1. A Cat
    Offline

    A Cat New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada

    What to do when you're negative about your own writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by A Cat, Jan 23, 2011.

    Hello,

    Actually, the first thing i really wanted to know is "Why do you write (what for)"? but this topic already exist and it did clarify some questions of mine. And slowly but surely, my main question evolved from "Why do you write" into "What to do when you're negative about your own writing"?

    I am English student - i work with texts and analyze them and do some other nasty stuff to them. I thought that would really help my own writing block but it didn't. Every time I am starting to write, i'm criticizing my own ideas in a horrible way, making myself upset and helpless. I can't not criticize myself - because eventually I am the one who re-reading and editing it. Every time i come up with a new idea, create a plot or a story - i run to the paper or computer to record it, but shortly after I finished the first page/paragraph I re-read it and end up with a thought that "I can't imagine a person that would like to read it". Literally, THIS is something nobody is ever interested in.

    At some point I realized that I started blocking myself at the stage of designing a plot with a thought "Don't even try. That sucks". What should I do? I became my own horrible enemy!

    I never stop reading books and get new ideas (it's not like i'm depressed) - because reading and writing is also a big part of my university program. I remember forcing myself to write something fictional a couple months ago and even that i finished the story - i am horribly afraid to even look at it.

    Things used to be different though. I used to write a lot, about 300 pages of stories and adventures - everything by hand. Unfortunately i don't have them with me. I couldn't take them with me when i was moving to Canada, so I can't even refer them.

    So guys, what would you suggest? I don't normally post something like that but the problem really drives me nuts.
     
  2. Headintheclouds
    Offline

    Headintheclouds Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    0
    Believe me when I say this is common. Seriously, I have never actually finished writing a story, because I usually come to hate them. And often I can't even get started. At least, that was until recently. What you've got to do is rather than dealing solely with your writing, deal with life. I know it sounds hippyish, but coming to love yourself and your life will help.

    Try getting up and watching the sunrise. Try making up stories up in your head just for fun - like you did when you were a kid. Muck around. Go for a run. Do the chores you need to do. Go out. Try something new. Smile a lot. Dance. I know it sounds kind of wack, but you need to enjoy your life if you want to enjoy your writing.

    Okay, now I'm going to make another hippyish suggestion: positive affirmations. Tell yourself that you can write. Write little post-it notes telling you that you are an amazing author. Imagine the day when you finally finish your novel, or when it is first accepted by a published, or any other day that you have dreamed about. You need to believe you can. Right now, your negative thinking is keeping you back. You need to force yourself to change that. The thing is, even if writing is only mediocre, it can be edited. It can be made better. And I have no doubt that your writing isn't half as bad as you think.

    My final tip is don't think about what others will think of your story. Remember when you were a child, how you made up stories for yourself. Simply for your love of creating something great. As we get older, we get to caught up in the whole idea of getting published and whatnot. I'm not saying this isn't something to aim for. However, when you write it should be to please yourself, not the thousands of nameless readers who in all likelyhood you will never meet.

    Anyway, I know this sounds kind of wack, but it helped me when I was in a dark space last year. I'm sure you are a great writing, and you're simply keeping youself back. Let loose, and let yourself believe that you can do. Because you can do it.
     
  3. Souliepantaloons
    Offline

    Souliepantaloons New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Allentown, PA
    You don't know how many times I have said this to myself.

    The VERY next thing I reply to myself with is as follows:

    Who cares if nobody wants to read it? The story must be told!
     
  4. Slammoth
    Offline

    Slammoth Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bristol, the UK.
    First off, I'm positive your stuff is not that bad. It simply cannot be. Fact. I haven't even seen any of your stuff and I know that, that's how true it is.

    Given these SCIENTIFIC FACTS, read the following.

    Have you tried proving yourself wrong - Getting people to read your stuff with you? And not just "read this, tell me what you think and be honest" - Get someone you know to be good at this stuff, who reads a lot or critiques a lot or whatever. You'll need someone who's opinions you can't sway easily.

