1. Want2Write
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    Want2Write Member

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    Easily intimidated by well-written stories

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Want2Write, Nov 18, 2013.

    I appreciate beautifully written works from unknown/famous/experienced writers. But when I happen to read well-written articles or stories from an author who I think have the same experience as me, or in same level as me, I instantly lose my confidence in my ability to come up with a well-written article/story, start doubting my works (even the ones which I was extremely proud of before). When I come across beautiful lines with brilliant choice of words that I couldnt [or didnt] bring up myself in my stories, I immediately rate my work secondary, take a step back from my goal and start wondering if I am wasting my time. With this attitude I fail to appreciate their writing or the things I could learn from them. Then if I did challenge myself to write a better writeup, I find my lines are immensely influenced by that author's writing style that made me feel intimidated in the first place. I understand it could mean that I am lacking confidence in my writing, but don't know how to overcome this jealous? Any advice on how to motivate myself after such a phase?
     
  2. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    I'm a graphic novelist, so words matter less to me, but just write. Just write down everything you can, then go over it.
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It would be interesting to look at some of your heroes' early writings, though. I bet they made mistakes too.

    It might also help to look at writers whose stuff is a lot worse than yours now. (Many of them get published, too.)

    At any rate, it doesn't matter who you are or what you do, there will always be somebody who does it better. If that's enough to put you off doing anything at all, well that's you, then. Finished.

    Writing should never be a competition, in my opinion. It's putting down on 'paper' what you want to say. The story you want to tell, etc. Look to others for tips to improve what YOU are doing, but forget about rating their work next to yours. That takes you nowhere. Truly.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The way I look at it, a lot of people write better than I do, and I envy them. But, I also write better than a lot of people, that's where I look when I want a boost in confidence.
     
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  5. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    One question that springs to mind is what makes you think that you're at the same level as people who's writing seems a lot better than yours? It seems a bit contradictory.
    I can understand, that looking at work from someone who isn't good enough to be published, but is still considerably better than your own can be daunting. It strikes home that you have a lot more improving you need to do. Is that what you're talking about?
     
  6. Want2Write
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    Want2Write Member

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    @plothog: Yes, you got it right.
     
  7. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    We all have different paths. There is no real way to judge a man's experience, talent, knowledge and "level" when it comes to an art form. This is the precise reason why writing is an art form, and not just a production of a form. That said, indulge yourself in language and learn to appreciate whay you can do. You know the basics, go advanced. Your "writing hero" may just be stylisticaly influenced by an author you don't know. Or he just might have read something in a different way. Or he worked on his language instincts a little more than you, or from a different angle. Remember to try to find your weaknesses, and your strong points, and work on both. And yeah, be jealous, there is nothing you can do about it except learn humility (and that is a life-long project). Instead of judging yourself for this jealousy, try to work it your way - mold it into something that can push your creativity and productivity.
     
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  8. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    One way I use to give myself a mini ego boost is to look at the best of what i've recently written against my older stuff. I'm still improving. While I'm still improving myself I can't possibly be wasting my time, even if it's a slower improvement rate than somebody else.
     
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  9. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I feel the same way most of the time but DAMMIT I wanna tell my tale and I will.

    If those people wanna give suggestions I suggest you take them, feel humble not intimidated.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. This absolutely works.

    I had myself in stitches not long ago, because I ran across bits of my VERY first draft of my novel. OMIGOD. It was SOOO bad!
     
  11. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    definitely. Sadly, i only have a printed copy of my actual first draft, but you can see where my story came from in it. I like to imagine that the first draft is like a brand new baby, and now the eleventh draft of my first chapter (yeah i do a lot of edits... but that's because i had a plot change recently!) is like a toddler taking its first steps. really, when it comes down to it, i've actually seen writing that looks a lot better than mine, as well as some that i consider needing some more changes before it should have ACTUALLY been published. But then, every author is different. My advice is to look into your writing and ask what seems to be the strongest in your capabilities. Mine is setting description -though i used to go overboard with that. I actually wanted to be good at character development, but we all have our own select talents, and i am getting better at everything. Try to milk your strong points for all they're worth, and it will make you stand out so long as you get decent practice at your weaker points.
     
  12. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was just going to put my thoughts here as a normal post, but then I realized that I'd been given an idea for a new signature that I liked, so I'm not going to worry about repeating it in this part of my post when it's already further down.

