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.