    After that, get to the nitty-gritty of it with them, and analyze the text. Do a critique of your text with them. I'm positive they won't let you bash your own work as badly as you do yourself - This kind of a review not only gives you an objective review and a chance to improve, but erodes the redundant self-critique. After all, they got through it - It can't be uninteresting or worthless if they went through the arduous process of critiquing with you?

    Allow me to also remind you of the truism that your inner critique should be OFF for the first draft of your work anyway (the very principle NaNoWriMo builds upon!). Just assure your Obsessive Compulsive side that you can make it all purrrfect later. Just get it down, worry about the details when you have a body to build on!
     
  5. hyperchord24
    Offline

    hyperchord24 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2011
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    1
    My problem goes much deeper . . . after writing a little part of my story, I start thinking, are millions of people going to read this? This is what's going to make me millions of dollars? This crap? I tell you what, Coming up a story is easy. Learning how to write well is no problem. It's all that other mental crap that stops me.
     
  6. D.T.Roberts
    Offline

    D.T.Roberts Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2011
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Texas
    I think by nature, we are all our own worst critics. But you can overcome this and restore a healthy balance. Don't allow the 'negative self' to give an opinion. Just keep writing. When you finish a project. leave it alone for a while. Maybe a week or three. Then, come back to it with a fresh outlook. Find a way to be positive. Find good points and praise yourself for them. Then, when you find weaknesses, you can find ways to improve on them without trashing the whole thing.
     
  7. A Cat
    Offline

    A Cat New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada
    Thanks for reply, maybe you're right. Honestly, I am not a big fan of affirmations and motivational posters but I guess it could help :p
     
  8. A Cat
    Offline

    A Cat New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada
    @ Souliepantaloons

    Thats an interesting approach =)

    @D.T.Roberts

    Find good points and praise yourself for them

    Ohh, that would be challenging but I'll try! =)

    @Slammoth

    Yes, Sir! =)

    I actually tried giving my stories to friends a long time ago and i swore by my writing hand that i will never do that again. You see, they are astro-physicists by birth and by university degree. All my ideas and stories are being criticized not from the "normal person's point of view" but from the physicist's perspective. Haha, try writing fiction with those critics!
     
  9. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,995
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    Would it help at all to tell yourself that your current writing isn't about what someone wants to read, but is about practice?

    People have mentioned that to really master a skill, you need to put in ten thousand hours practicing it. So it may be that you won't write anything that anyone would want to read, until you've spent ten thousand hours writing. I've also heard the figure of a million words for the same thing.

    Singers practice scales. Ballet dancers practice the same moves over and over. This practice isn't something that they'd ever perform on a stage, it's just practice to develop their skills.They spend a whole lot of time at this before they ever reach a level of skill worth presenting to an audience.

    You could think of your current writing that way. Emphasize to yourself that the story you're writing isn't intended for publication, or even for someone to read--it's just practice.

    And there are a ton of things to practice, like exercising your vocabulary, figuring out where to put dialogue tags, how to describe movement, how to describe people, and so on. To get better at these things you need to practice them. Stopping because you don't have a readable story is like a ballerina stopping because their first exercise at the barre isn't as good as that of a master dancer. It's not _supposed_ to be that good.

    It's tempting to think that it is supposed to be that good, because unlike ballet dancing, the use of language is something that we all think that we've already mastered. But we've mastered it in everyday life, not in writing. There's plenty to learn in writing, and you can't learn it by repeatedly trying to write like a master, and giving up the instant that you run into evidence that you're not a master. You have to practice.

    Perhaps you could create exercises that specifically forbid you to try to complete a complete piece, but instead write fragments? For example, "Write forty lines to describe a businessman ordering a hot dog." "Write two pages describing somebody's Aunt Millie doing her spring cleaning." There are various sites that offer writing prompts.

    In my case, I seem to really struggle with writing fiction as opposed to non-fiction, so I've set the goal that I have to write two hundred words of fiction a day. Two hundred measley words. It sounds like a small goal, and most days it's like pulling teeth. But it's something to force me to keep at writing, and when I get to the point where I'm doing it consistently every single day, then I can consider setting a larger goal. I'm probably a whole lot of two-hundred-word days away from increasing my goals, and several goal increases from writing an actual story, but that's OK; I'm still writing.

