1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I am having some serious problems.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by waitingforzion, Jul 19, 2014.

    I feel that as time progresses I am becoming less able to read and write. I was never a great writer nor a writer of many words but at least I was able to write some things. I was once able to write a five paragraph letter a few years ago that was poetic and was confirmed to be poetic by others. I did not get one single bad comment about that piece. Every once in a while I have managed to write something decent.

    But I have been having so many problems. It seems like the only time I can write anything coherent is when I am writing a forum post. It seems like whenever I have a problem and choose to express that problem to forum members I am able to write.

    One of the things that is really giving me a lot of trouble is the concept of the first draft. Every time I try to write a first draft of something I wind up writing like a child, and I feel like my natural voice should be more mature. This forum post has a voice that is better than when I try to write a ruff draft. I seem to go to one extreme or the other -- either struggle to get the wording right, or put no effort at all into thinking. Only when I write a forum post do I seem to express myself. But when I write a forum post I revise as I go, although it does not take a lot of effort.

    I don't know what is going on but my brain seems to be messed up when it comes to reading and writing. I have been trying to read short stories but I cannot find good ones that I genuinely want to read. I also seem to have trouble keeping information in my head as I read. I've got this idea that reading requires you to have the context of a certain number of paragraphs leading up to your current location in memory. If you are reading one sentence, you need to remember the propositions of the previous sentences to a certain point. But for some reason I cannot always do this. Sometimes I just read words without deriving meaning from them. I don't know if it is because I am distracted or what. But it is difficult for me because I cannot absorb information on how to write better.

    I have some serious problems that are keeping me from getting anywhere and I don't know if they are real problems or if they are all in my head.
     
  2. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's hard to say, but if you're under stress or having health issues it can affect your concentration. Seeing your family doctor for a checkup might be a good thing.
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Are you having writer's block or actual problems thinking? Because if it's the latter, go see a doctor.
     
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  4. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Or it could also be that you're getting so hung up with the nuts and bolts of writing that you're no longer able to let it flow. That you've essentially suppressed your voice.:(

    It's important to have resources like how-to books, forums and writing groups, etc. But there also comes a time when too much of this can be detrimental. Creativity is a delicate thing, and there are times when you just need to turn things off, shut yourself away, and 'listen' to the voice that is the source of everything to begin with. I'm sure there are people who write better when they have daily input, but there are also those (including some of the finest writers in the world), who deliberately avoid their influence in order to keep their voices pure.

    Everyone has a different approach, but if you find that too much information is causing you to freeze up (personally), then maybe you should try leaving it alone for awhile until you can feel the 'flow' again.

    Good Luck!:)
     
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  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suspect that you're strangling yourself with your own ambition, unable to get your mind to accept that the point you start at is not the point where you'll end.

    I would suggest that you utterly, completely, totally abandon the effort to be poetic, for several months, possibly a year or two. It seems clear to me that that goal is serving as a stumbling block.

    Yes, I realize that in the end, you'll probably return to that goal. Nevertheless, clarity doesn't come second to poetic expression, it comes first, before poetic expression can have any hope of success.

    So I would pursue clarity, just clarity. Not poetry. Not maturity. Not sophistication. I believe that in time, clarity leads to maturity and sophistication, and that it provides the graceful core that lends itself to poetry. But I would suggest that you leave those thoughts to the future and just pursue clarity.

    What do I mean by clarity? I mean that instead of writing:

    As the blazing orb of our planet's solar companion rose to the topmost point of the blue bowl that is the sky, the dwellers emerged from their manmade caves and sought nourishment.

    write:

    At noon, everybody went to lunch.

    Whatever you want to say, just say it. Based on your forum posts, you clearly can write clearly and coherently; I'd suggest just writing that way, a lot of writing, a few hundred thousand words' worth. Embrace your natural, clear, normal writing voice. I'm not saying that it will be easy to get the ambitious part of your brain to shut up and just let you write, but I do think that pursuing that goal of clean clarity, rather than the goal of poetry and grandeur, is a better goal for now.

    Another thought: Could part of this be that you're writing the forum posts as, of course, nonfiction, while your other writing is fiction? If so, then I think I'd suggest that you write more nonfiction, maybe something like a blog.

