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View Full Version : Learning, Self Criticism & The Love of Writing


Cranky
10-13-2009, 04:11 PM
I've always been one who is extremely self-critical. That said, up until a couple of years ago, I never felt that way about my writing. Writing was fun, it was easy, and it was the one and only thing that I was *certain* I was good at. And then, I started taking this whole writing thing seriously. I started to realize that maybe I wasn't really all that good yet. Certainly, I was not the literary genius waiting to be discovered that I secretly hoped I was. I quickly realized, however, that all wasn't lost. I could learn, and more than that, there were people who were willing to teach me what I needed to know to grow into a better writer. So I applied myself. I joined AW, and I learned even more even faster. I was almost overwhelmed by how much I learned. And I started to doubt.

It creeped in little by little, and I was mostly able to shove it aside and keep going. After all, in order to grow, you have to learn what mistakes you're making if you want to be able to fix them, right? But then it seemed like all I could do was make mistakes. The more I learned, the more I saw what I didn't know. It has gotten really, really hard to believe that I'll ever be successful, when all I can see are the flaws...everything that I'm doing wrong. I know that mechanically, there isn't a whole lot wrong with my writing, either. (Nothing that canít be fixed on edit, anyway) I write cleanly, clearly, and I know also that imagery is a strength.

Stacked up against what I do wrong, though, it seems like a very small number of marks for the "PRO" column. Lots more fall into the "CON". And I have to wonder if this self-criticism that I never really dealt with before the last couple of years isn't due to the fact that I've learned so much. It sounds stupid to my own ears. I mean, normally, the more you learn, the more competent you become, yes? But I feel less competent, less sure.

Most importantly of all: writing has stopped being fun. "Am I good enough yet?" I'm asking myself this question, and I am not satisfied with the answer. The easiest way to get a solid answer, of course, is to finish work and submit it. My track record on that is not good. No acceptances as of yet. Now itís gotten to the point where Iím so self-critical that itís rare I can actually write any fiction at all. I hate it before Iíve even written ďChapter OneĒ.

So anyway. Point of this long, rambling post (I've been up all night, so please forgive me) is to ask: does anyone else think that learning a lot can actually damage you as a writer? Not permanently or anything, but can it hurt you? I am on the cusp of giving up trying to write to be published. I want to enjoy writing again more than I want to be published, I think. Or maybe itís the simple fact that if I donít find a way to enjoy it again, Iíll never be published because Iíll never write anything again. So maybe it is time to just treat it as a hobby. I donít know. Whatever I can do to make it fun again would be awesome, and any advice anyone has for me to start getting over myself on this would be very welcome. Iím struggling really badly with this, and have for some time.

Bubastes
10-13-2009, 04:52 PM
First off, {{{hugs}}}.

I personally don't think learning a lot hurts you as a writer, at least not in all cases. Sure, it makes you more critical of your work, but I guess it depends on what gives you satisfaction. If the joy of creation is what moves you, then yes, self-criticism could dampen that joy because you start second-guessing everything you do. But if you're like me and find thrill in the improvement as well as the act of writing, then self-criticism actually becomes part of that joy. I actually enjoy tearing apart my stories to incorporate what I've learned. Yes, I'm a masochist. :D

I do think the answer is different for every person, though. It sounds like you need to take a step back and think about why you write in the first place. What is it that made it fun for you when you started? Is there any way you can lock that self-doubt in a box until you get a first draft down?

Are you doing NaNo again this year? Maybe that will help the pressure off and get the words flowing again.

Melanie Nilles
10-13-2009, 05:12 PM
You're going to get a lot of different answers to that. My advice is to not focus on the mechanics but instead to lose yourself in the passion of your story. Turn off the internal editor and just focus on putting words down.

At some point in the learning process, it seems that all writers focus on the nitty gritty of writing mechanics and obsess over every detail. Eventually, we all move on to more important matters--the story itself. That's when your voice will emerge. You'll learn to balance the mechanics without thinking of them, but first you have to get past the stage of focusing on every minute detail, where it sounds like you're stuck now.

Write a short story to keep it simple enough to finish. Once you have that sense of accomplishment of completing something, you'll feel better too.

AnonymousWriter
10-13-2009, 05:15 PM
Are you doing NaNo again this year? Maybe that will help the pressure off and get the words flowing again.

Ah, good shout. Nano is always fun. It put the fun back into writing for me last year, and I'm dying to get started on it this year again. Nano allows me to write. Just write. I actually don't care about the state of my first draft once it's finished--my annoying inner-editor seems to go missing in November.
It puts the fun back into writing for me.

As for your question: Do I think that learning a lot can seriously damage you as a writer? On a short term basis, maybe. In the long run? No.

I'm only 15, and having only been writing for a little over a year. Before I joined AW, I wrote for fun and as a hobby. The quality of my work didn't really matter-- it was only me who read it anyway.

Then I joined AW. I was suddenly bombarded with knowledge and information about the technical aspects, POV, publishers, pacing, character development etc. And if I'm being honest, I was terrified. I had never really looked into these parts of writing before.

It had an impact on my writing for a while. I thought everything I wrote was crap, and I couldn't write freely anymore (I was obsessed with getting every correct). Then after a while, my initial trauma started to fade. I realised that I had to pull myself together--I was capable of writing the way I had before, and in fact I could write even better with the wide range of advice and feedback given on here.