    Thanks @Want2Write!
     
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  13. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    I feel much the same way. A lot of the great science fiction writers had already written some really good stuff when they were my age. There are also some very good writers on here, which can be intimidating at times. I like that some of the people here are saying that writing isn't a competition. That actually makes me feel a lot better, and it's true when you think about it. Everyone here is just striving to get better at the end of the day.
     
  14. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    It's easy. If they're writing with more skill than you are they know something you don't. Trying harder won't give it to you. Wishing and praying won't work, either. Only acquiring more knowledge will. So I have to ask, what steps have you taken to make yourself knowledgeable about the process of creating fiction for the printed word, as against the general skill called writing we're all are given in school? Why, for example, would you expect the fiction you write to be superior to that of the average person with your background and education?

    See the problem? Our primary education didn't make us historians, mathematicians, or teach us any other professional skills, including how to create, shape, and manage and construct a novel. Professional skills are learned from professionals, be it reading a textbook written by one or attending a class.

    Reading fiction won't teach us the tricks any more than eating will teach us the skills of a chef. Nor will an undergrad CW course.

    Michaelangelo did not have a college degree, nor did Leonardo da Vinci. Thomas Edison didn't. Neither did Mark Twain (though he was granted honorary degrees in later life.) All of these people were professionals. None of them were experts. Get your education from professionals, and always avoid experts.” ~ Holly Lysle
     
  15. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jay, What then are good options to acquiring these skills?
     
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  16. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I think you wanted to be as clear as possible but your post sounds quite cryptic. I liked especially the part where you say that reading fiction won't necessarily improve your skills. There is a clear conflict between form and matter here. Ideas for plot and characters, I think you won't be able to learn just by reading a book on writing or taking classes, but the craft itself would be difficult to learn just from reading fiction.
     
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  17. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I have considered writing graphic novels, but I really need to boost my at skills or find some one to co-write with. It really does intrigue me, but in the end, there is a certain thrill from reading the words on he page (as there is with all forms of art), that makes books connect with me. Though it is certainly a skill--and one I find easier done in writing than in a picture-- to capture things about people's feelings and their worlds and make the fiction come to life.

    @GingerCoffee , looking down the ladder to make yourself feel better huh? And to think I looked up to you, I never realized you wee looking back down on me. No, I'm joking. I find it funny how we, as humans, tend to do that. To reaffirm our own good fortune we remind ourselves that we are better of than some. On some occasions that reminder is a good thing, on others not so much. That's not to call you out! I'm just musing because your comment made me think for a minute.

    @Want2Write , one suggestion I would make is to let yourself feel jealous if you must, then when your initial emotions begin to fade look at it realistically and ask yourself if you are still improving. Remember, everyone's minds work differently, and different people create differently. I will agree with JayG for once and say that confidence will grow with the more you know. But really my advice is to remember that you're making progress and that you are developing your voice.
     
  18. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had someone borrow a lot of elements from a story I'd written, and then write a better story. It really crushed my self-confidence. I stopped writing. At first, I was bitter because they had used my work, but realistically I knew it wasn't plagiarism and that I was really bitter because they were a better writer. I was angry for a few weeks until I sat down with their story and asked myself: why is this a better story? And then I started listing all the reasons -- reasons that will help me become a better writer.

    After that (and something small that was still personally successful to me), I stopped dwelling on it.

    Edit: And I realize that I didn't answer your question!! Instead of being shaken, I suggest getting mad if possible -- and using that energy. When that's impossible (and I've often felt like you) I suggest remembering how many different kinds of writers and genres are published. I suggest remembering the people who didn't publish until late in life or only wrote that one book (a la "Angela's Ashes") that turned out to be a masterpiece. Also, there are books out there about the craft of writing that will make editing easier -- because no one writes a pretty first draft. *hugs*
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
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  19. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    LONG POST - I GOT CARRIED AWAY. :p

    This is not just a problem for writers - it is a problem for people, everywhere. If you are an architect, you look at the greatest ones and be both inspired and jealous. They gain ideas from them, and they will improve. The same goes for painting, journalism, and pretty much everything else. I play the trombone. Now, I constantly look up to the great trombone players, and also to my friend who introduced me to the instrument - he is currently studying music in a top London university and is constantly playing in gigs and concerts.

