The Writing Coaster-

If you are on the path to becoming a traditionally published author or are already in this industry, you know all too well about the writing coaster.

The highs, the lows, the twists, and the turns. It goes on and on. But sometimes the lows dip a little (or a lot) lower than others. I am going to share my experience from last year when I hit my lowest low (to date).

The Bump

Last spring I was flying pretty high. I had recently gotten a manuscript about a little cowgirl to a place I was really happy with. I received lots of great feedback from critique partners and I thought, “This is the one! This is the story that is going to land me an agent and get me published and maybe even start a series! It is going to be great.”

Well… due to the fact I am still unagented with no forthcoming titles, you can probably guess that my thoughts were a little above reality.

I entered #PBParty for the 2nd year in a row (with a different story) and felt really good about my entry. And I signed up to attend the 2022 Atlanta Writing Workshop at the beginning of March where planned to pitch my cowgirl story to Lori Steel, Charlotte Wenger, and Kortney Price.

Well, long story short, for the 2nd year in a row, I didn’t even make an honorable mention in #PBParty and the agents were not interested in my cowgirl story or any of my other stories. I didn’t even hear back from a couple of them. This all came down at about the 2nd year anniversary of starting to get really serious about writing and querying (after my 10-year break.).

My Instagram engagement had also continued to be low after the algorithm change in November 2021 and I was starting to realize it might be my new normal to get a fraction of the new followers and engagement I had been receiving in the past. (Which can feel really demoralizing.)

The Slump

It all seemed to hit at the same time. I started to feel like I might never get a story out there and that Instagram might just be a big waste of time.

As we cruised toward summer, I started to let both my writing and Instagram slide. I didn’t write a new story for months and I started posting less on Instagram. I recycled old stories for my critique partners and couldn’t really stand to look at their comments, so I just filed them away for later.

When summer hit, I skipped multiple critiquing months altogether and threw myself into my family, my church-calling responsibilities, and our summer plans. We had girls’ camp, sis-in-laws out to visit, and a big trip back to Utah. There was plenty to distract me and honestly I think it was good to take a step back.

The Rebuild (literally)

In August 2022 we purchased our first investment property and it needed a TON of work! The kitchen and three bathrooms had to be gutted and rebuilt. Pretty much every inch of the 2400+ sq ft needed attention.

My husband tackled the plumbing, electrical work, and drywall. I tackled the painting, drop ceiling, trims & baseboards, closet doors, and flooring. So much vinyl flooring. Together we installed new kitchen cabinets and poured a new concrete patio.

Jamie Bills and her daughter working on cutting vinyl flooring to install.
Me and my little helper
Jamie Bills laying flooring.
Jamie Bills working on a new concrete patio.

We worked on this house for about four months straight. Hours and hours and hours, resting mostly just on Sunday. It was tons of hard work. But what I never would have anticipated, is that it was exactly what I needed to get my writing back on track.

Working on home projects gave me a chance to use my hands and complete projects that are easy to see results. Writing is such an incremental process and without a book, sometimes it feels like there are no results.

Working on home projects also took me back to my roots. My core. I worked many, many hours with my mom and dad on home projects growing up. As I worked, I remembered feelings from when I was a kid. I was able to draft a story about my experiences trying to avoid getting glasses in elementary school.

Working on home projects also limited my time for writing and Instagram which made me more intentional. It also helped me realize that I am on Instagram for more than new followers (although they are always nice, hahaha) and high engagement numbers. I truly LOVE the community on that platform and have made many beautiful connections.

By the time the house was complete, I felt like my writing soul was also complete again.

I couldn’t wait to pour everything back into my writing.

The writing coaster was heading back up.

Ready for this wild ride.

A Word of Advice

If you find yourself in a slump or hitting a wall, mix things up a bit. Cut your writing time down and fill that time with something that fills you. Continue to write, but don’t let it take too much of you when you have little to give. Fill your cup. Make sure writing is not stopping you from doing other things you love or you will start to resent it. Put writing in its place and when you feel full and ready, you can give it a little more space again.

Best of luck on your writing coaster!

-Jamie Bills