So yes, in the short term, learning a lot can impact one's writing. But in the long term I don't think it can do anything but aid and improve it.

swvaughn
10-13-2009, 05:18 PM
I would recommend that you seek external validation. I remember going through this point - losing forever and always the Golden Word Syndrome that allowed me to rant and rail against The System, and believe with firm conviction that every agent and editor out there was a complete moron who just could not see my genius. Once that shiny gold vision wears off, you are suddenly a Worthless Shit Writer until you "succeed".

It's highly unlikely that you're an awful writer. Seriously. But losing that protective coating of naivety is really like stripping off your skin, and now you're exposed and raw and bloody, and wondering why the hell you ever left the safety of your ignorance.

I'll tell you, though, you've done the hardest and the most necessary thing any writer ever does. You're learning, you're striving to improve. And you WILL, because you're no longer blinded. The trouble is, once you've gone down to the bottom, it's almost impossible to pick yourself back up again by telling yourself that you don't suck - because you are now convinced that you do, and no amount of self pep talk is going to convince you otherwise.

So find a GOOD beta reader. One that won't go easy on your trouble spots, but will also give praise where praise is warranted. You need to hear from someone besides yourself that you don't suck. That will give you enough confidence to enjoy writing again - because it's really hard to enjoy something that pretty much takes over your life when you believe it's pointless to continue.

(It's going to be impossible to believe this too - but you don't suck. I can say that even without reading anything you've written, because just the fact that you're striving to improve your craft testifies to this. You would have never gotten this far if you sucked. So don't give up!)

scarletpeaches
10-13-2009, 05:21 PM
Hmm. I'm one of those who always wants to learn more anyway. If it shows up my faults, good. I seek criticism, not praise. I already know what I'm good at. Show me where I'm bad, so I can become...not bad! Heh.

But then I'm weird. I'm sensitive to criticism - who isn't? - in other walks of life, but with writing...this will sound incredibly wanky, but...I love writing more than I love my ego.

stephenf
10-13-2009, 05:59 PM
I think you may have something called Perfectionism . In extreme cases the suffers can be considered insane. Richard Dadd the English painter was a sufferer. He spent nine years panting Fairy Fellers Master-Stroke be for it was taken away from him.I have suffered with it all my life.It's not that you seek prefection, but you can only see what is wrong with things.If you try to polish the big scratches from a table top.All you end up is a table coved with a lot more smaller ones. Also, as you have pointed out, knowledge will not come to the rescue.New knowledge only allow you to see even more problems.
As far as I know,there is no cure. However, knowing you have the problem is a step in the right direction.You will need to develop your own ways of living with it. If you do the research you will find it is not that uncommon,but not always diagnosed,for writers,artist musicians etc to suffer the same as you. Strangely, knowing that is a help.
best of luck

Tracey Bentley
10-13-2009, 06:03 PM
I'm all for learning but if you allow yourself to get caught up in all the "this is the correct way" stuff - you can lose your natural flow and voice.

Give yourself a break if part of your writing does not fall into the "correct" way. Keep writing. You never know, that "incorrect" way may just work for you - and your story.

backslashbaby
10-13-2009, 06:13 PM
Ooo, I love Mama Bear's post.

I think it feels different to sit down to write and immediately think of all the rules. That can take all of the fun away for sure.

Write with your heart, the way you enjoyed writing before. Then it is good. Right there. All it needs is tweaking, really. Even a total rewrite is tweaking if you already have the heart in your story.

Jamesaritchie
10-13-2009, 06:23 PM
A year or so back, I would have said you can't learn too much. Lately, however, after having a running converstaion with several writer friends, we all came to the semi-conclusion that if you're trying to learn by reading technically oriented articles and how-to books, a new writer can certainly suffer from information overload, comflicting advice, and utmost confusion about what to do and how to do it.

Same with critique groups and beta readers. One or two trusted, qualified readers can be a wonderful thing, but if you're getting nineteen opeinions about a piece of writing, you'll go nuts trying to decide who to listen to, who to ignore.

Writing should be fun, and it should be, well, personal. Good writing comes out of the individual, not out of numbers, not out of technically oriented how-to books that very often don't even reflect how the writer of the book actually goes about writing fiction.

And I think you answered your own wuestion. I think finishing and submitting work is not only the easiest way to get an answer, I think it's the ONLY way to get an answer, and the only way to change that answer from a no to a yes.

Cranky
10-13-2009, 06:27 PM
Heh, so much for writing clearly, lol. That's what I get for posting sleep-deprived!

I mostly struggle with the creative part nowadays. Most mechanical stuff doesn't bother me, because I know it can be fixed on edit. And Bubastes, I love editing, sicko that I am. I think I've said it elsewhere here before, but to my mind, editing is what really makes the story complete for me. And from the feedback I've gotten on most of the stuff people have read for me, my writing improves quite a lot on edit. So that's no problem. It's getting it down in the first place. It's the ideas I keep critiquing, really. The "rules" don't bother me as much. That's what editing is for.

And Scarlet, that's awesome. :) But I *do* want to keep learning. To my mind, if you stop learning, you stop growing, and that's something I never want to do. Who wants to be stuck in a rut, or keep making the same mistakes over and over? Not me, for sure.

Swvaughn, you may be right about a beta. If I can ever stop critiquing my ideas before I write them, that is. I've had a few really good crits from several folks here, and maybe one of them would be willing to suffer through the process with me, lol.