    Re the reading, is there anything that you enjoy reading or used to enjoy reading, perhaps simple guilty pleasures that you feel that you shouldn't enjoy? If so, I'd read those sorts of things.
     
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    @waitingforzion

    Your problem is not that you write a rough draft roughly; your problem is that writing a rough draft makes you uncomfortable.
     
  7. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I like to write while taking a number two (as is the case right now.) It clears my head. Seriously.

    I mean, why else do you think laptops were invented?
     
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  8. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you know which "function" they were really invented for.
     
  9. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Yuck, dislike both posts above! :p

    On topic, I just asked a friend about if he feels his rough drafts are "unreadable" as I put it. He essentially said "yes". What I've noticed is I'm becoming more knowledgeable about the process of writing and connecting to a reader. I'm more concerned with writing a sentence that "elicits emotion" from the start instead of getting the story out.

    I find I'm pretty interested in reading peoples story posts and tweaking what they wrote to suit my take on it. I don't do it because it's not my story and there's a lot of 1st and 2nd drafts being posted that the author will get around to fleshing out on their own. I know once I get my crappy rough draft out, I'll be able to be eloquent and clever then.
     
  10. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are experiencing a genuine brain fog, it might be a good idea to get a check up, and even take some vitamins. Vitamin B and D especially, but also C, iron, zinc, magnesium (multivitamins are good and cheap) are things a lot of people get deficient in these days, or at least, feel better with a bit of a top up.

    Apart from this, I would focus on rekindling your passion for literature. You must be able to follow a narrative in a book, that's a prerequisite for both reading and writing. Maybe you just need to find something you like? It isn't always easy.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    As ChickenFreak and Aikoaiko said, you might be killing your creativity with your own ambitions, your own worries that you're not as good as the big authors; you're caught up with the 'rules rules rules, must follow the rules!' that your voice has basically crawled into a corner and won't come out. And who could blame it? I wouldn't if someone kept telling me to be the next Stephen King and would expect no less than a Stephen King novel on my first try.

    For right now, forget all that. You've demonstrated you can write cohesively. That's all you need right now. Have a story in your head? Good. Now let your creativity play around with that story. :D Rough drafts are uncomfortable if you let them probe your ambitions. Rough drafts are just rough drafts, not the final product. Hell, the stuff we post here in the critique area are likely not the final drafts that will be published.

    That nasty little voice you hear? The voice that tells you to get it right on your first try? That's the nasty inner critic you should ignore. The good inner critic understands that this is a first draft and won't borderline torture you over the fact that the first draft isn't good. Listen to the good inner critic, not the bad one.
     
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  12. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I'm curious. How long have you been writing?

    I''ve been been writing for less than two years, so I'm still very much a novice. I went through a prolonged period where I was suffering from burn out, due to having had to learn so much so quickly. I agree with others when they say not to worry so much about the polish. Only do enough to keep your pride intact and your writing moving forward. I'm inclined to over buff and as a consequence end up running round in circles with every new realisation. Better to lay down a firm foundation and then worry about how stylistically you want to proceed. If you try and cover all bases at once it will become overpowering, and you'll end up feeling like you are getting nowhere.
    I think it would be worth finding out. Self doubt is natural but make sure it's not masking something else. I have problems with concentration, and as a by-product of that, consistency, so I know first-hand how darn affecting these kind of doubts can be. (Are the problems I'm facing due to my state of mind or my inexperience as a writer?) It helps immeasurably to be able to determine the difference between the two, or the correlation when it comes to it.

    I recently took a complete break of nearly a month and spent a bit of time concentrating on other hobbies. I was scared I might lose the impetus to return to my W.I.P but the opposite was true. By week number three, I was itching to get back to it. Taking the pressure off myself allowed a bit of space for my brain to unwind, to reboot, and become capable of perceiving what I'd written in a more balanced, less self-ridiculing light. It's not perfect but I read worse every day.

    If you really want to write the story you will, by hook or by crook. Focus on telling the story. Then focus on everything else. Think of yourself as being a sculptor. Is it really worthwhile chiseling out the fine detail of the piece when there's a chance you might inadvertently hack off an arm, Venus de Milo style, at some point down the line?

    I agree with this. In fact, the disparity between my forum posts, and some of my writing sessions is very evident to me. After some experimentation and blogging as myself, I came to realise I was writing my story from entirely the wrong perspective. I was writing in Third when my story lent itself better to First Person. As soon as I realised this, bits naturally started clicking together in a way they previously hadn't.

