Several weeks ago, my dad mentioned that he’d read some things on my blog which led him to believe that I was feeling discouraged. That statement bothered me a lot, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Until now.

You see, I wasn’t discouraged, I was frustrated, and there’s a big difference between those two, at least in my mind.

Frustrated means “WAAAHHH. Why doesn’t anyone understand? Why aren’t things going my way? I just want this to be easier!”

Discouraged means, “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore…”

I imagine that any life path, not just writing, involves a good deal of frustration. There are always setbacks and obstacles that you weren’t expecting and have to overcome. They’re annoying, sure, but there’s no doubt in your mind that you are going to overcome them, because that’s just what you have to do to continue on your desired path.

Discouragement, on the other hand, is when you get to one of those hurdles, and you don’t really feel like jumping. Because you’re no longer sure that your path continues on the other side, or that you’ll ever reach the end, or that you even want to anymore.

For the record, I have never been discouraged about my writing. Frustrated like hell, certainly, but never ever discouraged.

(And why not? Because I have people, like my dad, and my mom, and my friends, and all of y’all, who believe in me. Who support me. Who get me fired up when I’m running low on fuel, who cheer me up when I’m feeling stressed. So, thank you. Someday my books will be on shelves all around the world, and I’ll owe as much of that to y’all as to myself. Truly.)

14 responses to “Frustration vs. discouragement”

  1. Todd Newton Avatar

    We don’t want to feel either of these things, but we inevitably feel both as writers I think. Frustration is more public than discouragement, for obvious reasons, so that’s probably where the potential confusion comes in. My problem is that there’s no easy way out of either, I just have to build up momentum enough to cancel them out.
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: "Anything" and "Everything" =-.

  2. Sonja Avatar

    Yes, but what if your books don’t ever line the shelves of bookstores around the world? And I’m totally not trying to discourage you or disparage your talent. One of the best moments in my life was when I realized that “not being published” did not mean “not a good writer.” Publishing and writing have a tenuous connection. It’s like if someone said, “I’m going to be a movie star.” Well, maybe you’ll be a movie star. That has more to do with luck than talent. And I feel the same way about authors getting published. It has to do with luck as much (if not more than) talent. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of crap where you scratched your head and said to yourself, “How the hell did this ever see the light of day?” It was luck. That mediocre (or downright bad) author got lucky. Really lucky. Conversely, I’m sure you’ve read someone’s writing that is really good (at school, on the internet, your own ;) ) and wondered how it was possible that this person was NOT published. They might be working really hard at getting published, but no dice… or no luck. And they might never get lucky.

    I know that sounds… bad? discouraging? I don’t know. But to me it was like this huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Publishing doesn’t equal good writing. Publishing isn’t about being “deserving” of publishing. Once I realized that, I could focus on my writing and feel good about my writing even if I’m never (and I probably won’t be, because I put no effort into getting) published.

    I’d hate for you to feel like you’re a failure because you never reach this goal of publication that is far more out of your control than in it. You CAN control your writing. You CAN control being a good writer and improving and being an even better writer. But getting published… it’s the luck of the draw more than anything else.

    Of course, this is only my perspective. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Thoughts from sesshin =-.

  3. Kristan Avatar

    I think that’s a really good point: being a good writer and being published have a “tenuous connection” at best. Just like being a good actor and being a movie star. I absolutely believe in and agree with that, and I wish more people understood it. I think they, like you, would find it freeing. I know I did when I finally digested it.

    So then, it all depends what a person’s goals are — and of course goals can change over time. Right now, my goal is to be both a good writer and a published one. I can’t see the future, so only time will tell if those dreams come true or if they change.

    But if they don’t come true, I won’t blame myself, for precisely the reasons you outlined. :)

  4. Sonja Avatar

    I guess my point is that it doesn’t SOLELY depend on what a person’s goals are. Your goal could be to get published, and you might never succeed – through no fault of your effort or talent. So what would that mean to you? Since you would have “failed to meet your goal” would your writing therefore be a failure?

    I just get worried about a person who pins all their hopes and dreams on luck. It’s kind of like if a person’s “goal” was to win the lottery. You can do everything right – buy that ticket every week – and never win. So who are you then?