And yes, I'm planning to do NaNo again this year. Last year I won, but the manuscript was pretty craptastic, to say the least. :D

Thanks very much, y'all. I hope you're right, and that eventually I can pull myself up out of this pit, rather than staying stuck in this endless cycle of "Oooh, shiny idea! No, wait. It sucks, that's stupid, you're a moron for considering it, so why even bother....oooh, shiny idea!"

icerose
10-13-2009, 06:33 PM
1. Your inner editor is on overdrive while you're writing which is spoiling all the fun. Tell them to sit down and shut up, they'll get their turn.

2. You're putting too much pressure on yourself. Back off the writing goals and focus on the writing. Find one story and challenge yourself to write it, crank up that music and listen to the story not the editor.

3. Give yourself permission to write crap. You're not allowing yourself to write crap so you're freezing up before you even begin.

4. If you are looking for outside validation look at a piece you've already completed and focus your editing on it, not your WIP.

5. Write a fun short piece, today. It can be one page, five, twenty, doesn't matter, you just have to have fun with it. When I am having trouble getting back into my writing after a spell away, such as having a kid, then I write a few short pieces to get my groove on.

So Cranky, those are my challenges to you. Get crackin'! :D

Cranky
10-13-2009, 06:37 PM
A year or so back, I would have said you can't learn too much. Lately, however, after having a running converstaion with several writer friends, we all came to the semi-conclusion that if you're trying to learn by reading technically oriented articles and how-to books, a new writer can certainly suffer from information overload, comflicting advice, and utmost confusion about what to do and how to do it.

Same with critique groups and beta readers. One or two trusted, qualified readers can be a wonderful thing, but if you're getting nineteen opeinions about a piece of writing, you'll go nuts trying to decide who to listen to, who to ignore.

Writing should be fun, and it should be, well, personal. Good writing comes out of the individual, not out of numbers, not out of technically oriented how-to books that very often don't even reflect how the writer of the book actually goes about writing fiction.

And I think you answered your own wuestion. I think finishing and submitting work is not only the easiest way to get an answer, I think it's the ONLY way to get an answer, and the only way to change that answer from a no to a yes.

Sorry, your post popped up while I was composing my last. :) Yeah, too many cooks can definitely spoil the soup, I agree. I don't want to write by committee! And of course you're right that it has to be personal. Not as easy to do as it sounds, but that's where the truth is, and I think all great stories have that ring of truth to them. I don't mean literal truth, of course.

Also, you can't get a "Yes" if you don't submit, that's very true. That's why I keep on trying, no matter how much I may think I suck. Assuming I get something finished, that is, lol.

scarletpeaches
10-13-2009, 06:38 PM
OMG!!! JAMES IS BACK!!!

cscarlet
10-13-2009, 06:40 PM
I think you need to remember that you are still in a learning process, and everyone's learning processes are different. It may just be that you're coming to the stage where you have to re-learn how to love it again. :)

C.M.C.
10-13-2009, 06:45 PM
I think the most damaging thing a writer can do is worry about their talent. We get it in our heads so often that there's a right way and a wrong way, and that if we don't measure up to our favorite author we're not good enough. It gets lost far too often that writing is an exercise in personal expression, not doing the "right" things. There is a degree of formality and structure to narrative writing, but focusing on the details blurs the overall picture. As long as your mind is occupied by thoughts about things other than how you can make your work more interesting, you're wasting your time. Counting the number of adjectives you use, or any of the other little nitpicking details we obsess over, is distracting us from the real goal of writing. Talent be damned, it can be done.

maestrowork
10-13-2009, 06:47 PM
Have fun writing your first drafts. Stop thinking about if you're good enough, etc. etc.

Be a professional/perfectionist when you do your rewrites/edits (and after you emotionally detach yourself from the work).

I think you will find it much easier to both enjoy and improve your work.

(p.s. that was exactly what I did with my first career: IT. I had a lot of fun. Only when the work became "deadlines only" and I had to be "GOOD" all the time that it stopped being fun, because I wasn't allowed to make mistakes or try things out just for fun.)

scarletpeaches
10-13-2009, 06:55 PM
I think the most damaging thing a writer can do is worry about their talent. We get it in our heads so often that there's a right way and a wrong way, and that if we don't measure up to our favorite author we're not good enough. It gets lost far too often that writing is an exercise in personal expression, not doing the "right" things. There is a degree of formality and structure to narrative writing, but focusing on the details blurs the overall picture.IMO it's damaging to not worry about talent. Someone who's satisfied never tries to improve because they think they don't need to. Like it or not, there is a wrong way and a right way to write and we need to know the rules - and master them - before we can break them with impunity.

As for comparing oneself with another author? I do that all the time. Why? Because I want to get better. I cannibalise other authors' techniques and use them to improve my own work.As long as your mind is occupied by thoughts about things other than how you can make your work more interesting, you're wasting your time.This is a dangerous way to think for a writer. Particularly if one asserts that rules of grammar, structure, etc are not ways to make the writing more interesting. The rules are there for a reason - to make the writing fade into the background and make the story stand out. If a writer has no regard for standards, I have no care to finish reading his book. If I read a blurb and come away still wondering what the hell he's talking about, I'm not even going to bother with the first paragraph.Counting the number of adjectives you use, or any of the other little nitpicking details we obsess over, is distracting us from the real goal of writing. Talent be damned, it can be done.What you call nitpicking, I call attention to detail. Details matter. Any writer who thinks otherwise isn't a writer I'll pay to read.