    ChickenFreak
     
  10. A Cat
    Offline

    A Cat New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada
    Well, if any kind of writing counts (fictional and non-fictional), then I can assure you, i write more than 200 words a day - that's academic writing for me.
    Unfortunately, I really struggle much with the process of creative /or fiction/ writing (something I enjoy reading the most).
    You see, academic stuff brings me marks and satisfaction from "being a good student" and creative writing gives me melancholic thoughts, because I think it's absolutely pathetic.
    Perhaps I could try following your example and write 200 words of fiction in addition to 200+ words of non-fiction daily. And I really hope it wouldn't cause much frustration.

    Ps. By the way, I also had 7 years of training in classical singing =) Yup, I was a hyper child
     
  11. Manav
    Offline

    Manav Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Imphal, India
    I really think the problem is not that you are writing badly, but that you have started comparing your ideas with the published stories by established writers that you read in your English class. But it isn't a fair comparison in many respect, and mainly because you are not even allowing your ideas to fully develop. Take a favorite story, have you ever thought about how many drafts the author must have made before finally presenting the story you are reading now? One author once wrote that there is nothing wrong with "a ****ty first draft". So, at least complete the first draft before criticizing your own work, then I think you'll do fine.
     
  12. -oz
    Offline

    -oz Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    132
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The Great Sandy Waste
    I have an idea. Why don't you find this, read it over, but don't change anything. If you find grammatical errors or sentences that need restructured, those can be changed, but don't change the content. Then, post it here on the forum.

    What it seems you're lacking is a positive response to your writings. You say you read fiction often, so I doubt the story will be uninteresting. I've found that the more people read, the more their ideas flourish.

    Another idea is to write something for the weekly short story contest. If you feel you absolutely hate your story, write something else, but tell yourself that you have to submit one of your stories and show it to the world. This will not only get you over the speed bump of showing the world your stories, but then the world can show you what a great writer you can be!

    Just some ideas...but as long as it's what you want to do, keep on writing!
     
  13. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Advice is to write, write, write and write some more, just don't look back until you are finished. Don't care about the draft, do it National Novel Writing Month style where you write 50,000 words in a month.

    Pretend you are Lots wife and will turn into a pillar of salt if you do look back. Be prepared you may need to rewrite it from scratch :) The plot will probably be all over the place etc
     
  14. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    Do what I do: Who cares if you suck? You got a story in your head and you ain't going to get it out until you write it. So write it and who cares if it sucks. It's your suckiness so it's still worth it. :)

    You can worry about polishing later, but just write. It's really the only way you get anything done.
     
  15. Souliepantaloons
    Offline

    Souliepantaloons New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Allentown, PA
    To be honest, if you like the story, write it!

    Maybe you will be pleasantly surprised and you'll turn out the next big book :p
     
  16. A Cat
    Offline

    A Cat New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada
    @Manav

    I really think the problem is not that you are writing badly, but that you have started comparing your ideas with the published stories by established writers that you read in your English class.
    I think you're actually right. It seems to be so unbelievable that stories like The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman) had any drafts at all - they flow so naturally.
    And we aren't even talking about Shakespeare here. It really seems like those kinds of stories just appear from nowhere without authors working hard on them. I'll give it a thought. Thanks

    @ -oz

    I have an idea. Why don't you find this, read it over, but don't change anything. If you find grammatical errors or sentences that need restructured, those can be changed, but don't change the content. Then, post it here on the forum.

    Hmm, thats an interesting idea. That story that I wrote a couple of months ago is about 10 pages long. I don't think I would want to post it here, but i might wright something for a weekly short story contest. That's actually a great idea. Thanks a lot.

    @ Elgaisma

    Pretend you are Lots wife and will turn into a pillar of salt if you do look back. Be prepared you may need to rewrite it from scratch The plot will probably be all over the place etc

    Yes Sir! I can try that too, Sir! I mean, Madam! :)

    @Show

    Well... generally doesn't it mean that if person really sucks at writing then s/he should stop? I mean, there is plenty of writers out there, why continue kicking a dead horse?

