1. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    I've lost the ability to "lose myself"

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DaveLu, Jun 1, 2015.

    I've lost sight of something very important to me: the ability to solely write for MYSELF. Always, I write about what other people want to read. Whenever I'm about to make a crucial decision for a character, I ask myself "Should I really do this?". I fear I ask this not because it's what I want or what the characters would want but what people who read my stories would want.

    I've gotten so wrapped up in trying to make my novel likeable (following proper dramatic structure, yet trying to not to fall into paradigms that are too formulaic etc.), that I've forgotten that I shouldn't care if it's likeable or not. What matters is if it's likeable to me... Right? But then I think... Stephanie Meyers didn't care about all the people who hated (or loved) her books. She wrote twilight for herself and she was happy with the outcome. Is she wrong for that?

    I had a burst of inspiration today. The kind where I felt the emotions of my characters and forgot all about the world around me, but it quickly faded away after I became aware of it. That's the feeling that I lost. I haven't been able to connect with all my characters or get properly lost in the action, drama, and conflict of my stories, since I took on this "objective" view of writing.

    How do I regain that mindset?
     
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  2. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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  3. VirtuallyRealistic
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    VirtuallyRealistic Active Member

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    As George Martin once said, "Writing is not a democracy." You should write what you want to write, and hope people enjoy it. If they don't, oh well, it's not their story. I don't worry about a hypothetical audience while writing; I just write. If I'm enjoying it then it's likely there's at least some other people who would like it as well. They are my audience.
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, gosh. I really feel for you. I know how this feels, actually, and it's happened to me as well.

    I think the more you learn about writing, and the more you are aware of pitfalls, the more constrained you feel when writing. I know I've struggled to get back into the 'writing zone' since finishing and editing my first novel. I have learned so much since I did that, what not to do, what to be aware of, that any original writing I do now feels flat. I'm not sure how to get over this, to tell the truth.

    I'm still in full edit mode ...now I'm formatting Novel 1, prior to Kindle publication. But once it's out there, then I need to return to my second novel, which is already 'in progress.' I'm very enthusiastic about the story, but I find when I sit to write it, it's not as much fun as it was the first time. I'm not at all worried about what other people think, but because I now 'know' the things I should be paying attention to and avoiding, I just feel hamstrung and a little bit dampened.

    I'm as interested as the OP in this issue. How do you regain a childlike enthusiasm for writing, when you know more than you should about what not to do?
     
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  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could write without all the planning, and THEN evaluate the structure, etc.

    I do think that it matters what the readers think, but I think that if you let that rule the writing from the beginning, there's not going to be anything there. The readers may care about structure, etc., etc., but the piece has to have a core, heart, soul, whatever you call it, first.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    But that's the problem. How do you regain the heart and soul? It's got nothing to do with 'writing what you want.' Or with planning either. (I'm actually not a big planner.) It has to do with awareness of HOW you're writing. Don't over-use that phrase. Don't use too many adjectives; hunt for the best one instead. Don't use adverbs if you can help it. Don't over-write. How many times have you used that word. Don't re-state things. Bla de bla de everlovin bla. :superfrown:

    This has nothing to do with what other people think, it has to do with what I think about as I write. I now find it very hard to turn off that inner editor. I have no problem finishing a piece before editing it. But at the moment, every sentence I write seems constricted by these perimeters I'm now aware exist. I feel like I'm grinding sentences out, and the joy of writing them has more or less gone.

    When I wrote the first time, I just plunged in and had a great time. I didn't know about all the do's and don'ts. Now I can't mentally shut them off. I know I should ...but how? That's the problem.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
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  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's not true at all. It's easy to like your own stuff. Writing is part craft. It's not just having fun.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know, and those things bother me so little that I struggle to identify with trying to make them stop bothering me. (Edited to add: That is, in the drafting process. They influence me in the editing process, but I find that enjoyable, not stressful.) However, I tend to paralyze myself in a similar way, on another subject: Plot. I struggle with writing anything that has an insufficiently clever plot. I have a perfectly good book concept, but I just can't get myself to write the bleeping thing because I can't embrace the plot enough to stick with it.

    I suspect that the two problems are similar, but even though I seem to be immune from one source of hesitation and doubt, I can't get rid of another one.

    I do, however, believe that the answer remains, at least in part, "Just write." I don't mean "just write" the book you're working on. I mean keep pouring out words, whether in a project or just random free writing that you throw out later, so that the writing process itself become more and more automatic and "flow" like. In your case, I suspect that a time would someday come when you've mastered those goals enough that they get out of your head; your mind won't try to hand you an adverb, so you won't be distracted by dropping it on the floor.

    In my case, I'm less able to express how it would help; I have a vision of it, but it's hard to describe. If you imagine that when you learn to drive, you have to fill out a form in triplicate for every turn of the steering wheel, then you're likely to question and question and question a simple route to the grocery. If you can just drive, then you're more likely to just find your way there by instinct.

    Dubious explanation. It's all I've got.
     
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  9. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    Yes this is exactly how I'm feeling, less about what other people are thinking, and more about how I'm constricting my own writing. It doesn't come as naturally as it used to.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, at least that's two of us! :)
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, you're right. I suppose there is no clear method to freeing up creative forces when they get stuck. At least not one that works for everyone. Aha. Drugs? :eek:
     
  12. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    You gotta learn my two favorite words: fuck 'em. Whenever you feel the need to write for other people, and that need contradicts what you want, just say 'fuck 'em'. Get over the idea of publication, success and a legion of fans (not accusing you, just being dramatic for everyone), and put down what you want. Be greedy. Be self-indulgent. Be a rebel. Besides, there is nothing in the world that everyone likes. Nothing. So you will never please everyone anyway. But you will please some people, no matter what you do. And if you're the first person you please, that's a start. We are not unique little snowflakes, so there will be plenty of other people that end up liking what you like. They will connect to your work BECAUSE you were honest to yourself, not despite it. And if they don't, well, fuck 'em, it's not for them.