    I get jealous. There is no denying it. But instead of wallowing in misery and shame (although I also do this sometimes ;)), I realise that everyone began learning something at the beginning, no matter how great they are now, and I also remember how much I love playing the trombone. Nothing will change that. And so I pick up the trombone and play some more.

    So you must pick up the pen, or get your fingers onto that keyboard. Remember that you still love writing, so you will continue to do it. The enjoyment of creating and crafting a story is a fantastic motivation in itself.

    And one final point: "great" is relative and subjective. The Nobel prize winners in literature may well be great in terms of what society as a whole thinks (or rather a team of judges), but they are not necessarily the most popular. I'm fact, I would say that they are generally unknown by the average reader, and even writer.

    Don't focus on greatness; focus on story.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Thomas Kitchen
    That about says it for me.

    I've always believed you should write for yourself. If you don't like what you're writing, why will anybody else? Write the story you would want to read, write it the way you want it to sound, look for ways to improve it after it's done. You'll go mad if you're self-consciously worrying—'oh-but-will-anybody-else-like-this?'—all the time.

    It doesn't matter how good you are, there will always be people who won't like what you've written. So—aim to please the people who will.
     
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  21. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A lot of writers struggle with this. In fact, Kafka's diaries are full of entries of him doubting himself and his abilities as a writer. The best advice I have is to just accept it and write. As far as I'm concerned, self-doubt is simply part of being a writer.

    I end this post with a quote:
     
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  22. Fan7asticMrFox
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    Fan7asticMrFox Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hit a similar roadblock in my writing recently, believing that I was simply not good enough with the pen. However one night I decided to read some of my older work from about 6 months ago, expecting to find a terrible monstrosity of words mangled together on paper. But actually, it wasn't half bad. Reading it really boosted my confidence knowing that I do have some talent when it comes to telling a story.

    Understandably I was judging myself so many of you may think me biased, however I have always been particular picky about anything I create and I loath reading my own work, especially when it has been recently written and fresh in my mind. Yet when I looked upon this piece from eons ago, I found myself actually enjoying it - as if it were someone else's work.

    It's not really advice per say, but I just thought I would share the revelation that helped me feel good about my writing, in the hopes that it would help you.
     
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  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Is there anyone else in your boat - sure - count me in.:)
    I get jealous of talented writers on this and other writing sites. There's some amazing pieces out there and some have me looking at my own work sighing and thinking 'well that just made my last draft look like first draft material.'

    But I don't think I go as far as to say I should be at their level because of background because I don't really know their background. Even if I went by age that seems off. Just because someone is forty doesn't necessarily mean they've been writing for forty years - they could've started last week and a twenty year old could have four years experience on them. If you mean college experience that still doesn't mean much. They might have similar technical-skill levels but all that means is that their story could be garbage but all their commas are in the right place . We had one young girl on here a twenty-something, going to college but the thing that I admired most about her writing - was her fearless voice. You can't teach that.
    College might help you nail your grammar but can it give you an imagination? a voice?

    I think I get a little better at writing just by reading her work. Sounds dumb, but if I keep reading great work and tearing it apart to see
    what makes it so great ( aside from background into the writer but studying more the words, verbs, their placement and such ) I'll understand the writers thought process and see if I can relate to it, learn from it.

    Know that if you post your work, you're probably creating just as much jealousy as your experiencing. ;)
     
  24. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    A magical thing may happen one day - you'll find you're better than they are. As long as you persist and continue learning and experimenting.
     
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  25. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    I get this way too. I was once a good guitarist, but i never compared to Joe Satriani or Al DiMeola, so i quit. Didn't play for almost a decade, cold turkey. $10k worth of guitar gear is still sitting in my closet. I'll never know how good I could have been. I listen to recordings now and I'm blown away with what i was and will never get back. I play acoustic guitar now and I'm still ok, but a lot of knowledge has been lost. I'm not letting that happen with my writing. I do three things to get myself out of the funks when I think I'll never be any good:

    1 I read my old stuff. I realize I'm getting better.
    2 I read published authors that i think are bad writers. I tell myself, "if that steaming pile of manuscript got published i have a shot."
    3 I listen to old recordings and calculate what i gained by giving up on guitar.

    Doubt will paralyze faster than anything. Kick it in the teeth.
     
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