13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don't Do

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As y’all know I do a ton of reading and this includes lots and lots of blogs and articles. Over the holiday I ran across one article that just had me jumping up and down and yelling, “YES! THIS!” The Business Insider article “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” is based off Amy Morin’s book (which I highly recommend).

It doesn’t matter if we strive to have a healthy marriage, strong kids or a killer career, these tenets cross-apply to all areas of life. Mental toughness is a key component to being successful. Yes, even for writers.

So I figured I would tinker with this and make it more directly apply to writers and what we must do (or not do) if we long to do well in this career. Thus, today we are going to discuss 13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do.

#1 They don’t waste time on self-pity.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers

This is a tough job with more than its fair share of rejection and insult. Even once we are successfully published, most people don’t take our job seriously. It’s easy to get trapped in doubt and negative self-talk when, for the 10,000th time a stranger asks you what you do and you tell them you’re a writer and their answer is, “No, I meant your real job.”

Mentally strong writers kick the dust from their feet and move on.

Ruminating over rejection letters, bad reviews, blog trolls or insensitive family members wastes valuable creative energy and is toxic to the muse.

#2 They don’t give away their locus of control.

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We are in charge of our attitude and for doing the work. This means we are going to have to get really good at setting emotional and physical boundaries. Successful writers guard their writing time and guard their creative energy. They also know they are the only ones in charge of their dreams.

Years ago, when I decided to go pro as a writer, I had a church elder scoff at me and essentially tell me that I had a better chance of being hit by lightning than being a successful author. I went home, dusted off the resume and was about to give up and get a “real” job when I realized he was not the boss of me. He wasn’t God and didn’t know everything. Instead of giving up, I threw every ounce of energy into proving him wrong.

Really glad I did 😉 .

#3 They don’t hide from change.

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This has been especially critical in the past decade as the digital revolution has changed everything we thought we knew about the industry. A business that hadn’t changed much in over a hundred years was rendered unrecognizable in the span of 6 years.

This world changes fast and we can harness the wave and ride it, or let it toss us into the reefs and drown us.

#4 They don’t focus on what they can’t control.

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We can’t control Amazon’s rules or Smashwords’ terms of service. We can’t control whether an agent accepts us. We can’t control whether Barnes & Noble lives or dies.

We can control getting the words on the page. We can control building a brand capable of driving book sales. I see a lot of writers wasting a lot of energy over issues where they don’t have any control. That energy is better used elsewhere.

#5 They don’t try to please everyone.

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No one will ever write the perfect book that everyone reader loves. This is one of the dangers of critique groups. We work and rework and rework trying to take everyone’s suggestions and all we end up with is an unmarketable mess known as the Book By Committee (a.k.a. Franken-Novel).

Mentally strong writers also realize they can’t please everyone on the home front. Some friends/family are just going to have to get used to you not being available for everything and anything.

#6 They don’t fear taking calculated risks.

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Fortune favors the bold. If you’ve shopped that first book four years and no agent or publisher has signed it? You might want to try self-publishing. Let it go and move forward and let your work be tested. If it sucks? Pull it and learn. But maybe it doesn’t suck.

I had one of the top agents in NYC for my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital WorldHe couldn’t sell it because NY feared change, but good thing I didn’t. My book has risen to become the definitive guide for authors who want to create an on-line brand and platform and actually have time left to write lots of books.

RoM is still as relevant today as the day I published it, but where would it be had I feared change and waited on permission?

#7 They don’t dwell on the past.

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This can be a tough one. We are wired to learn from failure but failure, frankly, is not pleasant. I’ve made tons of mistakes and in doing so? Learned a lot of ways NOT to do things. There was a time I did too much crying over what I did wrong, of what I’d failed to see. Of people I’d allowed to take advantage of me.

But this is a fruitless use of energy. Energy that can better be used elsewhere.

Dwelling on the past might mean we are holding onto a manuscript we need to just stick in a drawer. Maybe that book was a learning curve and never meant to be published. We can spend another 5 years rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic or we can use what we learned and write more books and better books.

#8 They don’t make the same mistakes over and over.