    Edit: I am struggling with my WOP because I don't think it's good enough, for me.
     
  13. sarfraz khan
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    sarfraz khan Banned

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    marvelous.
     
  14. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    Does your inner critic make writing less enjoyable for you, or do you just get on with it?
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's kind of the problem I meant. My self-editing constriction has nothing to do with what other people think. It has to do with what I know now, that I didn't know when I started.

    Back when I didn't understand the mechanics of good creative writing, I just wrote as I felt. I over-wrote, over-emoted, melodramatised like mad. What came out was lively, heartfelt ...and FULL of so many chuck-em-up errors it's taken me years to sort it out.

    Now that I can recognise my own bad writing habits, I find my writing has become dry, unemotional, calculated and careful. I can't seem to get that uncritical, joyous flow back. I don't make many mistakes now, but I also don't like the result much.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
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  16. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    My inner critic pushes me beyond mediocrity towards something I can take pride in.
     
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  17. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    Oh I get that. I'm trying to ask the same question as Jannert.
     
  18. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Interesting, and obviously I agree because I do it too, in a different way. Critically worrying about those errors you speak of, to satisfy others, has the impact of killing the drive and taking the voice out of the work. That's why I don't care at all about the rules. I honestly don't. Self-satisfaction is my aim, so my critical eye is beneficial to my drive. I revel in the pain and anguish of striving to be satisfied. It helps to push me, or writing will get boring. Or so I think anyway. Writing is a chore, for me, but the need to do it well is the motivation. And motivation is all we need. So if the OP loses that through worry about others, creating clinical, safe and boring work, well then, fuck 'em. ;)
     
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  19. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Answered above. It's about satisfying yourself, or satisfying others. Perhaps my wording was a little confusing/misleading.
     
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  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, think of it this way: if you love it, someone out there will love it. But if you don't love it, and come now, you're the one who loves the story the most, then how can you expect anyone else to love it? Basically, whether you the author love your story or not is a pretty good indicator of whether readers will love it or not. The only person whose reaction you can gurantee is your own.

    Or think of it this way: if you wrote something based on what you think readers will want and not whether it makes sense to the characters, readers will become aware of this and call the whole thing fake. In other words, writing according to what makes sense to the characters and to the story is the best way to ensure your readers like it.

    Essentially I guess I'm saying, whether you love it, whether the story/action makes sense according to what you've established, and whether your readers will love it - they're all connected. It's not like they're mutually exclusive.

    I'd say initially, while you're battling with your dilemma, the only thing you can do is push through it. Every time you find yourself asking, "Should I?" - your only response should be, "Well, do I love it? Does it make sense?" If the answer is yes to both questions, then go on ahead.

    Truth be told, most of us here won't ever get more than about 10 people reading our work anyway - so what's the point in pandering? I always say, the only guaranteed reward of writing is your own satisfaction. So enjoy it!
     
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  21. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    @jannert. I added 'to satisfy others' in error trying to also adress the op but cant edit out on my shitbox phone. so excuse the error
     
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  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You mean "to satisfy others" isn't supposed to be there? Can edit it out for you.
     
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  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this really may be a "growing pains" situation. I'm not trying to pretend that I'm fully realized as an author or done learning or anything, so it's entirely possible that I'm full of shit, but for what it's worth...

    I remember going through this, for sure. My first couple books were essentially big gobs of pure emotion, no conscious craft at all. They got published (small publisher) and that made me think maybe I could actually do this writing thing somewhat seriously, so I started paying more attention to my craft, and got WAY too far into my head and away from my heart. Like @ChickenFreak, my personal bugaboo was plot, not style, so my next book was carefully outlined and structured and thought through. And it ended up being dry, and not nearly as popular with readers.

    So to me, that sounds like where people are in this thread. And what I can say about it is that the problem eventually went away. I wrote through it, I guess. I internalized all those new ideas about structure and whatever to the point that I didn't need to think about them consciously any more.

    I mean, when we first start typing we have to think about where every finger falls on the keyboard, but now when I try to think about where the keys are it actually messes up the automaticity of my typing. I think we can get to that stage with other, more complex elements of storytelling as well.

    So, assuming this is a common path, I think I'd say the solution to this is the same as to most writing problems: keep writing. Work through it. A time will come when the rules won't need to be thought about because they'll be internalized (or else they'll be ignored because they aren't necessary for writing the way you want to write. Equally possible, I'd say - some of the rules are crap).

    And if the frustration is too much, maybe take some time off writing. That's always good for me when I find my enthusiasm flagging. A week or two when I'm not allowed to write, but am allowed to think about my characters and daydream about them and work out conversations and scenes in my head? By the end of that my enthusiasm for the story is on overload and I'm fighting to get back to my laptop!

    Good luck with it.
     
  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's just that I guess it's become harder to satisfy ME. Which is making it less joyous to write. Dang....
     
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  25. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    At first I was going ...huh? How can she edit somebody else's post? Then I remembered ...she's a MOD! :bigsmile:
     
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