The Cure for Frustrated Writer’s Syndrome

You’re frustrated. This is normal, you tell yourself. Everyone goes through this. Right? Why, then, does it feel like this? Why do you want to pull your hair out and scream? Why does it feel like you’ve hit a wall? Welcome to Frustrated Writer’s Syndrome.

Frustrated Writer
Photo credit: Marvin Lee (Creative Commons)

You’ve believed a lie. A lie that says that “content is king” — that all you need is the quality of your craft. Let me break the news to you: Being a good writer is not enough.

It is not enough to sit there and type away on a keyboard, hoping that one day you will be discovered. You have to know the market, how the industry works, and how to promote yourself (without being a sleaze bag).

This whole writing biz, admittedly, can be a bit tricky to navigate. But you need to figure it out. If you’re going to be a writer, that is. A real pro.

May the best art… lose?

We unfortunately live in an age in which the best art doesn’t always win.

The best musicians don’t always get record deals. The best writers don’t always get published. The best painters have showrooms full of work that never sells. To an extent, this is how it has always been.

Art is supposed to make a difference in the world. And good art without promotion does little good. As always, there are those who figure out the formula for “getting picked” and exploit it to the point that their art becomes hollow and superficial.

But that is not the only way.

There is a way to be true to your art and share it with the world. So how do you do it? Here’s the 3-step cure for all your writing frustrations…

First, repeat after me: “Being a good writer is not enough.”

The fact that you understand grammar and syntax and even know when to “break” the rules doesn’t make you special.

What makes a writer special is her ability to be honest, to write what needs to be written, and to do so in such a way that it connects with readers.

She puts herself out there, making herself available to her audience, building a rapport through generosity and friendship, and delivering quality work right into their laps.

Good writers build tribes. They create networks of followers who want to hear what they have to say — seeking first to serve before ever asking for anything in return.

Second, you must learn marketing.

For some of you, this is an evil, dirty word. But it doesn’t have to be.

Think of it like this: Marketing is the art and science of spreading ideas. That’s it. Some people have used it for evil or self-serving means, but at the end of the day, marketing is just spreading an idea.

It may help to distinguish promotion in two ways:

  1. There is the deceitful, coercive form of marketing, which is more appropriately called propaganda. Or just plain lying.
  2. There is the inspiring, motivational form of marketing, which we’ll call storytelling. In All Marketers Are Liars (later renamed All Marketers Tell Stories), Seth Godin illuminates the fact that really good marketers tell stories that people want to be a part of.

It’s nearly impossible to become successful as a writer without learning how to promote and pitch your work. There is a way to do this without your having to feel like a used car salesman. And it begins with marketing.

Third, start doing it.

Put yourself out there. Start a blog. Launch a newsletter. Share an idea.

Begin with generosity (this is your best marketing strategy). Build the tribe first. Then deliver content that inspires and motivates, constantly checking in to see how you can help your community.

As this tribe grows, you’ll find yourself having to promote yourself far less; the community will do it for you. (And you can rest at night with that assuring, non-sleazy feeling.)

You’ll stop feeling so frustrated. In fact, you’ll realize that it wasn’t frustration that you were feeling. It was fear. Fear of not succeeding. Of the world never being changed by your ideas. Everything will have changed.

You’ll have an audience, something to say, and the recognition you deserve.

Today, I’m excited to announce that I have a guest post featured on Copyblogger. In the post, I address the frustration that a lot of good writers are feeling with the recent surge of bloggers on the Internet — many of which are mediocre bloggers at best.


What’s your biggest writing frustration? Share in the comments.

40 thoughts on “The Cure for Frustrated Writer’s Syndrome

  1. Great tips! There is always a lot of journalists or  travel writers in the travel blogging niche complaining about the caliber of writing on blogs etc. They are always talking about grammar, conventions, spelling, literary devices etc.

    My thing is always, this is a different ball game. Having success with your writing online is all about having a story to tell and telling it in a way that appeals to many people and inspires them. You have to market yourself and make yourself accessible to your readers. Be real for them.

    You can be the best writer in the world but if you can’t make the people find you and then follow you then what is the point.
    Congrats on the copy blogger article.

  2. I think the marketing part is always the biggest deal for most. When I first started writing a couple of years ago, I told myself I was never going to do this for fame, fortune, blah blah blah. I am sure you know the type, arrogant by telling yourself you’re not.

    I even followed some random persons blogging etiquette rules by not tweeting my articles too much, etc. 


    Most days it takes more effort to market myself, build my platform than it does to maintain my blog. 

    You have to make an effort to “go get it!” 

    1. Yes I know that type well. Self promotion is an art — you can’t overdo it but you can’t neglect it either. I like to think that I spend so much time on my content that I don’t mind promoting it. I believe in it; I think it’s worth promoting.

  3. Wow, congrats on the guest post.
    I really like how you define marketing as spreading ideas. I think that really gives marketing-averse bloggers a good perspective. Most equate marketing with gimme-gimme-gimme, but there’s a way to market that really is about helping other people. This is an important point, because it helps us not to just make peace with marketing but to embrace it. Even those bloggers who already market their blog can be inspired to do more and more.

  4. Is your post not on Copyblogger or am I just stupid?

    One of my biggest writing frustrations is feeling the need to constantly outdo myself. Today’s post was a smashing success…but I need to do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And…I get myself exhausted. I love your point in the Writer’s Manifesto – to love writing for writing’s sake. Helps keep each post genuine.

