of quality books on just 10 hours a week. That really shows what you can accomplish with persistence.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Well, I’m no one-book-a-year author. 🙂 But I like it that way. I much prefer to take my time and savor the process.

  30. Eric Troyer says

    Er. ONE part caught me particularly.

  31. I’ve read pretty much all the comments and there isn’t anything I can add that hasn’t already been said multiple times 🙂

    I’ll keep this short and sweet

    Thank you <3

  32. I saw an innovative farmer, Joel Salatin, explain his work until it sounded like he wasn’t talking about farming, but living.

    Now I can add K.M. Weiland to that panel.

    1. Are regular writers more genius than country music song writers. Those people make more out of bad relationships than any genre.

    2. Time Guilt? If you make money writing, then it’s money guilt? Until then it’s just guilt looking for a place to land. Push it off writing time.

    3. Writing may not be worth it some days, but quitting is a lifetime of ‘what if I hadn’t quit?’ and accusing the television of stealing the story ideas you can never quit on, just the writing. Anyone can quit, but who sticks?

    4. Influential reading. Don’t we all hope new writers will read us? Like an old man in a gym doing pull ups, and a young kid says, “I hope I can do that at his age,” and can’t do one now. I’m reading Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel and feel it helping. Helping me avoid huge sentences.

    5. The Rules won’t ruin a good story, just make it unreadable. After a few rules ‘experiments’ how many readers close the book, click off, leave? There’s a reason James Joyce didn’t write everything in gibberish.

    6. Other writers doing well is a good sign of hope. Someone’s reading something. The only time they bother me is when they put something out a poor effort, like your favorite actor starring in a bad movie for the money, and it shows.

    7. A Hemingway quote has him saying all writers are in a profession full of apprentices and no masters.

    Thanks for the great read, K.M. Weiland.

    PS: I came over here from twitter.

  33. I love this! I am probably at Stage 5 – tripping over the rules, kicking them out of the way, then scrambling to gather them up again. I’ve definitely been through the first four. Thanks for lighting up the path!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Honestly, that’s one of the best stages. 🙂 It’s tough, but it’s where all the lights come on.

  34. Hi K. M.

    I thought you might like to know that it was you who taught me the rules.

    I knew a lot of them – sort of – but I struggled to put them together. My first book took my two years of stressful pantsing to write. So about two years ago I put my writing aside and I set out to learn the rules. I knew that plotting and understanding the whys and wherefores of the plot would make a huge difference to what I wrote.

    I stumbled across your website and I read it all! I listened to your podcasts too and bought your books. I had previously tried out other plotting books but I found your brought everything together for me: the plot, the character arc, the antagonist’s character arc, the setting – well you get the picture!

    I took everything I learned from you and created a Scrivener template for myself. I still use this now, for every book I write and I would not be without!

    So, thank you very, VERY much for all the time and resources you give to help us, writers, become authors. Without the generosity of people like you, I don’t think I would be doing what I do now.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Well, cool beans! 🙂 Makes my day to hear the site has been useful in your writing journey.

  35. The “I wrote a thing, and now people have read it and expect more…but what if what I write next doesn’t live up to their expectations?” stage. This actually made me sick to my stomach once or twice, until I got ARC reviews back of Books 3 & 4 of my series and realized that whatever “spark” I had when writing 1 & 2 hadn’t deserted me and never would. People like what I write because what I write is me, and as long as I keep being me, and keep learning/growing/practicing/seeking improvement, whatever I write down the road will always be better than what came before.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Ah, yes, the dreaded sophomore novel syndrome! The only cure I know is to write that next book, throw it out to the wolves (aka, readers), then write the next one. 😉

  36. This is a wonderful post, K.M.! I have been through all these in various forms, many, many times. There are valleys and peaks to writing… Sometimes you’re on a mountain, and sometimes you are inches from giving up. But if you love it, you always find your way back 🙂 Thank you for this!

  37. I think there may be an unhealthy adherence to “the rules” mentioned in #5, especially for genre fiction writers these days. I’ve been reading more and more novels that seem to fall into a handful of predictable formulae, because those are rules that have worked. Thanks to the easy access to information that can allow you to learn innumerable rules of writing. It’s a delicate balance to strike when trying to know just which rules you need to break in any given piece, but when an author gets it right, it can be an exhilarating thing to read. I absolutely prefer leaving the road to wander a bit in the woods, so long as I still end up where I’m going.

    I have also been thinking about #6 a lot lately. I think everyone feels this way early on in most artistic endeavors. I also think it’s important to remember that it’s always best to focus on improvement and to do any sort of art because you love it. I know that’s hollow for someone who wants to quit their job and become a full-time writer, but there were many authors whose very motivation came from the struggle. Some of those writers find themselves lacking motivation to write when that’s all they have to do.

    Thanks, this was a great article. It’s rare to find so much content behind a single click lately.

  38. Great post and oh so true. For me I climbed that mountain a little way but seem to have slipped back. Maybe I didn’t push hard enough when I’d ascended a few metres. You can mentor me any time! 🙂

  39. Yeah, currently in the thick of #2. I feel guilty when i don’t spend more time reading to my boys, or the fact that this year i didn’t plant a single thing in my garden, or that i don’t plan play dates or get together with people more. But i really love writing. it’s a creative release for me and my husband encourages it because he loves to see me love it! so then i feel guilty for not writing, for working on other things that i don’t find as satisfying but others approve of more readily. back and forth, back and forth. sigh…

  40. Everything you said here is exactly what I’m experiencing right now. Only the over-confidence thing was one that I never have…and I feel like my story is so so unoriginal and no one will want it because it’s dull cheesy and cliché. I’m finding it really hard to persevere. 😣

  41. The one and only thing here that I don’t currently struggle with is thinking my story is amazing and I’m a great writer. I’ve received loads of positive feedback but I feel like they aren’t being honest…they are just saying it to make me feel better.
    But I struggle with everything else mentioned here every single day.
    Still, I look back on my old writing and instead of saying I’m terrible, I can tell myself I’ve improved so much and come so far! 😆

  42. It seems my experience is quite different than yours. I never felt a lot of these. I listened to J. Michael Straczynski’s speech. He seems to have had a very different experience as well

  43. Denise Greene says

    I’ve experienced them all, in fact, I just overcame #7 this week because I held my book in my own hands and read it for the first time since it was published and realized that I was pleased with it, and that it wasn’t the mess I feared I had created.

    I was stuck at #4 for a long, long time until I realized that the truth was the exact opposite, that if I didn’t start reading again, I wasn’t going to develop much of anything because I would be flying blind.


  1. […] Weiland shares the 7 Stages of Being a Writer. See how many […]

  2. […] The 7 Stages of Being a Writer by K.M. Weiland. We’ve all been in some of these stages at least once. Where are you at right now? […]

  3. […] this probably seems weird.  But for writers, this seems natural.  K.M. Weiland recently coined it as one of the 7 stages of being a writer when she said if you can’t quit, you’re a writer.  She also said not to measure […]

  4. […] over time as you get used to occasional negative feedback. I was struck by K.M. Weiland writing in The Seven Stages of Being a Writer (How Many Have You Experienced?) about negative […]

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