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Thread: Just Can't Make It Happen

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    Just Can't Make It Happen

    I'm trying to get back into writing, since I become terribly depressed when I'm not working, and I don't have enough projects that I feel like working on to fill up my entire day.

    The problem is, I just can't write at all. It's even worse than it was before; it used to be I'd write a page, look at it, say "this is complete and utter garbage," and close the word processor. Now I can't even get that far- I get an idea and stare at the blank page for fifteen minutes, maybe write three lines of dialogue and throw that out. I just can't generate any kind of text.

    I'm also seeing similar problems in the play-by-post role-playing games I GM; the descriptive quality of my postings, though they were never particularly evocative of the imagination, has plummeted into the realm of near non-existence. Where small paragraphs used to stand, now single sentences take their place.

    Usually when I have this kind of problem, a complete inability to produce an acceptable result, it's usually because I'm missing some fundamental idea or truth that everyone around me simply neglected to mention; for music, it was the proper use of scales; for algebra, it was the order of operations. Of course, I'm still absolutely terrible at these things, just like I used to be at writing, but at least I could produce garbage. Now I can't produce anything.

    The question here is, what do you folks, who have far more experience and training with writing than myself, think the problem is?

  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    My writing is total and utter shit. I know that much.

    But to actually write it, and then revise (which is where the magic comes out), I need to get my god damn words down.

    All I can tell you is to push forward. Shit writing or not.

    "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." - Wayne Gretsky.
    Don't Fear Failure.

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  3. #3
    Book Slut Kelsey's Avatar
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    Any way you are over thinking it all? Turn off your computer monitor, then start writing. Write on a laptop while sitting in front of the TV and partly focused on other things. Tell yourself you can always edit, and get through one chapter, then another until you have a draft. Don't re-read what you've written; always move forward.

    "If you want to get over a problem, stop talking about it. Your mind affects your mouth, and your mouth affects your mind." -- Joyce Meyer.
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  4. #4
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." - Wayne Gretsky.
    Some of us miss 100% of the shots we do take. Wayne Gretzky at least made a lot of the shots he took.

    As for the question from the OP:
    The question here is, what do you folks, who have far more experience and training with writing than myself, think the problem is?
    Overthinking. Turn off your computer, get some kind of paper note pad, and a pen, and write. You won't get so involved in word-processy editorial crap; that you can do later.

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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW
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    That's what I'm trying to do, though. Nothing happens. :/

  6. #6
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Depression?

    Or a lack of confidence on your writing skills? Don't get me wrong, humility is important, but you call your own writing garbage. I used to do that myself, until I came to a point where my own criticism got under my skin and I thought, wow, my writing is so bad...why the hell am I doing it again?? I should spare people from writing as bad as this! Obviously that made writing even harder than it already is.

    Be kinder to yourself. You wouldn't say such things about a friend's writing. Even if it sucked, you'd just say something like "This and this needs improvement", not "your writing is trash".

    Something else that may help is to write longhand for a while. Get yourself to a nice, quiet cafe, order your favorite drink, and just longhand whatever you're currently thinking. If you can't think of anything to write, just write down your thoughts. "I'm sitting in a cafe and they're playing Hit Me Baby One More Time. Who the hell still listens to that? The character I'm thinking of would hate Britney because [...]" Etc.

    Don't think of it as a chore that you NEED to do. Give yourself a realistic goal of say, 500 words a day. Then reward yourself with a small treat every time you reach that goal. And don't judge yourself as you write. Don't read it until you finish it, so you won't feel tempted to keep deleting as you go.
    corny: This is the way of the future. Nonsensical fragments and oozingly gross weeping sores of language spilling over the keyboard.

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  7. #7
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schilcote View Post
    That's what I'm trying to do, though. Nothing happens. :/
    And why is that? (I ask this in the therapist's stupid lingo).

    Why can't you get to writing at all? What I see is that; either you're scared of even achieving, or, you're just not driven to write.

    Does writing feel like a chore? How, in what way, can you make writing more entertaining?
    Don't Fear Failure.

    "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" -- Alvin Toffler.

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  8. #8
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    I went through that for a long time, the exception being that I thought my writing was pretty good. Honestly, I would look at something I'd written and think, "Wow, I wrote that? Then why didn't I finish it?"