To quote tt42 on MSN just now:Obviously...practiced writing is necessary to TELL the stories we want to tell. It's being able to say things in a new, fresh, and profound way, without all the car chases and explosions to add excitement. Yeah, I had to focus on NOT filtering for a long time after you pointed it out to me, and it was frustrating for a while, but my writing is stronger for it.Rules and guidelines are there for a reason and only the most foolhardy of writers would disregard them, or the need for constant improvement.

Cranky
10-13-2009, 07:03 PM
Oh, rules are important, no doubt about that. It helps make something readable, if nothing else. And I agree that you've got to know what you're about before you go breaking any of them.

I don't think CMC was advocating disregarding the rules, but rather not allowing oneself to become so wrapped up in worrying over them that you can't do anything but obsess.

scarletpeaches
10-13-2009, 07:05 PM
Stop posting here! Get back to work!

Don't make me go all Scottish-bint-with-a-baseball-bat on you.

*smacks fist*

Cranky
10-13-2009, 07:07 PM
:roll:

Yes, ma'am. *flees*

Amarie
10-13-2009, 07:10 PM
Most importantly of all: writing has stopped being fun. "Am I good enough yet?" I'm asking myself this question, and I am not satisfied with the answer. The easiest way to get a solid answer, of course, is to finish work and submit it. My track record on that is not good. No acceptances as of yet. Now it’s gotten to the point where I’m so self-critical that it’s rare I can actually write any fiction at all. I hate it before I’ve even written “Chapter One”.



Just remember the market is brutal right now, so don't let your 'good enough' worries revolve completely around acceptances or the lack of them. Like others have said, I think trusting good beta readers will help.

Perks
10-13-2009, 07:37 PM
We had a guest column on AuthorScoop (http://authorscoop.com/2008/11/17/on-critics-critiques-and-the-relative-weight-of-criticism/) a while back that addresses some of this, the conclusion of which I particularly liked -

What, then, would I have you take away from all this? Well, at the risk of placing it in some infamously ill-advised company, my plan of attack is three-pronged…

Listen to your readers, but don’t let them put you off your aim. Seek acceptance, but embrace your most ferocious rejections. And above all, if you’re only as good as your last review, make sure you set aside some time to write yourself a good one.

One of the very hardest parts of this writing process, for me, is finding out if I'm any good. I know people say they do it for the love of it, but I can't love it if I'm not especially talented at it. I'm proficient at a good many things, which is fortunate and can make a life contented. I think. Maybe. But it's just this one craft, the one set of achievements, that I want so desperately it makes my teeth hurt. I'll never be a race car driver, or anything brave. I won't be a doctor or a detective, because my interest was always overshadowed by my circumstances, which loosely translates to - I didn't have the drive. But if I can do this, I can be all those things, and there's a spark of drive for this that might be enough to manage it. It's a hard candle to burn, though. Tiring. Time consuming. I don't want to be clogging up the publishing process with second-rate work, and I often fear I may stall out at top tier mediocrity. That is quite scary for me.

So, I hear you. I don't know how helpful this was, but at least you're not alone. But I suppose you knew you wouldn't be.

You may be in an adolescence of sorts. All this discovery and angst to find that you are just around the corner from utter competency. Don't give up.

Perks
10-13-2009, 08:00 PM
And I'll go against the grain a little and tell you that I think your concern over whether you're "good enough" is noble. Everyone works differently of course, but my internal editor is my best friend. It can crest into neurosis, but until then, it's my conscience.

And here's the way I see it - it's not supposed to be fun. Like any other endeavor that you expect to be worth something and might even pad your back account, it's mostly drudgery shot through with pure golden moments of satisfaction. The triumph of the artist is the same as that of a mountaineer, a surgeon, a student, a toddler, that guy in IT gritting his teeth trying to make-this-shit-work. It's a job that adds value to the human experience. But, it's a job, unless it's just for fun. Then it's a hobby and that's fine too.

Fallen
10-13-2009, 08:01 PM
I took a degree in linguistics to get the gist behind taking sentences apart and then putting them back together to see how creativity works. Maybe there was a secret formula out there and all it needed was unravelling...

Now I just see writing purely in mechnical terms and it's taken away a lot of the msytery. It takes a lot to break away from that and write creatively. So, yeah, I understand how you feel, hun. Eesh...

scarletpeaches
10-13-2009, 08:06 PM
And here's the way I see it - it's not supposed to be fun.I hate disagreeing with you, but I've gotta on this point...:(

Perks
10-13-2009, 08:12 PM
I hate disagreeing with you, but I've gotta on this point...:(That's okay. It is actually great fun when it's going well and I love it. Those are the times I feel a bit, what's your word?, 'cheeky' for wanting to get paid for it.

And the successes? Puts me over the moon like nothing else. Makes me think I might be allowed to do this.

But from the eagle's eye view of the whole process, it's fucking hard work more than it is giddy fun. The self-doubt is part of the work. The hours of nit-picking the mechanics, the rejection, the research. And even in all of these, there are moments of pleasure and satisfaction. Just like any other job. Knowing you people, for example, is such a reward (and distraction) from the job-iness of it all.

And anyway, it's just my take on it. Whatever gets us through.

Mr Flibble
10-13-2009, 08:15 PM
There is more than one right way to write. Thanks the gods, or we'd all sound the same.

I have trouble with this too - the nuts and bolts can be fixed on the rewrite, but the basic story - I sit and look and think BUT WHY ARE THEY DOING THAT? IT'S STUPID!

Then I have to get all creative and find a reason why it's not stupid lol.