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Notice in #7 I pointed out we needed to learn from the past. Sure, don’t camp out there but also? Take good notes. I think it is a fallacy to tell writers that the more they write the better they will get.

That is only half-true.

There has to be some guidance and reflection and readjustment. Sort of like if I swing a golf club 10,000 times and do it with terrible form, I won’t be playing pro golf but I likely WILL have blown disks.

If your writing isn’t working? Take classes, get feedback from experts on your areas of weakness. Pros in ALL fields do this yet we writers are notorious for believing if we need help or take classes we aren’t “talented”. That is bunk. Pro athletes have coaches and trainers. Pro musicians go study in conservatories. Pros learn where they can do better and get to work.

#9 They don’t resent other writers’ successes.


Jealousy is one of many emotions all of us will feel in this profession. It is natural. Feel it then move through it and use it. The great part about our profession is we are really not in competition with other writers. Books are not so cost-prohibitive readers won’t buy more than one.

Just realize success will come in due time and channel envy into inspiration.

#10 They don’t give up after the first failure.


Or even the 100th. Want to feel better? Check out 20 Brilliant Authors Whose Work was Initially Rejected.

#11 They don’t fear alone time.


Writers have historically done better at this since many of us are natural introverts. But social media has altered our profession and it is really easy to get caught up in FB drama or Twitter rants and fail to spend enough time alone. We need alone time not just for writing. We need that quiet time of reflection to power up the muse and also to take stock of mistakes and learn to do it better the next time.

#12 They don’t feel the world owes them anything.

All of us have read books that made us go, “WTH? WHY is THAT book a runaway hit?” We have also probably read other books and said, “Why not THIS book? This book is awesome and yet it isn’t popular!” The problem with publishing is it is not a meritocracy.

No one owes us anything, not even a book sale. The more we go back to those earlier habits like focusing on what we can control, the better. I’ve run into more than a couple pissed off resentful writers because the book isn’t selling despite strong reviews and heavy marketing. Again, anger is energy better used to write the next book.

#13 They don’t expect immediate results.

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This is a BIG one. It is very unusual for the first book to be a runaway success. Most authors (traditionally and nontraditionally published) only start really seeing results with compounded sales. Three books seems to be a minimum.

The same thing goes for an author blog. Aside from the actual books there is no stronger way to build a brand and a platform (see class on this below) but a blog is not going to take off overnight. It will take time and consistency….then it will seem to take off overnight.

I blogged to the ether for over a year and a half until I had ONE post that changed everything. One post went viral BUT since I already had hundreds of posts in my archives, I gained MAD subscribers.

Who would have subscribed though if I had ten posts I’d long abandoned to the spam bots?

What are your thoughts? Have you developed better mental toughness over the years? How did you do it? Do you think toughness trumps talent? Do you still struggle with some of these? I know I do. I am a work in progress, too!

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of NOVEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

TREAT YOUR MUSE!!!! Check out the Upcoming Classes

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it because the holidays are crazy? No excuses! Take time to be good to yourself! All you need is an internet connection!

How to Get Your Book Made Into Film

Class Title: How to Get Your Book Made Into Film
Instructor: Writer/Producer Joel Eisenberg
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: WEDNESDAY November 30th, 2016 1:00 PM E.S.T. to 3:00 P.M. EST

How do you cull the essence of your novel into a feature film? How do you expand your short story for a television series? Finally, when the written adaptation is complete, how do you navigate the Hollywood maze for real money and credits?

Joel Eisenberg has been there. As an independent producer of over 20 years, Joel has developed content or sold projects to networks such as TNT, CBS-Decades, FOX Studios, Ovation TV and more. As the former head of EMO Films at Paramount Studios, Joel is also a professional networker, having hosted entertainment network events at the Paramount lot, as well as Warner Brothers, Sunset-Gower Studios and more. His work has been featured in many media outlets, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, The Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and even Fangoria.

Important Class for After NaNoWriMo! You might have a New Year’s Resolution to query a novel. Doesn’t matter. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

Class Title: Pitch Perfect—How To Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 2nd, 2015 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?


Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn. Synopses are often requested by agents and editors and it is tough not to feel the need to include every last little detail. Synopses are great for not only keeping your writing on track, but also for pitching your next book and your next to that agent of your choice.