    It took me a long time to answer that question, but when it hit me, I was freed forever. Here was my answer: No matter how good my writing might have been, it wasn't me. It wasn't my voice, my sound. Everything I wrote I was subconsciously comparing to my favorite authors, like Stephen King or Dean Koontz, trying to write like they do, and of course my writing always came up short by comparison. So I would get discouraged and quit only to start the process over again with a new story.

    And then I discovered Elmore Leonard and his philosophy on writing. I found I'd been fighting myself, trying to shut down my own voice because it wasn't like those I admire. Now I write like I write, and I don't compare myself to anyone. And it's working. I've never been so productive.

    Don't know if you're going through what I went through, but I thought I'd toss it out there in case you see any similarities.

    Best of luck.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    Depression?
    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger
    Does writing feel like a chore? How, in what way, can you make writing more entertaining?
    Depression is probably a big part of it, honestly. Everything feels like a chore. Plus, since I rarely talk to people at all, I find myself losing a lot of my vocabulary.

    I dunno. Maybe I just need a really good idea. That, and I find that a lot of times that while I usually start a story with a good ending, and oftentimes a decent beginning, it's the middle that causes the trouble.

  10. #10
    The grad students did it NeuroFizz's Avatar
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    Maybe this isn't a good time in your life to write. If you have other life-issues to deal with, you could eliminate some frustration by just letting the writing go for a little while. Our physical and emotional health is way more important than a daily word count.
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  11. #11
    Call me Fig
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    Hey, try to lighten up. They're just words. (The zebra, stalking its prey, skuffles across the dry caked earth, unable to take its duty seriously.) Writing can actually be fun, when you cut the pretentious "everything must be perfect and brilliant" attitude. They're just words. If you've tried everything and you still can't find joy in the words, then right now there's a good chance you shouldn't be writing, because you're only making yourself miserable. Pick up the pencil again later, after a rest.

  12. #12
    Call me Fig
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schilcote View Post
    Maybe I just need a really good idea.
    No, exactly not that. Biggest dumbest excuse our writer-brains tell us. It's a trick.

  13. #13
    is watching you via her avatar jjdebenedictis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    Depression?
    This was my first thought, too.

    Are you having issues with finding the energy to rouse yourself to accomplish other tasks, or does this inability to work only happen with writing? Do self-defeating thoughts creep into your brain all the time or just when you're trying to write?

    If the problems are affecting more than just your writing, talk to a doctor. Physical maladies, as well as depression, can cause this.

    If only your writing is being affected, try some of the distraction techniques others have suggested. It does sound like your negative self-talk has gotten the better of you, where it used to only sap your will to continue. You need to break it's hold on your mind.

    Actually, talking to the right type of doctor might help with that too. A psychologist might be able to give you tools for smacking down that nasty inner critic you've acquired.
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  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW
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    Yeah, unfortunately, professional help is not an option due to various circumstances. I'm actually taking a risk just by admitting that I'm depressed on an internet forum (though not a very big one- the chances of anything here being traced back to me are slim). It's only made things worse in the past, anyway.

    Ah well. Gotta find something else to do, then.

  15. #15
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schilcote View Post
    Yeah, unfortunately, professional help is not an option due to various circumstances. I'm actually taking a risk just by admitting that I'm depressed on an internet forum (though not a very big one- the chances of anything here being traced back to me are slim). It's only made things worse in the past, anyway.

    Ah well. Gotta find something else to do, then.
    Sorry to hear this, Schilcote. Not sure what I, an internet stranger, can do to help, but if you ever need to talk, hippos make very good listeners.
    corny: This is the way of the future. Nonsensical fragments and oozingly gross weeping sores of language spilling over the keyboard.

    I feel like corny needs to have a book review site, really.

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  16. #16
    Time Traveler mfarraday's Avatar
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    i suffer from depression. So does/did Chuck Wendig, a profane writer who i admire. Writers go through this. You should seek treatment - i pay $5/month for my scrip. And God bless. ................................also give yourself permission to write crap during draft 1. Its during revision that the magic is coaxed forth, anyway. Get your ideas down...before you lose them.

  17. #17
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    Maybe just work on random scenes or character descriptions until you get back in the groove? Go to a park or somewhere different and just get some words flowing again. Or go skiing or take a walk and use that to create a scene. People-watch.