But I try not to think about it on the first draft. I just go with it. I tweak later for the stupidity factor. I use a sounding board if there's something particularly stupid - and I know if it niggles me enough to have to ask, it ain't working. ( Hi Fen - I figured it out - tampered with the saddle. Hehehe. Splat)

As my husband can attest when I got all snarky with him this afternoon for 'not understanding my plot dammit!' :D But he did help me bang out a good reason why X has to die, and who dunnit and stuff. It will just require some minor tweaking to make it so

So, write the first one as you like, stupid plot or no. Stupid people or no. Then apply some creativity to the stupidity to make it clever. :D

scarletpeaches
10-13-2009, 08:27 PM
That's okay. It is actually great fun when it's going well and I love it. Those are the times I feel a bit, what's your word?, 'cheeky' for wanting to get paid for it.

And the successes? Puts me over the moon like nothing else. Makes me think I might be allowed to do this.

But from the eagle's eye view of the whole process, it's fucking hard work more than it is giddy fun. The self-doubt is part of the work. The hours of nit-picking the mechanics, the rejection, the research. And even in all of these, there are moments of pleasure and satisfaction. Just like any other job. Knowing you people, for example, is such a reward (and distraction) from the job-iness of it all.

And anyway, it's just my take on it. Whatever gets us through.It amazes me that someone as talented as you can still get oogy about getting paid to write!

I get self-doubt snapping at my heels too, but then I just kick it in the box and remember how fabulous I am.

Writing's work much of the time, but it's work that doesn't feel like work. There's never been anything else I've wanted to do as much, save some unsafe-for-public-discussion activities involving Colin Farrell, so for me, constant improvement has always been on the menu. If I want this to work, I have to improve. I don't want anything else (besides said Farrellish depravity) so, improvement has to happen.

And if, during the course of my celebrity schmoozing, I happen across one Mr Hamilton, I'll be sure to hook you up and Mr Perks never has to know.

Perks
10-13-2009, 08:38 PM
It amazes me that someone as talented as you can still get oogy about getting paid to write!

Oh, if it ever actually happens, I'll not be too noble cash the check, I assure you. :)

And thank you very much for your compliment. It means a lot.

Writing's work much of the time, but it's work that doesn't feel like work. It's funny, I heard two people speak, on the very same panel, and one very successful writer, P.T. Deutermann, came down in your camp and the other, John Hart, felt much about the process as I do. Both men are very accomplished and they're published by the same house, but they have very different experiences in the actual work of it.

When I can convince myself to do it, and I'm clipping along and furrowing my brow and wearing out my keyboard, both things are true - I'm working my tail off and I'm often times having a blast. But the work doesn't end. When I'm not typing, I'm thinking about it, or worrying about it, or berating myself for not being more diligent, or banging out side jobs to keep myself current in the business end of the process, and - inhale - etc.

icerose
10-13-2009, 08:43 PM
I'm split, Perks. The writing is a whole lot of fun that clips along like crazy, the editing/rewriting is total drudgery that feels more like a punishment than anything else.

Bubastes
10-13-2009, 08:47 PM
There are parts of writing that feel like work, but I love every bit of it, including the business side (subbing, record-keeping, etc.) and revising. A tough writing day is still better than a great day at my day job, so I guess that colors my perspective.

backslashbaby
10-13-2009, 08:50 PM
Unless you need the angst to do it the way you do it, Perks, don't worry another second, btw. Your manuscript is better than tons of published books, simply and truly.

mscelina
10-13-2009, 09:07 PM
Maybe the problem is simpler, Cranky. Maybe you're worried about the results of your writing too soon. It's hard for me to chuck the editor's hat and just write. That whole giving yourself permission to write crap bit? It's hard for me now because I'm always thinking ahead. So I just have to shut out pretty much everything else--that's one of the reasons I never edit in my study. I save it for writing only--and just do it. Put the blinders on. Forget about the grammar and the spelling and the sentence construction. Have only one goal: getting the story onto paper. Don't go back and read what you've already written. Just write until it's done.

Then, when it's done, let it rest for a few days before you go back to re-read it.

swvaughn
10-13-2009, 09:14 PM
OMG!!! JAMES IS BACK!!!

I seen him first! :tongue

Matera the Mad
10-13-2009, 09:17 PM
The more you know the more you know you don't know.
~ favorite old saying/quote picked up somewhere

Anyway, learning should never stop. The hardest thing is not adding all the "rules" to the mental toolbox but cleaning out the bad habits. The hardest thing about that is becoming aware of the bad habits. Seeing improvement can put the fun back, I think. I never lost that, and I'm a deplorable perfectionist.

Phaeal
10-13-2009, 09:29 PM
Cranky, if your fic writing is as good as your posts, you have nothing to worry about. Well, you don't have to worry about having no talent, anyhow. You might have to worry about bint-wielding bats, or was it bat-wielding buntings?

Either way, scary!

Friend me at NaNoWriMo! I'm Phaeal there, too.

Perks
10-13-2009, 09:34 PM
Unless you need the angst to do it the way you do it, Perks, don't worry another second, btw. Lol! I don't know if I need it and I certainly wouldn't be sorry to see the back of it if it decides to walk away, but it's the only thing that gets me the best result I can manage right now. And I'm willing to pay it, if that's what it takes for the chance to be good at this.

'Giving yourself permission to write crap' is repeated here often enough that I am convinced that many people find this the way to go and that it works for them. I don't know how Cranky goes, or anyone else who might read this thread, but when this topic pops up, I always feel obligated to represent for the percentage of writers who keep the process on a shorter lead. My mind is organized in such a way that if I gave the creative urge its head completely, I would not have the stamina to retrace the path and clean up all the shit. Lol!

