The Publishing Mindset: What it is, and How it’s Ruining Your Life {Every Writer is Different}

When I first drafted this post, it actually was not for this series. But when I came up with the idea for this series, I quickly decided to include it. So… welcome to post 8! πŸ˜‰

Recap:

Finding Your Why

Why You Need to Focus on Joy in Your Writing

Why You Need to Follow Your Heart as a Writer

7 Actionable Tips on Finding Your Unique Writing Style

How to Find Your Unique Writing Process

How the World Impacts Your Craft as a Writer

Every Book is Different + Announcement


What is one thing almost all writers want? Or at least dream of, to some extent?

If you just guessed being published, then you would be correct!

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Many writers dream of being published someday, whether just to see their book on a bookstore shelf or to share their Why with the world – and the people who need it.

But did you know that there is actually a dark side to the idea of publishing?

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Goals VS Expectations

The first thing I want to establish: I am not talking about goals.

I am a very goal-oriented person; if you have big dreams, I think it’s likely difficult not to be. πŸ˜† I love setting goals! I love planning things!

The word “goals” can come with the connotation of pursuit: you’re chasing something, and you’re working hard to get it – because you want to.

Here’s what Google has to say about the definition:

…okay, not exactly as on-point as I’d hoped. πŸ˜‚ We’ll make do.

That’s a little better.

Okay, but getting off that soccer-side-tangent, I wholly encourage you to set goals. I think goal setting is a vital part of being an author, and just a writer in general. If you don’t make plans to help you achieve what you want to, it likely will be more difficult to get where you want to go.

However.

That said…

There is a difference between goal setting and operating beneath the weight of expectations.

At first glance, that might seem a little obvious. I mean, expectations vs goals? Kind of a big difference, amiright?

But in reality, expectations can actually slip between the cracks… of your own mind.

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The difference here is the fact that you’re placing expectations on yourself.

I talked about this in my post on putting on blinders and blocking out the world, but I think it bears walking you through again.

Perfection

Let me reiterate one last time: I encourage goal setting. I think it’s great – when done right.

However, I found myself just over a year ago trapped in a vicious cycle due to the idea of publishing. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t think of ideas. I couldn’t even look at my own original ideas without feelings of stress overwhelming me. And I don’t even want to traditionally publish! I want to self-publish by myself.

And yet, there I was.

What essentially happened was that I heard how people wanted to read my book, and after that, I couldn’t stop thinking about them every time I sat down to work. What would they think of this? Would they like this? It became less what I wanted to write, and more of me worrying over what they might want to read.

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When I stopped writing that manuscript – The Storm Inside – I moved on and attempted to work on other things. But there was something that was trapping me:

The idea of publishing.

Despite working on a totally different project, I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen when I published this work. What would people think? How would others react to it?

As soon as you put when in the sentence, paired with the idea of doing it for someone you never really intended to write for in the first place… you put pressure on yourself. There’s suddenly this expectation of perfection, even though that can hardly be expected from the first draft.

I actually tried months and months ago to write this post, but I couldn’t. All I could do was list out all the bad effects of the publishing mindset, yet I couldn’t find any words to describe some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. I won’t go over the details of every point on the list, but this is essentially what I came up with:

  • Perfection
    • You never want to experiment
      • Because it must be perfect!
    • You expect more than you can give (especially in the first draft)
      • Because it must be perfect!
    • You might not want to write a book because you don’t think it’s ‘good enough’ to publish
      • Seeing as it must be perfect.
        • Okay, I kind of want to expand slightly on this one, because I don’t think the title of the section was clear enough. πŸ˜†
        • I essentially meant that you might never even start writing a story, simply because you don’t think it’s ‘good enough’ to publish.
  • Pressure
    • You need to reach a certain length of book
      • Which puts pressure on yourself.
    • Professionalism takes precedence
      • Which puts pressure on you to do it ‘right’
        • (Also needs to be expanded upon.)
        • In my post on writing 1 million words, I talked a little about this: I got so caught up in doing things ‘right’, that I lost the joy in writing. I couldn’t find the fun in it any longer.
        • Let me tell you right now: that is a really sucky place to be πŸ˜‚
    • Perfection
      • That wasn’t a mistake. On the list, it actually was a sub-section beneath pressure, as well as the first main section. That’s because there’s also a lot of pressure on you when you’re trying to be perfect.
  • Personally Poor
    • The outside world infringes on your writing
      • Meaning it’s not a place you can escape to by yourself.
    • You focus more on writing for other people than for yourself and lose the joy in writing (like I did)
      • Which means you lose the joy you get from writing.
    • You write what you think would be best to publish, rather than what you actually want to.
      • Which means you probably aren’t going to want to be writing whatever you are writing. Or at least won’t enjoy it.

Okay, just typing out that list is making me stressed πŸ˜‚ This also happened to me when I wrote my post on putting on blinders to block out the world. (I think that was about a year ago, now?? πŸ€”) (I checked. I began trying to write it at the beginning of summer 2020, and posted it in January of 2021. It literally took me that long to try and finish writing and editing it πŸ˜… It just kept bringing back feelings of stress and overwhelm, making it a difficult post to work on.)

It wasn’t until I let go of those expectations that things began to change. It wasn’t easy (as I talked about in my post on putting on blinders), or all that fast. But as I began to fight back against my mentality, I slowly began to step away from the shackles I’d managed to build for myself.

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As I’ve mentioned multiple times in this series, things definitely took an upwards turn in March 2020 for my writing. Not exactly my life but that’s not the point. *pointed look at covid* Looking back, I think that’s when I finally let go of all the rules I’d held myself to in my writing up till then.

And that changed everything.

(If you’ve read my post on putting on blinders, then you’ll know that I said that I still struggled until close to the end of the summer. I’m not saying that’s not true; I became miserable writing and finally acknowledged that I was in January 2020, then managed to take the first step towards fixing the problem in March 2020, which is what I’m referring to now. March was also when I got hit with my new fears, as I spoke on in that post. But, disregarding those, March was when I ultimately took the first step that would help me overcome both problems. But yeah! Just wanted to clarify that πŸ˜›)

What the other Side Looks like

In my original version of this post, I had my list of things that happened while you were stuck; now, I have a sort-of-list for what happens when you’re not.

Pressure

When you escape this mindset, it can really take the pressure off of you and your writing. You suddenly are able to focus on the joy of your craft again, and simply enjoy what you’re doing.

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When it comes to perfection… well, have you ever heard the saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder? It means that it’s relative. Just like how I said that everyone has different experiences in life which shapes their writing in different ways, the different experiences you have can change what mental bar you have set in your head as ‘perfect’.

So, really, it’s ludicrous that I used to expect something ‘perfect’ from my first draft. Let me say this very, very clearly:

You don’t have to be perfect. Not in your first draft, not in your second, and not even in your seventh.

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Jodi Picoult

It can be discouraging to feel as if you always have something left to fix. But I’m going to let you in on 2 secrets:

  1. You will never been 100% happy with it. There will always be ‘something else’. That’s because you’re going to grow as a writer, meaning that you’ll be better than you were when you wrote your last draft of your story. Which means… it’s okay to let it go. You don’t have to make it perfect; just know when it’s time to stop editing.
  2. No one else will ever see this unless you let them. This doesn’t have to be perfect for the world, because the world doesn’t have to see it.

I think that my mindset came with the misconception that you have to publish what you write. But why can’t writers just write? Simply for the act of writing and, more than that, enjoying what we’re writing? Why do we have to share everything we do? Can our work not just matter on its own? Without others reading it?

I do think that art is meant to be shared; but sometimes, we just want to write something for ourselves, without the world looking over our shoulder at it. And that’s okay, too.