    I think it’s very important to realize that the stories we read from authors about how they tried and tried and tried and never gave up, blah blah blah, are all from PUBLISHED authors. You don’t get to read the stories from all the equally talents authors who also tried and tried and tried and never gave up but STILL never got published. No one is interviewing them. I’m 100% confident that the second group they VASTLY outnumbers the first group.

    Of course, the effort to get published is necessary, if that’s what you wish. There are very few examples of people who don’t make an effort to get published but get published nonetheless (these do exist though). But I think it’s better for one’s psyche and self-esteem to make that effort in the name of desire (or preference, or maybe even hope) rather than as a “goal.”
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Thoughts from sesshin =-.

  5. Sonja Avatar

    I now see my second comment as redundant. And I think you understood me the first time. But I’ve already posted it. C’est la vie. I always did tend to be wordy. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Thoughts from sesshin =-.

  6. Kristan Avatar

    “Of course, the effort to get published is necessary, if that’s what you wish. There are very few examples of people who don’t make an effort to get published but get published nonetheless…”

    I think that’s what I was speaking to when I said it was my goal to be a published author. As in, that’s something I have to work towards, even if accomplishing it is largely out of my control.

    Lol no worries. I repeat myself a lot too. :P

  7. Eric Avatar

    I’m right there with you, Kristan. I had quite a bit of frustration and perhaps half an hour or so of discouragement in the form of a rejection letter a couple days ago. But you have to get back on the horse. If it’s the only thing we want, we can’t hardly give it up.
    .-= • Recent post by Eric: On Writers =-.

  8. Kristan Avatar

    Oh boo rejections! I remember when I got my first one and I was all, Pssh, this isn’t so bad! Then you get another one, and another one, and another, and suddenly they’re not so easy to brush off.

    (I imagine it’s a continuous cycle, though: easy, hard, easy, hard, and so on.)

  9. Jon Avatar

    @ Sonja’s comment, I would mention that being published by FSG is different than being published by Riverhead is different than being published by a local press.

    So maybe not you know, international paperbacks, but if you just want to get published, that’s totally doable! You would be surprised at the people I know of over the years who have had books published. Not all very famous or lucky.

    And think about it–your work is already out there. Who needs publishers with the magic of the internet?

    .-= • Recent post by Jon: The Bird Watching Movie =-.

  10. Kimberly Franklin Avatar

    I seem to always be frustrated but never discouraged.

    Good luck on your writing I hope your frustration subsides soon!

  11. Torie Michelle Avatar

    Oh, I’m frustrated on a regular basis. I try not to get discouraged by focusing on improving.

    I agree with this “Publishing isn’t about being “deserving” of publishing.” (Sonja) It’s always wedged between luck (fate?) and someone’s opinion.

    I’ve already successfully published in a few places, but there are plenty–I mean, plenty–more places I’d like to see my work. And my primary goal is to publish my own collection of poetry.

    …preferably not through self-publishing. But if I’m 50ish and it hasn’t happened for me yet, I can’t say what I will or will not do…lol
    .-= • Recent post by Torie Michelle: I’m a Pyromaniac: My Writing Process =-.

  12. Kristan Avatar

    Ah, but I’m not making a living off it yet. That’s my goal — or rather, the reason being published is my goal. (Er, yeah, I guess I was unclear.)

    Thanks! Same to you!

    Torie Michelle-
    (Sorry I called you Torie in my last reply then realized you might go by the full name.) You know, I’d heard that self-pubbing poetry is looked at TOTALLY different than self-pubbing fiction. I’m no expert, though, but it might be worth researching. Why wait if there’s no reason, you know?

  13. Torie Michelle Avatar

    Just Torie is fine! :-)

    There’s definitely an argument in circulation that self-publishing poetry is perfectly acceptable (because you won’t make much money in it, because everyone is (thinks s/he is) a poet, because “who’s reading poetry anyway?”….), but I’d much rather win a chapbook or first full collection contest than self-pub. I suppose a part of me still seeks that kind of validation–the kind wedged between luck and someone’s opinion. Shallow of me, much? lol

    At this point, I’m taking the route of publishing in a handful of literary journals first. I’m thinking completing a chapbook and submitting it to publishers will come next. Though, again, I can’t say that I’ll never consider self-publishing (maybe on a site like

  14. Kristan Avatar

    Nah, it’s not shallow. I feel the same way about being published traditionally instead of self-pubbing or sticking with my online/e-pubbing. Tooootally understand.