  5. What you say is very true.  But it took me quite a while to understand that.  I thought that smart content would bring people in, and it did, but not as many as I would have liked.  It wasn’t until i started reaching out to people on twitter and in other social media outlets, actually starting a dialogue, and listening to what other people were saying, that the traffic came. It’s still not where I want it to be, but it’s getting better, and the conversations Im having with people are leading to additional content ideas.

  6. I’d say my biggest writing frustration at the moment is trying to stay focused on what it is I am trying to accomplish through my blog posts.

  7. My biggest frustration comes with staying the course through the ups and downs. Sometimes, I take things too personally and I get disappointed with lackluster results after working so hard. But, I enjoy writing and I know that blogging requires a lot of patience and persistence.

    Reading helpful posts like this one eases the mind as well. In fact, I had to link to this in a post I just finished because the advice in part one was perfect.

    Nice work man, although I’m new at commenting here, I’ve been visiting here for awhile.

  8. The biggest frustration at the moment is extremely slow wireless where I’m staying, and a blog platform that keeps getting glitchy on me. Hmmm…may be time to switch. Apart from those immediate frustrations, it is hard to know where to find the balance between writing, figuring out all the technical stuff (some of us picked this up after raising kids and feel like a techno-Jedi when figuring out what “cut and paste html code” means). Then there’s the balance between writing, commenting, networking. I’ve only been at this for a little over a year, and I guess we all learn by doing. Planning to attend a conference in the fall, and am hoping to learn from some veterans.

  9. Some people have a real problem with self promotion while others probably over due it! I keep coming back to this: write great content (or at least try to!) and then connect with other’s in the same niche.

    Plus, the power of influence is amazing. If someone that’s well repsected and followed by many shares your posts, you have instant credibility.

  10. I wanted to add to your Copy Blogger, pursuing perfection as several people have noted across the ages,  can destroy the good.  Good enough is probably where things are heading with everyone blogging and that will be good for those of us who suffer from a learning disablity that often makes us look stupid, lazy, ignorant, or lazy.  

    I know how to spell the and when my brain spells it hte or eht spell check gets it.  Spell check doesn’t catch when I spell not “now” or “now” not.  Nor do I catch those errors until days later if I happen to read the post. I write, then I read, then  I correct, I read again, I take care of all the red and green lines, wait a few hours, do it again and if I am lucky what I post is relatively error free.  

    Luck is a fickle visitor.  The upside for me of only being good enough is that I have learned to tolerate the way my brain works.  I do the  best I can, keep at it, turn editors and some readers suicidal, and two of my books have been  published.  I  loved reading as a child and love writing and that drives me.  Whenever I fall on my knees to give thanks, right after family comes word processing.  Without I could not write and I write lots every day.  I  blog, blog, blog trying to promote my business Emotional Fitness Training and yes my wacky brain forced me to learn to handle shame, fear, uncertainty, anger, sadness and betrayal, hence my business. 

    Just needed to share a bit about dysgraphia  you can read about it at  all editors should be informed and would be writers might also be interested 

  11. I read your guest post, too. Glad to have found your blog.

    First and fore most, you are very right in saying that the best people are not always the ones who are rewarded the privilege of living out their dreams may it be having a successful album or New York times best-seller book. It’s sad, but  true.

    Sometimes people can just have such horrible writing and they need an honest person to tell them that it is. They need to work at perfecting their skills – it is not impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m Possible;e”, right? 🙂

    Other people are good at writing but need the promotion. I feel sorry for them and really go out of my way to help them – they deserve it.

  12. There’s some brilliant tips to follow in here. I think your point on good writing not being enough, can’t be said enough. People don’t realise that as much, if not more, time that goes into your writing, will also need to go into marketing, or building your community. That’s unfortunately what puts many new bloggers off. There should be a learning manual!

  13. “Build the tribe first. Then deliver content that inspires and motivates” // how do you build a tribe without providing content people want and need? So far for me it seems like trying to get hired without experience. How will I gain experience if nobody will hire me? Same for tribes. How do I build a tribe without content? So I deliver content but have no tribe to deliver it to.

    1. Good question. This actually happens in tandem. The reason I wrote this is because building a tribe isn’t just about delivering content. It’s about engaging — about asking questions, discovering felt needs and then meeting them.
      “Content is king” isn’t exactly true. If it is, though, I like Sonia Simone’s addendum to that phrase: “…Then relationships are queen.” You can have the best content in the world without an audience to read it.
      So how do you get both? You start generating content that will hopefully engage people, but then you ask them, you invite them to respond. And you tailor your content to meet those needs or challenge them or create some kind of change.
      It’s not a crapshoot. Every piece of content you write should be more and more informed, the more you build and interact with your tribe. Hope that helps.

  14. I just ran across your article and I recognize the importance of what you had to say. My problem is that I have 40 years and 4 professions worth of schooling and practical experience and loads of experience doing ‘technical’ writing, mostly med-legal and straight legal writing. But all of this was done ‘in house’ and meant nothing other than to the clients and the courts. I have come to the point that it is making me crazy thinking that I could keel over at any time (such as happened to Prince, the musical artist today) and die, and consequently all of this knowledge and experience will go to waste. Regards

Comments are closed.