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Freedom

It’s literally so freeing to not have to think about the world when you’re working on a book. Now, when I do think about it, it’s more like these healthy and inspiring daydreams where everyone loves what I’ve written. πŸ˜† It’s not this idea of a person the book wasn’t even intended for that’s entering my mind; it’s people who I do want to share it with that I think of.

Picture sharing it with your writer friends, and seeing how proud they are of you. Picture being sent a letter from someone, telling you that your book changed their life. Picture signing your name in someone’s copy – someone who says that you’re their favourite author.

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That’s the kind of sharing that we want to do.

So really, before you think about how you’re going to share it with the world, just take the time to enjoy playing around with your new idea. 😊

Expectations

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To be honest, I don’t write so well when I’m under the pressure of deadlines. You know those books where there’s this ticking clock, and the characters have to try and beat it? And everything gets more and more intense the further into the story you get? Yeah, I would suck if I were in one of those books. πŸ˜‚ I’d somehow manage to botch the whole thing up.

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I like to put things on myself through my own choice. When I decide to do something, I’ll hold myself accountable – but I don’t seem to do so well when the rest of the world is as well. πŸ˜…

I think that people really can make writing into a career – but it shouldn’t become a chore. If you are the first one to see it, the one coming up with all the ideas, letting it live inside your head, breathing life into these characters, and are revising it over and over again… then shouldn’t it bring you joy first?

Here’s another secret:

If it brings you joy first, it will also bring someone else joy. Because what you want to write is what somebody else wants to read.


So, overall, letting yourself just write for yourself – rather than writing the whole time with the idea of publishing in mind – allows you to just play around with ideas without putting any pressure on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to write. And I know that simply getting your butt in the chair so that you can write in the first place is something many writers struggle with, so you’ve really just simplified the problems you have left. πŸ˜†

Remember: you are a writer because you write, not because you write perfectly.

Swan Princess "You should write a book." GIF
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And, hey, side note: being a writer doesn’t automatically mean that you have to be an author. I happen to know some people who wrote books and never ‘published’ them. Instead, they just want to share them with their close family. And that’s still cool. (I’ve even had the honour of getting to read one such kind of book – and it was awesome! The fact that it wasn’t going to be ‘officially’ published didn’t negate that fact in the least. 😊)

When you have this sort of idea hanging over your head constantly that someone is going to see this, and it has to be perfect… it really sucks the joy out of you. And the motivation. And the inspiration. Basically… all the things. πŸ˜‚

When you change your mindset, that dread, that anxiety… disappears. There’s a certain kind of lightness that comes with this freedom. That may sound a little wishy-washy, but trust me: negatives feelings are so heavy.

So drop the dead weight.

How the Publishing Mindset is Ruining Your Life
Don’t forget to save this post for later!

When I was stuck in this mindset, I was rewriting and rewriting the same story over and over – and that’s not revising or editing; I literally was doing it over – and I did for probably 3 years straight.

But ever since I stopped thinking this way and started focusing more clearly on my own joy about a year ago, I’ve managed to write 3 different manuscript drafts. None of them are by any means perfect, but they are way better than any of those versions I wrote of The Storm Inside. Not to mention they were more fun to write. πŸ˜†

Clear difference: I was procrastinating writing The Storm Inside, but I got up at 5 in the morning to write my NaNoWriMo novel. Need I say more?


If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Who is the First Draft For?

How to Deal with Plot Bunnies – The Right Way

The Domino Effect (And What it has to do with Your Writing)


The world doesn’t innately just earn the right to see what we’ve written simply because we’ve written something; that is our choice. I think we really need to remember that healthy medium, and know where to draw the line in our minds. Next week, we’ll delve a little into the how when it comes to listening to your heart and working on new ideas. As we’ve established by now things to do – and, in today’s post, to avoid – it will be a great post that builds off of these previous ones. πŸ˜‰ If you don’t want to miss that, make sure to subscribe!

Who do you picture when you think of people reading your writing?

Have you ever fallen into the publishing mindset?