    You don't have to be working on something with a plot to be practicing your writing. Not if it's really hard to get anything out
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  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW sprogspasser's Avatar
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    Have you planned the story? If not, perhaps planning would help. Instead of writing plan out the whole thing. Flows of information, turning points, relevations, etc. until you feel like writing.
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  19. #19
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Depression... never liked that term.

    I'm going to list what you can do to make yourself happier (without medication):
    (Of course, avoid anything that alters your mood. Drugs, alcohol, smoking.)

    A good diet. High protein, lots of vegis, low fat meats. Try your best to eat vegan.
    Exercise. It's been shown time and time again, that people who exercise have less cases and shorter cases of depression.
    St. John's Wort. I have no idea why it works. Doctors/psychiatrists recommend it alongside prescriptions.
    Communication with other people. Just talk with people, don't argue, just enjoy the moment.

    And do what makes you happy. Not short term stuff like shopping or going to a comedy show. Get a hobby that you can constantly do, constantly think about. Which, I'm guessing is writing to you.

    If so, why isn't writing making you happy? Is it what you write, or how you write? Is it the pressure of making yourself write? How can you make it a funner experience?

    Most people would recommend trying stream of consciousness writing. That you just write whatever you wish, however you wish.


    And, I need to say that I am not a practicing therapist, I'm just a simple psych student. Take what I offer with salt and pepper.
    Last edited by WillSauger; 12-04-2012 at 04:13 PM.
    Don't Fear Failure.

    "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" -- Alvin Toffler.

    "The heights of great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  20. #20
    Writing my way off the B Ark Becky Black's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Most people would recommend trying stream of consciousness writing. That you just writer whatever you wish, however you wish.
    I was thinking that too. Maybe rather than attempting to write fiction, if that's not working right now, start off by writing a journal. Make it purely for yourself, then there is no pressure about quality and having to revise it, because nobody else will ever see it. Write about your life and your feelings and the thoughts in your head right then.

    I do this pretty much every day. It clears those thoughts out of my brain and makes way for thoughts about my fiction instead. Since nobody else will ever see it you can be totally honest. Write every feeling and thought even if they feel like "bad" emotions and thoughts to have. It can be very cathartic. It breaks the cycle of thoughts and negative self-talk going around and around in your head. It might make you realise some fear is trivial, or that it's important, but there are ways to deal with it. Make plans, write about dreams and ambitions and how you might start on the path to achieving them.

    And I much prefer to do this with paper and pen. For one thing that means you can do it most places. And for some reason it just seems to help me think better that way. The stuff just streams out and leads to new thoughts. it's the same way I brainstorm too when planning my fiction. Possibly it not being editable in the way typing in a document is helps too.
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  21. #21
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    A good diet. High protein, lots of vegis, low fat meats. Try your best to eat vegan.
    Exercise. It's been shown time and time again, that people who exercise have less cases and shorter cases of depression.
    St. John's Wort. I have no idea why it works. Doctors/psychiatrists recommend it alongside prescriptions.
    Communication with other people. Just talk with people, don't argue, just enjoy the moment.

    And do what makes you happy. Not short term stuff like shopping or going to a comedy show. Get a hobby that you can constantly do, constantly think about. Which, I'm guessing is writing to you.

    If so, why isn't writing making you happy? Is it what you write, or how you write? Is it the pressure of making yourself write? How can you make it a funner experience?

    Most people would recommend trying stream of consciousness writing. That you just writer whatever you wish, however you wish.
    These are all great suggestions. I'd like to add a few more based on my own experience.

    When I first moved from California to England, the lack of sunshine really hit me hard. What ultimately helped was hot yoga. I don't know what it was...I tried jogging and going to the gym, but it didn't have as much of an effect as hot yoga did. I think the warmth of the room reminded me of Cali and tricked my mind into thinking that I'm back in LA. Great way to combat SAD if you're one of those people (like me!) who get affected by the seasons.

    I was also depressed because I felt very aimless. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life and the pressure became overwhelming, to the point where I stopped changing out of my PJs and only went out of the house when I had to. I felt so ashamed, like I was this giant waste of space taking up air and other resources. I didn't want to meet up with friends because the last thing I wanted was to hear how well they're doing in their various jobs.

    What helped me was setting two types of goals: a big one and then mini, day-to-day goals. My big one was to finish my first book. My mini goals were: write 600 words a day and get out of the friggin' house. Having those goals gave me a sense of purpose, reminding me that I still have dreams I want to reach.