This class will help you learn the fundamentals of writing a query letter and a synopsis. What you must include and what doesn’t belong.

So make your writing pitch perfect with these two skills!

Plotting for Dummies

Class Title: Plotting for Dummies
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $35 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: SATURDAY December 3rd, 2016 2:30 PM E.S.T. to 4:30 P.M. EST

Are you tired of starting book after book only to lose steam and be unable to finish? Do you finish, but then keep getting rejected? Do you finish, but it takes an ungodly amount of time? Sure, great you land an agent for your book, but you don’t have FIVE YEARS to write the next one?

This class is here to help. The writers who are making an excellent income are not doing it off ONE book, rather they are harnessing the power of compounded sales. This class is designed to help you learn to plot leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner (even for PANTSERS!)

Learn the basic elements of plot, various plotting techniques, how to test your seed idea to see if it is even strong enough to be a novel and MORE!

Blogging for Authors

Class Title: Blogging for Authors
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 9th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

This class is going to cover:

How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
What are the biggest mistakes/wastes of time?
How can you effectively harness the power of algorithms (no computer science degree required)?
What do you blog about? What topics will engage readers and help create a following?
How can you harness your author voice using a blog?
How can a blog can help you write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner?
How do you keep energized years into your blogging journey?
How can a blog help you sell more books?
How can you cultivate a fan base of people who love your genre?
Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.


For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  2. Reblogged this on Pearls Before Swine and commented:
    Excellent article to help jump start your writing week! My favorite Post Quote: “We can’t control Amazon’s rules or Smashwords’ terms of service. We can’t control whether an agent accepts us. We can’t control whether Barnes & Noble lives or dies. We can control getting the words on the page. We can control building a brand capable of driving book sales. I see a lot of writers wasting a lot of energy over issues where they don’t have any control. That energy is better used elsewhere.”

    • PHS on November 28, 2016 at 11:32 am
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
    Anybody need a Monday pep-talk? Here it is…

  3. LOVE this!!!! Thank you!

  4. Great post Kristen:). Thank you…

  5. This is great! I’ve been saying it for a while now: It’ll take at least 3 books and 5 years to have some measure of real success. Getting my second book out there soon so I am on my way. Just write.

  6. So many truths in so few words!
    Thanks a lot, Kristen!

  7. You make all your lessons so fun. Laugh and learn. I think the expectation of immediate success frustrates many new writers.

  8. Lots of good things to consider. Some I do and some I realize that I should be doing. Thanks.

  9. Great article! #!9 and # 13 really hit home. A friend of mine wrote ONE BOOK and hit NY Times best seller! Not fair, lol! I must be strong because she is still my friend!

  10. Reblogged this on Erotic Vampire and commented:
    Loved this post Kristen. I get incredible value out of every one. Thank you for paying it forward.

  11. I have a bad habit on the living in the past and the self-pity ones. But I’m learning to push past those tendencies and live life in the now and just pull up my big girl pants and say “Get over it and move on.” It’s made my life so much better, and spurred me to do more with my writing career. This is a wonderful post. Thanks for it. It was very timely for me.

  12. Reblogged this on Shereena Badu and commented:
    Writing is a serious business that need dedication and self discipline. This article said it better what I feel everyone starting out on this journey need to thrive and success in the long run.

  13. Great advice, as always. Thanks for NOT giving up and being here to share your knowledge. I’m trying to figure out my next move since my middle-grade book was canceled by the publisher and no agent wants it. I have a YA on the ready to query … guess I’m biding my time. Thanks, again.

  14. Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
    More Expert Advice from the Always awesome Kristen Lamb

    • Twyla Weixl on November 28, 2016 at 2:47 pm
    • Reply

    Is that Patricia Highsmith or Susan Sonntag in the first photo? You really should identify people when you use their photos.

    Cheers, Twyla

  15. Really needed to read this today! I’m only just taking my first serious steps into the world of writing (one day I’ll be an author 🙂 ) and I know I’ll face rejection along the way. Already dealing with scepticism from people. But I’ll persevere and channel it into my work 🙂 Love your writing!