And, most important of all… do you know why Google has the soccer type of goal listed before the personal development type of goal? 😝

Julia

Photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash

11 thoughts on “The Publishing Mindset: What it is, and How it’s Ruining Your Life {Every Writer is Different}

  1. Oh my goodness, this is so relatable. Your points about desiring perfection especially hit home. I think may currently be wallowing in an unhealthy mindset about publishing. Thanks for drawing attention to the problem and suggesting solutions. Hopefully, I can get back my inspiration and write without the pressure of publishing and perfection on my shoulders all the time. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I admit I don’t think (but can I be sure) I fell into this mindset yet, but the main reason is probably because my main goal was just to put all the long-neglected ideas into one coherent story. I had no ambition with it, and I may never have. Yes, I’m investing a lot of time into it, and money as well (because cover picture won’t paint itself, unfortunately) but I’m still doing it for myself. And the four people who bought it are, honestly, four more people than I expected.

    As for the last question: in sports, there’s little to no synonym for “goal” while, in the other case, there are. So maybe that’s the reason?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s good, though! Definitely go for it, and just see what you can do with that story πŸ˜ƒ I know I mentioned this in the post, but I happen to know people like that, as well. They wrote books, but don’t intend to publish them – and that’s okay. 😊 They’re still able to write totally awesome stories, anyway πŸ˜ƒ Pfffffft, yeah, I feel that. Covers can be pretty expensive. Yes, for sure!

      Oh hey, that’s a really good point. πŸ§πŸ€” I think you might be onto something there πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, if I didn’t come across the option of self-publishing, I definitely would keep it in my drawer forever – knowing what energy drain it was to go to job interviews, repeating a similar process for publishing my book wasn’t something I’d want to suffer through.
        With self-pub, it’s out there without all the querying stress πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Definitely! I also think that it’s nice to have so much control over your own story, so self-publishing is really awesome if that’s something you want. 😁

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Another aspect is the awful process of querying agents that is part of the traditional route. I had enough rejections without feedback and copy-pasted responses while looking for a job, and I wouldn’t ever volutarily repeat it for a hobby activity… especially if I can just do my best, upload when ready, and be my own master.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly, this post was just PERFECT timing!!!! Literally, just a few days ago, I just realized that publishing shouldn’t be the end goal for my writing. Cuz if I strive for it and put everything into getting published, then the very things you talked about happen and I just lose all my creativity to write. So, seriously, THANK YOU for sharing this!!! What’s really crazy is how I just wrote a guest post for a blogger friend of mine that talked about not writing for those people you want to please, but just writing the story on your heart. So, yea, if you couldn’t tell, I greatly enjoyed this post. πŸ˜‰
    Soo in answer to your questions:
    (1) Well, I honestly picture my sisters reading it and loving it and I also picture one of my bestest friends reading it and loving it. She always loves everything I write and it’s been just a huge motivation, cuz I always know, hey, maybe no one else in the whole world will care for my stories, but Jane does!
    (2) Y E S ! Actually, I’ve been in it for most of my life and just recently I realized how much it hurts me and my writing.
    (3) Actually, I did not know that, but it is seriously hilarious. πŸ˜†

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, that’s kind of crazy! 😱 And also, good for you! Publishing is a cool thing, but at the end of the day, shouldn’t become the ultimate goal. And, YES, trust me, you DON’T want all those things to happen to you. πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚ You’re welcome! I’m just glad to help πŸ˜ƒ Oooooh, you’ll have to send me a link to that whenever that gets posted. Great minds think alike, I guess! πŸ˜„ I’m happy to hear that you did!
      (1) That’s so cool! My sisters are also on my list of people I see reading my stories. Two, in particular (including Mary, haha). Yes! It’s so great to have friends like that πŸ˜„
      (2) Good job on figuring it out and finding your way out, then! *hands you a chocolate croissant* I still think about publishing, sometimes, but while I’d love to help people through my writing, it’s not in the same unhealthy way that it used to be. 😊 Which is nice, haha.
      (3) Yeah! Like, what’s up with that, Google?? 🀨

      Liked by 2 people

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