By Yaahsa Hepperle
What kind of writer are you? What is your purpose? What is your definition of success?
I ask this because, as I have come out of years of burnout (and as the Lord has guided me toward a healthy writing life), these are questions that are intricately entwined in the recovery process. Every writer has unique challenges and difficulties. Each of these challenges impacts both our capacity (how much we can handle overall) and our ability (what our personality, environment, and priorities enable us to accomplish). We need to acknowledge when we are expecting things of ourselves that we are unable to accomplish, or that our subconscious minds recognize are not our own priorities, but rather priorities we have absorbed from “experts” or people who seem to have it all together. One of the things I’ve noticed over and over is that struggling writers are dealing with two main problems: 1) They have never defined their unique writing life, goals, and priorities. 2) They are trying to write the way they “should” write instead of the way they naturally write. To give you an idea of the steps I’ve taken to realign my actual writing life with my ideal writing life—yes, even as a chronically ill mom of a busy toddler!—here’s some of the steps I’ve taken. Remember, these are my answers and I’m sharing them to give you an idea of how to think through these steps. 1) What is your definition of success? A) Is publishing necessary to meet that definition? B) Is monetary gain necessary to meet that definition? When I asked this of myself, I realized that money was not a big motivator for me. It was a way of feeling validated, but it was secondary, trailing behind “engagement with readers.” My definition of success is actually people. I love, love, love knowing that people have read my work, have found it valuable or intriguing, and want to be my friend because of it. It really is that simple for me. Do I need to publish to make that happen? Yes and no. I could easily put my work up for free on Wattpad and gain a community of readers, but publishing pushes me to create a product that I am genuinely proud of, that gives me opportunity to reach more readers, and that earns me enough money to support my writing habit. Earning money from my writing helps to validate the time and energy I divert from other things (family, ministry, etc.) in order to write. So my definition of success is to be able to continue to write what I enjoy writing, to make a comfortable side income from it, and ultimately to build an engaged, encouraging reading community I can geek out with. 2) What is my natural way of writing? If there’s one thing I want to emphasize, it’s this: Successful writers come in many styles. We usually hear about a particular type, the type who writes a minimum word count every day, who has a specific writing ritual, who uses a specific writing software, who releases a new book every three to six months, who outlines with a three-act structure… You get the idea. We have built a mental image of the “professional author” that only works for some people. (If you’re one of those people, hurray for you!) Others of us try all the things that supposedly make us successful, and they actually make us miserable and slower. We burn out. Especially when we have little ones and families to care for! A consistent writing schedule is kind of impossible when diaper blow-outs happen and kids need help with homework. There’s good news! I know successful authors who have never outlined in their life and don’t even follow a three-act structure. I know successful authors who write in binges and then take breaks. I know successful authors who write one good novel a year and that’s it. I know successful authors who break genre rules and still make money. My process is almost exactly opposite of the ideal professional writer’s process. I write whenever I feel like it, in heavy binges followed by rest periods. I can’t move on in my draft if I don’t know the color of the king’s robe, I am actually far more productive when I have access to the internet and can research simultaneously while writing. I can’t know much about my story ahead of time, or it feels “already written” and I’m too bored to write it. I have to discover my plot twists, my story, and my characters as they show up. Getting my process back into alignment with my personality and natural strengths has felt like a prison break! I’ve been honest about my capacity: “I can only accomplish these writing goals this week and I won’t feel guilty about postponing the rest.” (Do you know that guilt decreases productivity?) I’ve also honored my natural process: “I spent my 30 writing minutes walking and thinking instead, and now I know how to proceed with that scene during tomorrow’s writing session!” With just these tweaks alone, my productivity has increased immensely, and my writing is no longer frustrating but exciting. If you’re a writer mom who is looking for a way to balance your life with your writing, and to also honor and hone your natural writing process, here are some resources I strongly recommend and which have personally revolutionized my writer mom life! “Dear Writer, You Need to Quit” by Becca Syme (LINK) Becca Syme is a Gallup-certified life coach and she also coaches writers according to their specific strengths (Strengths for Writers). Her YouTube channel “The Quitcast” is phenomenal and a great start to discovering how your unique writing process is your superpower! Her advice is extremely actionable and practical. “For Christian Writer Moms” by Laura Frances (LINK)
This book was a much-needed reminder that the writer mom life is unique, both uniquely challenging and uniquely rewarding. Laura’s honesty was so refreshing and encouraging to me, and is one of the reasons that I’m now writing for her blog! “Brick by Brick” by Stephen McCranie (LINK) Also available on Webtoons for free under the title “The Art of Being an Artist,” this graphic novel beautifully presents the reality of the artistic life and offers thought-provoking perspective and ideas for growth. “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson (LINK) This book made me sob. Part memoir, part celebration of art, this raw look at all the glory and grit of the creative life helped me to reconnect to the Why behind my writing and to see God’s passion for creativity and art.
Yaasha Hepperle is a Christian writer mom with a mission to share the unexpected good—that is, those gifts from God that are different than the desires we’ve prayed for and yet so, so much better. She writes general-market YA/adult speculative fiction as Yaasha Moriah (YaashaMoriah.com) and Christian encouragement for women as Yaasha Hepperle (theunexpectedgood.com). She lives in Virginia with her husband Paul and her daughter Keziah, and loves good coffee, all things purple, and outdoor adventures.
Contributing author to the anthology Faith in Fiction: Divergents, Tributes, Games, and Sandworms
Flash fiction “Forest of Fear” appears in the Havok Season 3 Bingeworthy anthology
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