So, in Cranky's case, she may be able to recapture some of the pre-ignorance bliss, or she may not, depending on her style. If she does not, I'm just saying that there's a way to work without it that can still yield the wonderful satisfying moments.

backslashbaby
10-13-2009, 09:45 PM
^^^ I totally agree, and it's important to point out that people's brains work differently on things. On some things, I need the angst for focus, truly. If I don't feel challenged, I'm not doing it right, is how my brain works a lot!

quickWit
10-13-2009, 09:56 PM
Rule #1:
Write to please you.

Rule #2:
Fuck the rest.

Misa Buckley
10-13-2009, 10:19 PM
I see so much of myself in Jen's post. I've had friends shout at me because my obsession with getting the first draft "right" means I've not finished a single WIP.

I know that I'm a perfectionist. That in itself is not always a bad thing, but it is when it blocks you from just writing. When it means you can halfway through a novel and give up because it's not "good enough".

I've done NaNo twice, but neither time was I able to turn off my inner editor. Somehow I managed to reach 50K but it was a struggle.

I don't know what the answer is. If I did, I think I'd be rich :)

C.M.C.
10-13-2009, 10:40 PM
I don't think CMC was advocating disregarding the rules, but rather not allowing oneself to become so wrapped up in worrying over them that you can't do anything but obsess.

That would be what I was going for.

The Lonely One
10-13-2009, 10:44 PM
I feel that in any walk of life self-awareness invites doubt. Look at animals; they don't doubt their actions, question them--they just go where the energy of life propels them.

That animal part of the brain, that's the part that's supposed to drive stories (IMO).

But that's the real struggle to me. We are conscious, analytical beings. We become burdened with all the questions that remain unanswered.

To me one key to this equation is remembering that, though your perspective on writing has changed, there are ways to regain what gave you joy to write. All paths are not final.

maestrowork
10-13-2009, 11:38 PM
And here's the way I see it - it's not supposed to be fun. Like any other endeavor that you expect to be worth something and might even pad your back account, it's mostly drudgery shot through with pure golden moments of satisfaction. The triumph of the artist is the same as that of a mountaineer, a surgeon, a student, a toddler, that guy in IT gritting his teeth trying to make-this-shit-work. It's a job that adds value to the human experience. But, it's a job, unless it's just for fun. Then it's a hobby and that's fine too.

I kind of disagree, but that's just me. Life is too short to do something that you're not "having fun with" just to meet goals a, b, or c. And just because it's fun doesn't mean it's only a hobby, not a job. And just because it's a job doesn't mean it has to be dreadful. I truly believe that, if you can, do what you love and love what you do.

(of course, I don't mean every moment of your job is going to be a peach. There are tough times. They are always times when you want to hang it up. But I think deep down we all know the difference between an occasional funk and when we're truly burned out)



I happened to love IT work -- it was fun, until it wasn't. Life's too short for me to hang on to a career that no longer brought me joy, and I ceased to care... it was not a win-win situation for both myself and my clients.

And to quote George Clooney... when asked if he ever took vacation just to get away from it all, he said, "Why? My work is my vacation." I think he has just the right approach and attitude.

Here's to quote another colleague of mine... the road to success and happiness:

a) find something you enjoy doing and can do better than most people
b) do it and make $$$ doing it
c) quit when you no longer love doing it (or good at it)
d) repeat

scarletpeaches
10-14-2009, 01:18 AM
Rule #1:
Write to please you.

Rule #2:
Fuck the rest.Rule #3:
Don't say "Fuck you," to the people you want to pay you to write.

quickWit
10-14-2009, 01:24 AM
Rule #3:
Don't say "Fuck you," to the people you want to pay you to write.

Unless, of course, they reject you - but I think that pretty much goes without saying.

scarletpeaches
10-14-2009, 01:26 AM
Unless, of course, they reject you - but I think that pretty much goes without saying.And even then you should shout it from very far away and blame it on the bunneh.

quickWit
10-14-2009, 01:41 AM
And even then you should shout it from very far away and blame it on the bunneh.

Honestly, Peach...you're such a pansy!

:D

Jamesaritchie
10-14-2009, 01:57 AM
And here's the way I see it - it's not supposed to be fun. Like any other endeavor that you expect to be worth something and might even pad your back account, it's mostly drudgery shot through with pure golden moments of satisfaction. The triumph of the artist is the same as that of a mountaineer, a surgeon, a student, a toddler, that guy in IT gritting his teeth trying to make-this-shit-work. It's a job that adds value to the human experience. But, it's a job, unless it's just for fun. Then it's a hobby and that's fine too.

I have to disagree with this completely. I've done many things besides writing, and maybe "fun" is the wrong word, but I expected every one of them to be enjoyable. Just because something is a job, just because it's work, doesn't mean it shouldn't also be fun. I've done both rock climing and mountainering. Both were fun.

The people who have hobbies for fun are the people who can't find a fun job. The people I iknow who are really happy in life are those who found occupations that are, for them, fun, not drudge work.

Nothing is fun 100% of the time, but life is short, and I'll be darned if 'll spend a minute of it doing anything that isn't fun far more often than it's drudgery. There must be thousands of occupations, thousands of ways of earning a living, so why choose one that is mostly drudge work?

mscelina
10-14-2009, 02:03 AM
Nothing is fun all the time. I love writing. I loathe rewriting. I love adverbs. I hate cutting them. I love manuscript requests. i hate queries.

