This is a very timely topic, as I'm finishing 2nd draft of ROSEHEAD, my 2nd novel, next week, and while writing it I've been through emotional highs and lows, and very high highs, and very low lows. I even had to break in the middle and go get my son from Russia (long story short, Russian authorities wouldn't let him on the plane because of some documents being in English, so I flew out to get him) which caused me a very low LOW. You can read about it here. Warning. It wasn't pretty. Anyway, I kept writing. I even wrote at airports and on the plane, until my laptop battery gave out. I'm not a masterful guru of writing while traveling by any measure, but what I'm really good at is getting really mad at myself and making myself do things when I don't really want to, especially if those things are my dream, like writing, yet even then my inner whiny self would invent all kinds of reasons on why I should wait until conditions are perfect. You know what the truth is? The truth is, life is not perfect, so there won't be any perfect time to write. You gotta write through anything life throws at you, then you're truly a writer. I got a few tricks up my sleeve. So here you go.
Whenever that voice in my head says that my writing is shit, I tell it, I know, I don't care, I will write anyway. This is perhaps the biggest thing I've learned, the fact that no writing is ever perfect, no book is ever perfect, just as we are not perfect, nor are our stories. Perfect stories would be boring and predictable, it's the creative chaos that keeps it interesting. Therefore, your writing by definition should suck, to you. You know why? Because it means that you have excellent taste and will keep striving to improve. But it doesn't mean that your writing actually sucks. You see, it's not up to you to decide, it's up to your readers. The second you put your thoughts on paper, they're not your thoughts anymore, they belong to those who will read them. Therefore, you can think all you want that your writing is shit. The point here is to keep writing anyway, to keep writing pages and pages of shit, but still KEEP WRITING. I apply a simple rule. Every day I either write for 4 hours, or I write at least 2,000 words. I don't let myself off the hook until I hit one or the other mark, even if what I'm writing is an absolute and total nonsense. The thing is, once I get into a rhythm, some sense starts poking through the nonsense, and I catch it by the tail, and, BAM, the story flows.
When I decide that my writing is good and get too full of myself, I read something genius and want to write harder. Just like there are the "my writing is shit" moments, there are also "oh, look, my writing is actually good" moments. Both are dangerous, the latter actually worse, because it causes me to slacken, to slow down, to forget the story and dwell on the laurels of being good. Which is total bullshit, because it erodes my striving to get better. it doesn't happen as often as "my writing sucks", but it does happen. I found that reading something utterly genius makes me cry, not because the story is sad or something, no, I cry because of the beauty of language, like the sickly twisted charm of Chuck Palahniuk, or the opalescent sensual prose of Vladimir Nabokov, or the witty rich storytelling of J.K. Rowling, or the dark bloodcurdling horror of Stephen King. Immediately I find myself on ground zero, ready to eat dirt, to pull myself forward by the hair if that's what it takes, to keep writing, to if not as good as my favorite authors, then at least close. And that is a very powerful motivator.
When somebody tells me that my writing sucks, or I get a bad review, I listen, nod, thank, and continue writing my way. The important part about listening to criticism is to realize that it's what it is, criticism. It's meant to critique, so the definition of the word itself is negative. On the other hand, a review is supposed to be neutral, but by the way we designed it, it can be terrible too, like a 1 star write-up about how your book is just a pile of cow dung. You gotta separate yourself from those, because those opinions are not about you, they're about your writing. It's like a product, and you're a producer. Let's say you make soap that smells like cheese. Now, some people love the smell of cheese and would sniff it every minute. Other people will tell you that you're out of your mind to produce soap that smells like cheese. They will be like, what? Are you crazy? Who does that? Make it smell like honey, like strawberries, heck, make it smell like fake ocean, but, please, no cheese. The thing is, YOU like the smell of cheese, and YOU happen to like the soap that smells like cheese. So what do you tell those people? You tell them, thank you very much for your observation, but I will continue making the soap I want to make, because I like it. And this is key. You're writing for yourself. You will only grow as a writer if you discover who you are, and that will take time and a lot of bad writing. But if you will keep swaying left and right because of the opinions of others, it will take you that much longer to discover who you are as a writer.
These are my major rules. I also find that blogging helps me process my highs and lows. Literally, writing these posts about writing makes me get the fact that it's okay, I will be okay, my writing will be okay, the world will be okay, life will be okay. I will keep writing, because it makes me happy. It makes happier when I'm already happy, and it helps me shed my pain when I'm unhappy. That's it. The rest doesn't matter.
P.S.: I totally forgot to say this. Winter is coming, so don't forget to wear fuzzy socks while writing. It will reduce your lows to a minimum, will make you feel warm and comfortable, and inspire you to write fuzzy stories.