1. Mouthwash
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    Mouthwash Member

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    Why is writing so hard for me?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mouthwash, Dec 19, 2012.

    No, it isn't writer's block.

    I've tried to write stories in the past. I never think of a plot first, I just make it up as I go along (although I do understand what general direction I'm heading in). It turned out quite well- I'd say at bit lower level than most of the people on here, but I only wrote two pages before I finally lost interest. I have next to zero experience at writing; my skill comes entirely from reading so much fiction.

    It took me like an hour to get through a single paragraph. I needed a few minutes just to think of the next sentence, but most of the time the sentence I wrote would end up deleted and I would try and think of a better one. It usually took two or three tries to write a sentence I thought was acceptable, not to mention that each time I returned to writing it I went back and revised a lot of things I hadn't noticed before. It took me about a week to get through those two pages, which is a lot of work for too little reward. The fact it turned out so well was solely a result of my extreme perfectionism (I've always been afraid to even try dialogue) and because I constantly read fiction in my spare time.

    That said, it was a very therapeutic experience. It was like reading, but deeper somehow. There nothing like being able to actually express your thoughts in fiction, although I can see why authors often have distorted views of their own work.

    Now is there any way to prevent this mentality and be able to keep writing till I finish something? I simply can't tolerate any imperfections at all. Is anyone else here like this?
     
  2. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Just keep in mind that writing well is hard. If it's too easy, I'd start to worry.
     
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  3. Mouthwash
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    Mouthwash Member

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    It's a bit much to wait weeks just a have something so basic.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find it interesting that you say it went well, but only wrote two pages. I'm not sure what to tell you -- you either have the desire or you don't. Writing should be enjoyable. If it's not enjoyable for you, maybe you shouldn't do it.
     
  5. Mouthwash
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    Mouthwash Member

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    Quality-wise, it went well. I did enjoy it while it lasted.
     
  6. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    Sounds like you're trying too hard to get it right on the first draft. I used to have the same problem. You have to let yourself write badly. Then make it less bad with subsequent drafts.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    In that case, I agree with Jack. Just do it. Edit it later.
     
  8. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    If you're not that familiar with writing, then getting it just right will seem like it's taking a long time. But as you get used to the editing of previously written pages, you will find that you may start to edit as you write. It won't happen overnight though, and you'll still find yourself having to rework a text after you've finished its first draft. How much reworking you have to do will probably depend on your overall experience. Just remember that even the best writers don't get everything perfect first time, and often have other people read through their texts before they edit to help find things they couldn't see due to being 'too close' to their work.
     
  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    No, not really.
     
  10. Venus//
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    Venus// Member

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    Shooting for perfection on your first draft is a bad idea. I used to be that way and it really hindered me creatively and ruined the enjoyment of writing. Do not worry about time either. One of my favorite writers took 8 years to write their newest book and two years before that he had been working on a different novel but trashed it after deciding he didn't like it. Can you imagine throwing away 2 years of work? So do not stress and writing will, over time, become easier.
     
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  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It only took an hour to get through a single paragraph? You're doing pretty darn well, for a perfectionist! Lots of us spend more time than that on a paragraph.

    Some writers just spew out the words with little regard for quality, then go back and revise later. I find that approach difficult, so, like you, I try to get it right the first time off. This means front-loading the work. You just have to get used to doing it.
     
  12. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    If one spends all their time worrying about their first draft being perfect, then the story will never get done. Michael Crichton once wrote "Books are never written on the first draft, but during the editing process."

    The first draft is just getting it down on the paper. That's how I explain it to the people who read my rough draft and spot the mistakes. It's when you edit that things come together tightly. I'd worry more about getting the story down, then wait a couple days after finishing it and then shine it up through the editing process-otherwise you'll paralyze yourself.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are two schools of thought - one, just write and edit it all later; two, edit as you write. I'm one of those who, like yourself, edit as I write. At first, yes, it does take a long time - but that's mainly because you're still feeling your way as a writer. New writers who wait to edit will go through many more drafts than experienced writers. It's part of the learning curve.

    I can spend an hour trying to get one sentence right (note - 'right', not 'perfect'). But then the rest of the paragraph or page will flow, because I got that one sentence right. The real key is not to let the perfectionism be the boss. Go ahead and be picky, be demanding, be strict with your writing - but no one, ever, will write a perfect book, and it won't matter if you edit as you go or go through several drafts.

    For the record, I've only not finished one story with this method, and that wasn't because of methodology.
     
  14. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I'm kind of the same way (although it a week for two pages is kind of crazy).

    When I first started writing, I don't know what kept me from just deleting the file as soon as I was done, because I remember going back years later and looking at the things I first wrote and grimacing at how bad I was back then. And I think you are just going to have to live with the fact that for like a year or so your stuff probably won't be that great. You can take a little solace in the fact that you can go back and edit them at any time to make them better.

    But the good news is that in the case of writing, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better you get. And that's kind of a cliche line that people tend to throw out about a lot of hobbies and it isn't always true. But you definitely get better the more you do it. Again, I look back at the previous things I've done and I can note a clear line of improvement from work to work.

    I think one thing that really helped me out was that I really got into non-fiction writing. Not on purpose, it just sort of happened. But like for example on a sports forum I might write a small little article about my favorite basketball team. Or about who should win MVP this year. Or who I think will win the championship. And even if you aren't writing articles like this, just participating in forum discussion helps because usually if you have to write a long response (like what I'm doing with this post) it forces you to kind of organize your thoughts and go "ok, I want to say this, then this, then this". It also eventually makes you better with grammar and spelling. Those sorts of tools come in handy for a writer as well. And eventually I was able to use the experiences I had posting on forums all the time and kind of use it to jump start my fiction writing hobby.
     