    @Souliepantaloons

    Thanks =)
     
  17. hyperchord24
    Offline

    hyperchord24 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2011
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    1
    One more thing about my mental hangups: I somehow have it in my head that if you're good at something, you don't need to practice. You will just be good from God-given talent. That of course is dead wrong. That post about practice is dead-on. Write, write, write. Tell your story, edit, edit, throw it out, start over, get a new idea. Practice is truly the only way to get better at baseball, Golf, writing, acting, blowing your nose, child-rearing, typing, walking, talking, orating, anything.
     
  18. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I have the same problem. While writing im usually too caught up in it to see how bad it really is but recently i started noticing even during the "creative flow" that it sucked, and now i dont even feel like either reading my own work or writing anymore. And i do not have a problem coming up with ideas, so thats not why i feel blocked, (actually i dont think i am) im just too aware of my own shortcomings. I have studied writing techniques lately and i feel i have learned a lot from that but i still seem to be able to practise it on my own writing and it makes me frustrated.
     
  19. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I found this post really comforting!! thanks for posting (even though it was not for me). It makes me feel better too.
     
  20. Tessie
    Offline

    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2010
    Messages:
    1,103
    Likes Received:
    62
    Location:
    Mass
    I used to be harsh with my writing, mainly because I had never done anything creative before. And it is true that you can be your own enemy, but I've slowly gotten over that. I don't get negative about my writing anymore, but sometimes I get bored with one tedious piece. In situations like that, I start a new piece, either based off a contest here, or from a random thought that my mind generated. I think the more you write the more confidence will build. It isn't an easy sort of battle, but I'm over the worst of it now, and once you hang around here a lot, that will happen to you too. Best of luck, Cat. :)
     
  21. impure
    Offline

    impure Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2011
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Everything seems like a bad idea when you start.
    Just write and write and don't stop to criticize yourself.
     
  22. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    yes, that!
     
  23. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    If you enjoy writing, who cares if you suck? If it brings you joy, why not just do it? It's a safe and affordable pastime to write. Besides, if they like doing it, they won't get any better if they just stop. So if they like writing, why stop?
     
  24. JT Tiger
    Offline

    JT Tiger Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2010
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    South Korea.
    As many have already said; JUST WRITE!

    I'm terribly critical of my own work and am only now getting to the point of fighting through the pain and enjoying story-telling for its own sake. Frankly, I love the revision and editing process, but you can't revise something that doesn't exist, can you? Power through!

    Good luck.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,995
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    I assume that that natural, flowing feel comes from a whole lot of editing, and that the first thing to come out was stuttering and awkward, with plot holes and gaps and over explanations and under explanations.

    I think that, again, the illusion that writing ever comes out perfect the first time may come from the illusion that we're already all masters at language. When you see a sculpture, say, that looks flawless, flowing, graceful, I think that you know that it didn't just come out that way. You know that it was made of some physical material, and that shape had to be roughed out and refined and refined and refined again. You know that the sculptor can't just wave his tools and have the sculpture magically come out perfect.

    What you're doing is analogous to the sculptor placing his chisel on the stone, gouging it once, and then throwing up his hands and walking away because the stone didn't instantly transform itself into a recognizable part of a perfect sculpture. Because it's theoretically possible for the perfect words to come out, because we don't have to physically carve the words, we can form the incorrect illusion that they did come out perfectly the first time.

    I'm still a beginner writer, but I know that my bits of writing that seem the most smooth, flowing and effortless are that ones that I've edited many, many times, and often come back and torn apart and rewritten. It's a long, long process of discovering the right structure, smoothing out the rough spots, lifting this, lowering that. The first draft is the rough shape hacked out of the wood or stone; once you're done revising, you may not even be able to see the relationship between the first and final draft.

    As for whether you should stop, you can't tell if you suck at writing until you've taken the time to write a few hundred thousand words, many of them really lousy words.

    ChickenFreak
     

Share This Page