But the fundamental, basic task of writing is something that I love. I've been fortunate. I've had several different careers in my life, and when they stopped being enjoyable and became a grind I moved on to something else that was enjoyable. The only constant in all that time? Writing. The act of creation, the development of a character or a plot, the smell of newly printed pages rolling from my printer? All of these things I love.

And at that moment, I forget about the amount of work it took me to get to that point. Writing is work--it's damned hard work no matter how you look at it. But, as with any other job, you can get so sucked into the details that you bog down the process as a whole.

Jen, hon, it's really easy to get sucked into the "did I use the right tense here?" mentality when you're writing. It happens because you're thinking about the criticism before you're thinking about the story. I'm kind of with Perks on this; when I'm writing, I'm always thinking a step ahead. I'm always concerned with the grammar and the spelling and the whatnots of the craft of writing. Sometimes, I have to step away for a minute and remember the art of writing--and that is telling the story. I literally have to tell myself, "Okay, Celina--just get the story down on paper. Nothing but the story." and focus on that, as if I'm telling my kids a bedtime story.

And sometimes, that actually works.

Cranky
10-14-2009, 02:04 AM
So, after catching a few zzz's finally and getting caught up on all the other stuffz I have to do during the day, I'm back. And thank you guys. You all are fan-freaking-tastic. :Hug2:

Perksie, hon, I don't understand how you could ever doubt yourself. Well, I mean, of course I can (lol), but you're a terribly talented writer from what I've seen.

I'm so glad to see that I'm not alone in this. While I did suspect that I wasn't the only one who struggles with this stuff, it's still very helpful to know. This sort of self-doubt is a very lonely experience, I think. It's nice to be reminded every now and again that while the actual act of writing and creation can often be solitary work for us, we still have fellow travelers. Thanks again, everyone, for chiming in with your understanding and advice, and the kind words all around.

I have decided that I'm going to take a bit of a half 'n half approach. Take a couple of months and just not even consider publication. Just write and write and write and have fun with it. As soon as I decided that, I got a brand new idea for the Horror forum's monthly prompt, and I know that I'm going to be able to write a story for it tonight after the kids are all in bed. It's a silly idea, but I think it'll be great fun to write, even if it does suck. :D But since I'm not even considering putting it out there, who cares?! I think that after finishing a bunch of stories and doing NaNo, I might turn my attention back to the business end of things. I love editing, and like Bubastes, I even love that part of it (market research, record keeping, etc.). When I'm not so wrapped up in my own angst -- and ego! -- I think I'll be doing much better. I already feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Perks
10-14-2009, 03:29 AM
I hope that I didn't give the impression I was endorsing the "tortured artiste" approach to writing. I'm sure there are people out there whose talent and longing pain them. I do not envy those people and I'm not one of them.

I was surprised to find that writing wasn't all about love and fervor, or even mostly about love and fervor, but those are still the only reasons that I want to do it.


Nothing is fun 100% of the time, but life is short, and I'll be darned if 'll spend a minute of it doing anything that isn't fun far more often than it's drudgery. There must be thousands of occupations, thousands of ways of earning a living, so why choose one that is mostly drudge work?

And lucky you, Mr. Ritchie. I've had to do quite a number of jobs that weren't very much fun so I could keep the power on and food in the fridge. I envy you.

wrangler
04-13-2010, 09:52 AM
[FONT=Georgia][FONT=Verdana]Point of this long, rambling post (I've been up all night, so please forgive me) is to ask: does anyone else think that learning a lot can actually damage you as a writer? Not permanently or anything, but can it hurt you? It does seem that way with many of the other writers I come in contact with. With every new class, their tearing apart and rewriting manuscripts...even if what they have sitting before them is A-plus material.

My problem is that I have only ten year, therefore time is not on my side. In ten years I must have established myself as a writer, moved back to Penn. and started devoting some of my time to speaking with young adults.

In order to do this, I've come up with an amazing plan that allows me to hit the hardest every time and do not have that luxury of tearing apart my novel every time I learn something new.

S.J.
04-16-2010, 03:18 AM
Well, you've already decided what you're going to do. I just want to say that I too have that problem, and it was nice to read your post because - like you said - it's nice not to be alone. (Haha.)

Also, I was wondering whether you'd consider abstaining from sites such as Absolute Write for a few months. This is going to sound incredibly 'arty' and pretentious, but I think sometimes learning about writing can be suffocating rather than helpful. At least, that's what I've found.

So, yeah. Good luck! :)

Mr Flibble
04-16-2010, 04:06 AM
This is going to sound incredibly 'arty' and pretentious, but I think sometimes learning about writing can be suffocating rather than helpful. At least, that's what I've foun

Pat of he learning process. OMG IT'S ALL SO!!!! If you take the time to absorb it, it helps. ( mostly)

Promise

Any learning curve is suffocating when you're in the middle of it. That's how you know you're learning.

Cranky
04-16-2010, 07:24 PM
Well, you've already decided what you're going to do. I just want to say that I too have that problem, and it was nice to read your post because - like you said - it's nice not to be alone. (Haha.)

Also, I was wondering whether you'd consider abstaining from sites such as Absolute Write for a few months. This is going to sound incredibly 'arty' and pretentious, but I think sometimes learning about writing can be suffocating rather than helpful. At least, that's what I've found.

