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Everyone argues over whether or not writer’s block is real, or an excuse to put off tough work. But we can all agree our state of mind heavily affects our writing. To create consistently requires maintaining a state of mind conducive to creativity.

When I set out to write full time, I learned this lesson the hard way. I could see the place I wanted to go, but I couldn’t find the path. That worried me. Convinced I needed a gatekeeper to approve of my work, I set the goal of selling at least one short story to a professionally paying magazine. Even though short stories are my least favorite form of the medium (both to read and write), and even though my ultimate goal was to publish novels.

Rejections poured in. I saw my chances of success evaporating. Publishing is a tough industry, and it’s important for every new writer to be aware of that. But I forgot the journey is at least as important as our ultimate destination. During my struggle against my greatest ‘block’ of all time, I learned many important lessons that have helped me keep the beast at bay for good.

You are in control
If you look at the way traditional publishing is structured, breaking in seems a daunting task. You need to get an agent in order to get the attention of an editor or publisher. And finding the right agent can be like finding a needle in a haystack. You cast your work onto the desks of strangers hoping one of them will see your potential. And as the rejections pile up you wonder how anyone ever succeeds beyond random chance. Success feels beyond your control.

But it isn’t. That’s the fabulous thing about the world we live in now. You can choose when and how your work reaches a wider audience. You can publish a book yourself. You can start a blog and post snippets until you find your audience. Or you can set your current project aside and start a new one that might just wow all those agents who rejected you.

The point is, you get to shape your journey, and maintaining that control empowers you to maintain a creative state of mind.

Remember why you’re writing in the first place
If the answer is ‘to make money,’ you might be barking up the wrong tree. Of course every writer would like to pay the rent with their work, and it’s a worthwhile goal. But if the only reason you’re putting words on a page is to bring in the green stuff, you may have a problem. Readers like characters and stories to which they can form an emotional attachment. If you have no passion for your projects, it’s difficult to create and cultivate those intense bonds. If your words seem flat on the page to you, how can you expect a reader to invest in your story?

Writing is a lot of work, and sometimes you have to wade through the difficult scenes to get to the good stuff. But you should always be able to find joy at some point in the process. There’s no scene that can’t be salvaged, no passage that can’t be rewritten to breathe life into the prose, so long as you love what you’re doing.

Be Spontaneous
Writing every day takes discipline. If you want writing to be your job, you have to treat it like work. This can be particularly difficult if you work another job to pay the bills. The more something feels like work, the easier it becomes to generate excuses for putting it off. No matter how passionate you are about your projects, too much work can bog you down and burn you out. When writing feels too much like a chore, treat yourself to a reminder of why you love to write in the first place. Indulge in a recent plot bunny to get the fire burning again. Choose a writing prompt and write whatever comes to mind. Or let yourself flip ahead to a scene you’ve been anticipating for a long time to reignite your love of the project. Making writing fun again is a good way to shake off the funk.

Re-read your favorite pieces
If you need a break from writing (and we all do sometimes), try some reading instead. I like to re-read the books that inspired me to write in the first place. Another way to reconnect to your joy of writing is to dig out your favorite scenes and reread them. It doesn’t matter how old they are, or how bad they are, as long as you still enjoy them. I like to laugh about how bad some of my old favorites really are, though the events and characters still bring a smile to my face.

Talk to other writers
We don’t write in a vacuum. Or at least, we don’t need to. Every writer struggles, though not every writer talks about it. It can be easy to assume that we’re alone when we get lost. That we’ve done something wrong, something every other writer instinctively knew how to avoid. When we talk to each other, we realize that we all stumble. Best of all, talking to other writers allows us to support each other through the tough times. Let your writerly friends offer feedback for your work, act as a sounding board for ideas or even just help you write something fun and silly to get back in the mood.

The journey to the distant island of success is a long one, so don’t forget to enjoy it.

Megan Cutler is an avid writer of science fiction and fantasy in all its forms. Her characters keep her up late and wake her up early, but she loves them anyway. She published her first book, Island of Lost Forevers, in May of 2014 and is scheduled to release the final book in the trilogy in April this year. For more about her work, including free fiction every Friday, check out megancutler.net

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