This guest post is by Paul Angone. Paul is the creator of AllGroanUp.com and his debut book 101 Secrets for your Twenties (Moody) releases this July 1st. You can snag a sneak peak of his book and follow him @PaulAngone.

How do you continue believing you have a message worth telling, when no one seems to want to listen?

How do you justify all the hours spent alone working on your craft, when the rapidly slamming doors all seem to say, “Keep your day job!”

I’ve wrestled with these doubts for years. If you have too, I want to help you ease this frustration and amplify your message.

Writing When No One is Reading

Photo by Susan Sermoneta

My Writing Journey

For seven years, I’ve been actively pursuing publishing my first book.

As each year was marked off the calendar, I felt failure wrapping around my wrists and holding my writing hostage.

Paralyzing doubt and questions like, “what are you doing?” began to plague me, following my fingers with each stroke of the key.

My writing was fueled by a purpose and a passion—to help confused twenty-somethings who were wrestling with the question, “What now? Now that college is over, what am I supposed to do with my life?” I personally knew so many twenty-somethings who were struggling with doubt, anxiety, unmet expectations, and fear, but they were sweeping those feelings under the rug. I wanted to write a book that placed those feelings in the middle of the room.

Yet, I couldn’t get a publisher to invite me to the party.

What Do You Do When You Hear “No”

At one point years ago I thought I’d made it. I snagged a prominent literary agent, we worked for a year polishing a manuscript and proposal, and then I sat back, anxiously refreshing my email for that one “yes” that would change everything.

But… that yes never came.

I say “but…” because that became the transition word I began to dread the most. I read with conflicting emotions as numerous publishers told me they liked the book, my voice, the story, with one publisher going so far to say “we think this book could be a bestseller”, BUT… we can’t take a risk on an unknown author in this economic climate. Come back when you have a platform.”

Cue the long walk on a pier, in the fog, to violin music.

It’s tough to keep writing when all you keep hearing are no’s.

Don’t Give Up. I Didn’t.

It was either time to quit or it was time to find another way.

Why are you really in this writing game—the hope of future success and status, or because you truly believe your story needs to be told? (Want to tweet that?)

After being TKO’d by the publishing industry, I began a Rocky-esque training montage. I “picked myself” and started a website called AllGroanUp.com. I stopped waiting for a publisher’s permission to tell my story.

But in the movie, it only takes Rocky one emotion-filled, synthesizer-blaring song to completely transform himself. The reality is my “training montage” actually took place over a year and three months of grinding, unglamorous, sweaty work, with very little synthesizer involved.

I did listen to a lot of Passion Pit though.

What Writing is Really About

I learned the hard way that writing can’t be about validation. If it is, every un-returned email from a publisher, every form rejection letter will pour lemon juice on your numerous paper cuts.

If writing is solely about being published, you’ll stop writing. (Share that?) Writer need to stay present so that success can be a possibility, but success can’t be the motivator.

You know you’re truly a writer when it’s simply something you can not NOT do. As Stephen Pressfield writes in the War of Art, “We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”

Catalytic Moment

For the 1,365th time, I went into a coffee shop to write. I wrote a list called 21 Secrets for your 20s, a compilation of ideas and articles I’d been crafting over those seven years. I posted this article without thinking too much about it.

Four days later, it was read so many times it crashed my website. Twice.

“21 Secrets for your 20s”has now been read by more people than live in Wyoming and Barbados combined. The article was the tipping point that led to my debut book 101 Secrets for your Twenties, releasing this July 1st.

Every no is leading you towards a bigger yes.

Every time you fail, you’re one step closer to a more profound way to be successful.

Yes, it’s a shame that the publishing business can be more about the number of followers you have than the story you’re trying to share, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for anyone’s approval to write it.

The 101 Secrets for your Twenties Writing Contest

101-Secrets-for-your-Twenties-Writing-ContestFor your writing practice today, you have the opportunity to send your writing straight to my publisher’s desk (no agents, proposals, or 10,000 Twitter followers required).

Here’s the prompt: What is your #1 Secret to rock life in your 20s? If a struggling twenty-something was sitting across from you at a coffee table, what one piece of advice would you give them? Even if you’re a twentysomething yourself what’s one thing  helping you through? It can be funny, engaging, sarcastic, serious, light-hearted and anywhere between 50-500 words. Simple as that.

Moody Collective has agreed to read every single one of your submissions. The best entries will go into my expanded 101 Secrets for your Twenties ebook, and your article and bio will be featured on AllGroanUp.com.

See the full 101 Secrets for your Twenties Writing Contest details here.

I can’t wait for you to tell the world your secret.