    Obviously those two examples are very specific to the reason behind your depression, but hopefully one of the many suggestions everyone's given you will strike a chord.

    Oh, and something to remind you you're not alone...
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    I feel like corny needs to have a book review site, really.

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  22. #22
    Benefactor Member Manuel Royal's Avatar
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    A change of scenery often helps me. Even just going for a walk, or a drive.

    When I really feel like nothing's happening, sometimes it helps to get away from the keyboard, go to a different environment, and mess around with a notebook and a pen. Writing longhand, but also just doodling, making little drawings or diagrams, writing down anything that comes to mind, even individual words.

    Think I'll take my own advice today, because I've been trying to get started on a novel and I still haven't got a clue. Makes me feel like a useless idiot.

    Which I had sure-fire advice, but the fact is, every writer has to find his own method. If it helps, I think we all go through it.

    Note: don't start taking St. John's wort without talking to a doctor. It's an unregulated drug that hasn't been evaluated by the FDA. (Which is the usual status for herbal drugs, i.e. "supplements", in the U.S.)
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  23. #23
    I'm gonna give all my secrets away Spell-it-out's Avatar
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    How about write about how you feel? You claim that you've no one to talk to, so tell yourself about your day.

    Lay the writing out as a diary, each day you fill in what happened to you and how you feel. The writing will never make you a dime, but it may pull you from your slump, making you feel better about yourself.

    I hope you feel better soon.

  24. #24
    Super Procrastinator Kallithrix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schilcote View Post
    Depression is probably a big part of it, honestly. Everything feels like a chore. Plus, since I rarely talk to people at all, I find myself losing a lot of my vocabulary.
    No one seems to have mentioned this yet, but this is the most concerning thing you've written, IMO.

    When you isolate yourself from people, the only person you have to focus on is yourself, and that's when depression takes hold. When you combine low self esteem with solitude it's like being shut up with your own worst critic - everthing you do is stupid, or inadequate, and that makes you feel even less worthy or capable of being around others. It's a vicious cycle and the ONLY thing you can do to break it is to force yourself to venture back out into the world. And I don't mean the online world, because that is just a tool of isolation. You may not want to, but I think you need to start cultivating more interaction with people in 'real life'. Whether or not that's something you're ready to do, only you can answer, but I don't think shutting yourself away will help either with your depression, or with your writing.

    Sorry for the psyche eval, I don't mean to preach. But I've been where you are, and the only thing that saved me was my friends and family dragging me out of my cave and making me face the world.

    Hope you find a way back to it too
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  25. #25
    figuring it all out
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    I went through something like this a little while ago. I went through a faze of serious depression and had to drop out of school. With help and a lot of effort I'm working my way back and this year I'm going to university.

    Since depression is one of those things that can come back if you aren't careful I keep an eye on the new treatments being proposed and the techniques you can use on your own.

    Firstly I'll touch on medication. You've mentioned that it would be hard for you to seek professional help so getting a prescription would be hard. If that changes then please think about going to see a professional. None of us can give you the expertise they can.

    St John's Wart, despite claims to the contrary, is a drug. It has active ingredients and is prescribed in some countries for depression, especially in children. I'd advise you to be very careful and make sure you research the side effects and dosages. I'd also advise you not to use it if you're on other medication and if a doctor goes to prescribe you something else then you'll have to tell him you're taking St John's Wart.

    I agree with what several of the previous posters have said about getting a notebook to keep a journal. Get yourself a cheep notebook you won't feel afraid to write things you maybe aren't to impressed with but it wouldn't hurt to splurge on a pen you find comfortable and easy to use. Tell yourself that you're going to write in it once a day if you can and don't rip pages out. If you don't like what you wrote then just move on to a new page.

    One thing I learnt from a therapist that really worked for me was something called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. For Dummies has a guide and it's habit forming when you do it for a while. You basically change your mood by taking control of all those little thoughts, like the ones that tell you your writing is rubbish, and turning them around.

    Another book you might benefit from is '59 Seconds'. It's by Professor Richard Wiseman, a professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology, and provides loads of little exercises that you can do in a minute that will help. This is a useful book if you really do want to keep it to yourself for now, because it was a really popular book and it doesn't tend to incite judgement.

    It's important that you have people to talk to as well. Everyone on the forum will support you and you aren't alone. PM me if you want to as well. I hope this is the start of your journey back up.

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