  16. Be patient should be on this list. Patient with yourself, with sales, with words. My fourth book in four years releases in January. With other self-pubbed authors out there writing four books in four months it can be easy to beat myself up, but I have to let that go.

  17. Whoohoo, best day ever not having to talk to anyone.

    The patience thing is harder. To have to work so hard for so long with no return is difficult. Human beings are wired for instant gratification, and there are a slew of studies to prove it.

    Usually, being patient is associated with a rich reward at the end. Or at least one that’s larger than what you get now. Not yet sure writing works that way, but I don’t have the experience to speak to it.

  18. great article! funny memes.

  19. I think mental toughness begins with believing in oneself and the story you are trying to tell. No matter the folly, the imperfection, the losses, etc., if the story tells an important truth just trust that your effort, however flawed, will be one more voice that makes up the chorus singing that truth as loud as possible. It’s okay if you’re not the lead singer, just do your best.

  20. Kristen,

    Love the hedge hog photo. Made me laugh.

    There is so much truth in this article. We have to be mentally strong to survive.


  21. Thank you for pointing out the jealousy factor. There is not a limited number of readers, nor do they read only one book or one author. When an author recommends a book they love, I want to check it out. I can’t wait around all year for their next book.

    Some indie author circles are supportive and collaborative. This makes their social media group more active and attracts more readers IMO.

    • dwane779 on November 28, 2016 at 5:56 pm
    • Reply

    Don’t expect immediate results is something you said in your book on blogging. I am glad I learned that before setting up my blog. Patience until I get my viral post, if ever. 🙂 Still having fun though. The other 12 things were insightful and appreciated.

  22. Thank you, Kristen!! I need to hear this today. Time for more work and less worry.

  23. Reblogged this on adaratrosclair and commented:
    How about some Monday Motivation from a wonderful Warrior Writer . . . and some amazing alliteration, huh, huh?) 🙂

  24. I’m rather outgoing usually, so while I don’t fear time alone, I do sometimes have a difficult time making people understand that I crave it. Need it. I don’t want too much, mind you, but some.

    I think the Locus of Control thing is the one that speaks to me most. Not that I’m guilty necessarily. I’m in the process of finding another job – most likely for a substantial pay cut, because in my current one I have zero energy left for myself. As soon as I realized that this was going on, I made the decision to change. There are other creative outlets that I am pursuing, none of which will ever produce if I have to numb myself with anxiety pills every day.

  25. Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    Excellent advice, not so easy to do sometimes but most good things aren’t

  26. I love these 13 points! Thank you for sharing them.

  27. Reblogged this on Kat's Writing Runway and commented:
    Love this post so much from Kristen Lamb. For me, #8 so important not to make the same mistakes over and over. Taking a class or two, or even hiring a writing coach will add a lot of depth to your writing. And read….as much as you can. I read and listen to everything around me. I’ll catch an awesome word or hear about an unusual place and jott down in journals – maybe to use in the future. It all adds to filling the muse.

  28. As always, a great post. I love all your blogs. I even flag them in my mailbox so I can pop back to have a read. ???

  29. Mentally strong – I think sometimes I just go metal with it all. I love the inspiration you’ve given here! 🙂

  30. Reblogged this on Books and More.

  31. Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance and commented:
    “Does toughness trump talent?”

    • lucindasagemidgorden on November 29, 2016 at 12:24 pm
    • Reply

    Whew, I was lucky to have parent who taught me most of these. It is hard not to despair at times. I’m a fairly new writer with my first novel coming out early next year. I want it to be a success right off the bat, but you’re right everything is cumulative. That’s why I have a blog, and a soon to be published video series, Loving Literature. Having multiple projects keeps me engaged in the creative process and my mind off being impatient. I loved this post. Thanks so much for the reminders.

  32. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.

  33. Reblogged this on lmnelsonscorner and commented:
    Great insights here. Definitely worth reading.

  34. This came along JUST when I needed it. Especially #1!!! I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years now and the rejections still get me down. It’s easy to just get sucked into it and feel like you’re never going to get a “yes” again.

  35. Hat dies auf Marmor und Ton – Autoren schreiben mit MUT rebloggt und kommentierte:
    11 von den 13 Sachen kriege ich schon ganz gut hin 😛 Am Rest arbeite ich noch.