So, yeah. Good luck! :)

Pat of he learning process. OMG IT'S ALL SO!!!! If you take the time to absorb it, it helps. ( mostly)

Promise

Any learning curve is suffocating when you're in the middle of it. That's how you know you're learning.

The only time I avoid this place is when the guilt from not doing anything productive keeps me away. (Or when RL goes down the crapper, heh) As IdiotsRUs sez: that suffocating feeling tells me I'm learning. I've felt the same way doing any kind of math above simple algebra, lol. The only reason it concerned me is because I was afraid it was impeding further learning because it was making me all too aware of the flaws my writing contains.

Can't say that I'm doing any better, though. I think it's been a year since I've written more than a few thousand words. Got a pretty good idea on the back burner, but can't bring myself to write it. But that's a whole other thread. :D

timewaster
04-16-2010, 07:42 PM
[I donít know. Whatever I can do to make it fun again would be awesome, and any advice anyone has for me to start getting over myself on this would be very welcome. Iím struggling really badly with this, and have for some time.[/FONT][/FONT][/QUOTE]

I think that being too critical is disastrous - it increases performance anxiety and every one knows that rarely ends well.
Maybe you just need to relax. Set your self small challenges just for fun. Write a story where every second word has to begin with 'a' or one from the point of view of a peanut - just play with words. If you start to enjoy that you are allowed to write something longer, but only if it is inherently unpublishable - eg ' A potted history of my store cupboard and other items of minimal interest' or 'Seventy three uses for a washer'. Forbid yourself to write anything sensible until you can hold out no more...

Cranky
04-16-2010, 07:47 PM
[I donít know. Whatever I can do to make it fun again would be awesome, and any advice anyone has for me to start getting over myself on this would be very welcome. Iím struggling really badly with this, and have for some time.[/FONT][/FONT]

I think that being too critical is disastrous - it increases performance anxiety and every one knows that rarely ends well.
Maybe you just need to relax. Set your self small challenges just for fun. Write a story where every second word has to begin with 'a' or one from the point of view of a peanut - just play with words. If you start to enjoy that you are allowed to write something longer, but only if it is inherently unpublishable - eg ' A potted history of my store cupboard and other items of minimal interest' or 'Seventy three uses for a washer'. Forbid yourself to write anything sensible until you can hold out no more...[/QUOTE]

You have no idea how much that piqued my interest. I can actually see myself doing that, and having it work. I'm perverse that way, lol! Thanks!

Mr Flibble
04-16-2010, 08:01 PM
The only reason it concerned me is because I was afraid it was impeding further learning because it was making me all too aware of the flaws my writing contains.

I think every writer goes through this stage, in a series - provided tey are consciously trying to learn

1st stage. OMG I R wonderful and my prose is golden! Look out publishing industry, I'm gonna make JK Rowling look poor, poor I tell thee!

2nd stage - after learning a few thingys and whatsits, you look at your work and all of a sudden you can see more flaws than anything else. Whatever made you think you could write? ( Incidentally I get this once the editor has got her red pen out too lol) You can see them now only because you have learnt what some flaws are If you hadn't learnt, you wouldn't see them. So while it might make you feel like maybe you should burn your PC it's actually a good sign. Like with anything - once you admit you have a problem ( with adverbs or whatever) then you can try and fix it

3rd stage - you see the flaws before you write them and avoid them, or try to :D

4th stage - learn more flaws.

ETA: Frankly I go through stage two every time I learn something new. At least now I can see it for the positive it is.

Cranky
04-16-2010, 08:17 PM
*nods*

I think I'm suffering karmic blowback. :D I used to skip from your Stage One to Stage Three, then to Stage Four before beginning the loop again. I used to be stoked to find out what I was doing wrong, so I could fix it -- no navel-gazing angsty nonsense ensued. Now, I'm apparently stuck in a feedback loop on Stage Two, lol.

But I'm going to try the the nonsensical story approach. Worth a shot, anyhoo. :D

icerose
04-16-2010, 08:30 PM
Why not try an RPG? It's silly, it's fun, it can go anywhere, doesn't need to be a story, but it can be very useful at getting you writing every day.

S.J.
04-16-2010, 08:58 PM
Pat of he learning process. OMG IT'S ALL SO!!!! If you take the time to absorb it, it helps. ( mostly)

Promise

Any learning curve is suffocating when you're in the middle of it. That's how you know you're learning.

I dunno. I think there comes a point when you can't absorb any more and you have to step away from the advice and opinions, or whatever.

Cranky
04-16-2010, 08:58 PM
Why not try an RPG? It's silly, it's fun, it can go anywhere, doesn't need to be a story, but it can be very useful at getting you writing every day.

You know, my hubby has been trying for YEARS to get me to do that very thing. He was a DM from way back and still has GRUPS (I think that's what they are) books and dice lying about and doodles around with character sheets and whatnot for funsies.

I honestly never considered writing a campaign/story down before.

Mr Flibble
04-16-2010, 09:02 PM
I dunno. I think there comes a point when you can't absorb any more and you have to step away from the advice and opinions, or whatever.


Well I was thinking less of other people's opinions ( though I suppose it's all that in the end) and more learning how pacing works or realising on your own why a certain characterisation scene didn't work or even what readers of certain genres like and don't like etc. Not necessarily any opinion but your own, or just a frank discussion with many points of view to consider. Even realising you disagree with another's veiw on simething teaches you a lesson about that something if you can articulate to yourself why you disagree with it.

But yes, sometimes you have to get away and let everything soak in and just write.