    Keep your chin up... there's always a solution, just don't let yourself become so despondent or so stuck in your own personal rut, (your future ambitions) that you fail to see a way out in the here and now. Polish comes with growth. :)
     
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  13. Dean Stride
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    Dean Stride Contributing Member

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    You're not alone in this situation, because I can totally relate. The problem from my perspective is that I don't write as much as I comment, and my mind has adapted to the particular style I use when giving my opinion. The same can apply to you as well, which is why you might be able to compose coherent replies but at the same time can rarely string together a satisfying narrative or poem.

    What I would suggest is to lay off any kind of forum participation for a while (let's say a couple of weeks) and at the same time try and adopt some of the tactics others have put forward, like @ChickenFreak's pursuit of clarity. Whatever it is that you feel is best, always remember to keep trying something different.

    Cheers!
     
  14. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I think we all feel this way sometimes. I try not to get bogged down by "rules" too much, but here's one that almost always works for me, and it's pretty well regarded: Say as much as you can in as little as you can. Even the greats could be greater. I'm reading Kafka on the Shore right now, and love it, but constantly say to myself "gee, that is a clunky sentence." So if they aren't perfect, why should we be?

    But if your words aren't coming out right, then eliminate them. Don't say "He stood up and walked to the door." You can't stand sideways, or down (well, I suppose you CAN stand down, but that's a different meaning altogether), so why not just "He stood and walked to the door"? Or better yet, can you walk without standing? So even just "He walked to the door," might be better. Feel the rhythm of the sentences--if you've had nothing but single clause sentences for an entire paragraph, maybe adding "he stood" will be a nice break from the uniformity.

    But always remember this, because I think it's the most important thing to drill into your head! (And it's not a rule, so it can't be broken): There is no word or sentence so perfect that it will make your story. But a single out of place word or sentence CAN wreck your story. So if you think a sentence is so brilliant because of it's strong imagery, and bold word choice, it might mean that's a signal to get rid of it. It won't ever make your story--but it could break it.

    Anyway, don't give up. Don't despair. If you can write a good forum post, you can write a good something-else.

    Cheers.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree. The sentences in 'Kafka on the Shore', the fusion between English and Japanese, language and thought, everything in that novel is perfection. Nothing clunky about it. It just goes to show how tastes vary, and nobody could please everyone, not even literary geniuses :)
     
  16. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Chapter 32, pg. 323 in my copy:

    "He popped into a place nearby and ordered sushi and a beer. He was more tired than he realized, and only finished half the beer."

    Finishing both of these sentences of roughly equal length and syntax with the word "beer" doesn't work for me.
     
  17. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    It works for me.
     
  18. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Well it shouldn't.
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, we can take things out of context and pick at them, however, you know what they say about taking things out of context...Besides, even number word repetitions always feel jarring, and can be used to reinforce the sense of unease, so in this instance, I feel that it's more a case of you not 'getting it' than you being correct in your assessment of the writing/translating (since Murakami translations are unique in as much that they are re-written by professional translators, together with the author, to communicate his story as faithfully as possible in English).

    I didn't feel that was clunky while I read it, so that's my criteria, as well as my point. I didn't bring this up in order to debate the quality of Murakami's writing, I only used it to illustrate to the OP how tastes and opinions vary, and how you can't hope to please everyone, no matter how good you are.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why? Because that tiny, tiny bite of prose violates two style guidelines out of the tangled infinity of rules and guidelines for writing?

    It's not possible to tell whether those two sentences are good or bad without far, far more context--at least several paragraphs, and possibly the entire novel.
     
  21. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Of course it is.

    If I wrote an entire novel, that you knew nothing about, but then had the sentence "Looking at the wall I saw a picture on the wall," you'd say it was redundant, and awkward. It doesn't matter what the rest of the novel is. Now, in the Murakami example, it may not have been redundant, but that doesn't mean that you can't critique a sentence or two without the rest of the novel. Don't argue with me. My writing is better than yours.
     
  22. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That just sets you up for the comeback: "so not only do you write badly, but you think bad writing is better than good writing."
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah; someone who argues this way clearly doesn't take his own argument seriously. So neither do I.
     

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