  36. Thanks for the tough love!

  37. Me too, I agree, at least 12 of these 13 points are excellent advice for all writers.

  38. Reblogged this on Claire Plaisted – Indie Author and commented:
    A few things we all probably need to learn aobut Mental Toughness as Writers.

  39. LOVE LOVE LOVE this! The pictures were also great, esp. the horse. 🙂

  40. I spent some time feeling sorry for myself, but thanks to writers like you, I learned to suck it up and just get on with it.. I’m going to repost this on my own writing blog, https://judithpettersen.com/writers-apprentice/ so other’s can learn from you, Kristen. Thanks for all your great advice and encouragement.

  41. Hi, Kristen. Great post. Thanks for bringing up the immediate results point. I sometimes forget that getting published is only half the journey. It’s about sticking with it through the years until you have ALL the bricks laid in that foundation, not just one big rock. 🙂

    Quick question: Are you going to be doing the class How to Get Your Book Made Into Film again any time soon? The class was on November 30th, and I came to read this post December 1st and saw the class existed. I missed the class by one day, and I’m just kicking myself.

  42. Great words of wisdom. My first attempt at a crime novel two years ago was a steaming pile of woo-hoo. No plot, no direction, flat and underdeveloped characters and a vague setting. I procrastinated for a while on it until I decided to kick myself in the backside and LEARN some technique, goddamit. Fast forward to this year and I spent most of NaNoWriMo writing detailed story and character notes for three novels. I wrote out an entire synopsis for my crime fic in one sitting, full of plot twists and steady progression, which surprised me as I consider myself stronger at characterization than plotting. When I kick myself in the backside, swallow the ego and complaining, I can accomplish! Will be ready to write my three novels next year. Thanks for the article!

  43. Reblogged this on ichbinmeisterin and commented:
    Kristen Lamb tells it to you straight, no nonsense. As a writer who has suffered from many of these failures (PARTICULARLY endless self-pity), this was a welcome reminder to keep at it, no matter what.

    • Jesse Magnan on December 1, 2016 at 7:43 pm
    • Reply

    Funny i that this is the same stuff we hear over and over again yet seem to fail to listen to. I myself am guilty of at least one or two of these.

  44. Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    Kristen Lamb posted about 13 things mentally strong writers don’t do. I find this article very interesting, helpful, strong and impressive. I’m still working on the last 10 points. HAHA I’m probably not mentally strong… more… a tiny bit unbalanced. LOL

  45. Kristin, You’ve hit all the things that drag us down! I don’t think they will ever go away. But forewarned is forearmed as the cliche says.

  46. I genuinely love alone time. Ever since I started moving into freelance blogging I’m massively starting to look forward to writing time – which ironically makes it easier to deal with the other 12 points. Just sayin’… 😉

    • KPerkins on December 5, 2016 at 2:26 pm
    • Reply

    So much good advice! And it’s good to have a reminder that stepping out and moving forward will eventually see results.

  47. Boy I needed to hear all of these Kristen. I have been writing for a long time. But I have stopped short of moving past the writing due to fear and so many unanswered questions. I do believe I am going to be a published author and I appreciate you as well as others willing to give back to those further behind on the journey. You understand the isolation we feel from unknowing family and friends who see us as a quaint anachronism.

    Just because I am creative and like to spend time in what I love doesn;t mean I am wrong. One day they will pick up one of my books and say “Wow, I had no idea!” Even thought I have been saying it all of my life.

  48. Love this post! My favorite is “Don’t expect overnight success.” That is an idea I’m trying to get into my head every day, because I desperately want the book I’ve been writing (the one I think of as my baby) to be a success but I also know that is a very unlikely story. It’s so hard to think about! Maybe in a year I’ll be better adjusted to the idea. I’m a young writer (21) and so I have other young writer acquaintances and this is something I’m trying to get them to understand too, as gently as possible. It can take a very long time for a writer to see success. Dreaming of publishing is not as important as learning to be a better writer. Thanks for the post!

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  6. […] Kate Moretti explains how to preserve your creative self in times of trouble, Polly Iyer discusses writing as therapy, and Kristen Lamb lists 13 things mentally strong writers don’t do. […]

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