  15. Jon Deavers
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    Jon Deavers Member

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    I find it impossible to keep interested in something I start if I haven't outlined it either in my head or on paper. My head has very limited real estate, so I really like paper.

    My story meanders and I end up spending more time editing the first few pages than really telling a story so the whole thing goes in the dust bin. I recently started a new project and took a couple weeks to suss out the plot, some character development, settings, and theme before starting on the actual prose. That way I have a framework and simplify the writing process because I don't have to worry about what comes next.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    nothing you write will ever be 'perfect'... so stop seeking perfection and just get to the end of your story, before going back and 'fixing' things... if you don't, chances are you will never finish it...
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bolding mine.

    Not to pick on you individually, but could we in general please stop saying/implying that editing as you go means you probably will never finish? It's just not true. Stop going for perfection, certainly - but that's a problem regardless of method.
     
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  18. johann77
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    johann77 Member

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    Please remember that people like Shakespear, Balzac, Dickens, Clemmens, Hawthorn, Mollier and others all have had grammar mistakes and other mistakes found in their writings.
     
  19. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    It's not true that editing-as-you-write will result in unfinished work, and it's also not true that postponing revision until the first draft is finished means the work is sloppy. The OP's method, illustrated in P2, does not sound normal or productive. May be worthwhile to switch approaches.
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I went through that phase - 3 pages of mostly one-line paragraphs took me 5 hours to edit once. In the end, after 3 months of doing this intensely, I got myself a writer's block for the next 2-3 years. When I returned, I no longer had that approach - but that approach had improved the quality of my writing. I no longer need to take such a long time to come out with something good. I also worry less about whether it's good as I'm writing, because I'm more confident about my abilities now.

    If weeks is what it takes - at least for now - for you to get something good, then keep doing it. Eventually the time it takes will shorten.

    Like I say, I don't take that approach anymore - but through writing a novel and thus writing and deleting some 200,000 words in total (you can never really keep count), my writing has once again improved.

    Hmm, what am I trying to say? Well, I know for me, even if it should take several weeks to write one paragraph, I can never stop writing - so the question of "is it worth it?" is irrelevant to me. It doesn't matter to me. I love writing, and I love telling stories, it refreshes me like nothing else - what is several weeks? No, it is not even a question. Every word was worth it. And even should I scrap whatever it was that I'd written, what I learn by doing it is certainly worth it.

    But what I would advice you is this - give yourself a chance to just write. There's a difference - some pieces are for editing and practising, but other times you just have to let your hair down and type some really terrible crap, and ENJOY it :)
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kill the perfectionism.

    I'm not quite sure if that's what you're asking how to do, or if you're asking how to get some writing done while retaining the perfectionism. If it's the second, I would say that's essentially impossible, for you, at this time. I believe that you, at this time, need to learn the skill of writing imperfectly.

    So how to do it? Well, that would almost require me to be inside your mind at that moment when you're deleting or editing what you've written. Does the thought of stopping yourself occur to you, and do you try to stop yourself? Do you always fail to stop yourself? If you force yourself to leave that imperfect sentence there for one minute, five minutes, ten minutes, do you find yourself starting to panic? If you imagine leaving it there, unchanged, forever, what thoughts does that produce?

    Similarly, have you tried just writing the next sentence without thinking it through? What if you imagine that what you're writing isn't The Story, but instead just very detailed notes of what's going to happen in the story? What if you imagine that you're just explaining the plot to a friend?

    What if you force yourself to write faster? During NaNoWriMo I used a website called Write or Die, one that makes the screen change and start to make scarey noises if you don't write at a given speed. It forces you to _just type something_, even if that something isn't perfect. It's an interesting experience.

    I think, again, that you need to develop the skill of writing quickly and sloppily. That doesn't mean that you'll be writing that way forever; instead, it's a sort of shock therapy to get you to, and through, the realization that committing bad writing is not committing a sin.
     
  22. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    So? That doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to write well.

    And as for the rest: I'd rather aim for perfection and miss, than settle for certain mediocrity and remain unsatisfied by missed potential. Perfection isn't about being flawless, but about complete satisfaction. Things (and people) can be perfect even if they are not flawless.
     
  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    To me complete satisfaction is not perfection. I can be completely satisfied with a good book and a bottle of good whisky but that isn't a 'perfect' evening. I don't really know what a perfect evening would be.

    There are some books that are 'perfect' for lack of a word any better, but really, what is it about books like (I don't know) Paradise Lost or One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich that just sets them apart? I've never found a good answer to that question and I suspect there isn't one. It is, I imagine, just an emotional reaction that I have had to those works.

    The word 'perfect' is one of the most subjective words I can think of.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But perfectionists generally do seek to be flawless - that's most often what perfectionism is. It's not about striving to produce the best work you possibly can, which can be a healthy goal. It's about needing that work to be perfect, even if perfect cannot be achieved, which is not a healthy goal. Perfectionism is not about ambition, not about the joy of craftsmanship and artistry. It's about fear, a fear so strong that the perfectionist would rather produce nothing than produce an imperfect work.

    Edited to add: If that's not the meaning that you assign to the word "perfectionism", that's fine, we can choose another word to mean, "a fear of flaws that is so strong that it prevents any meaningful action or creation." Whatever we call it, that's what I'm talking about.

    Of course we should strive to write well, but if the choice is mediocre writing for a little while, or never finishing a piece of writing, I'll go with the temporary mediocre writing.
     

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