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Thread: Dealing with self-doubt

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Dealing with self-doubt

    Hello,

    my first post here, but I've been lurking for quite some time. I've been writing on and off for many years but have only completed one full scipt, which was just awful, of course. My problem, well, one of my problems, is that whenever I start writing I lose all confidence. I have about 5 or 6 ideas for movies at the moment and I do think that they would work, but after I've sat down and had a productive session I immediately get this sinking feeling. Last night I started a new project, and today I don't even feel like thinking about it, that's how awful I feel my ideas are. This happens with every project I start, and it is so crippling because I do feel that I have some talent for storytelling.

    I know this is something I have to deal with and overcome myself, but I was just wondering if anyone here do or have struggled with the same thing. If so, how do you deal with it and keep writing?

  2. #2
    Do your worst! Lucia.Kaku's Avatar
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    It's a rollercoaster ride, for sure. In the last week, I've been really optimistic, then really doubtful, then pleased, then frustrated, all about the same project.

    It has gotten far better than it used to be, though. I can't remember how many novel projects I started and then abandoned due to lack of confidence in the ideas. I only just started finally finishing books in the last five years. I've completed four now, and I only think two of those are even worth trying to edit. The editing process was similarly soul-crushing, and I've abandoned a couple books I finished because I couldn't make it through editing them, or thought there was so much editing that I needed a total rewrite, and I'd rather just write this new idea, anyway.

    I had to finish several manuscripts that I then realized were terrible before I had one that I still liked by the time I finished it (my current editing project). And I've gone back and forth over whether it's worth the continued effort, too.

    Sadly, there's no "get over it" shortcut. Fight through it as best you can, finish as many stories as you can, and you might find that you still like some of them later. You don't have to show them to anyone if you think they're awful, but the more practice you get writing complete stories, the better the ones you produce will be. Even if you think the ideas aren't worth anything, working through them will give you a better idea of how to do the next one that you might like better.

  3. #3
    Have you ever successfully told a joke to a bunch of people, (such as your friends or family or maybe some strangers at a party)?

    If they laughed at the right moment, then you understand the basic fundamentals of telling any story. Seriously.

    There's an opening premise (a guy walks into a bar) and then a little wrinkle or complication (he's carrying a pair of jumper cables) and then a sort of 'setup' or where you hold everything poised for a split-second (he asks the bartender for a drink, and the bartender says...?)

    ...
    right before letting the whole thing down in heap (and the bartender says, 'okay, but don't start anything').

    It's tension and release, whether 25 words or 25,000 words.
    Last edited by dinky_dau; 10-23-2016 at 02:19 AM.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    I can only tell you what I did, everyone is different. I wrote the whole story idea out in rough detail, then joined a critique group and set out to learn how to write.

    I tried 5 or 6 different groups including one where the group leader made it very clear she had no time for new writers. But one group was excellent and I began learning things. I supplemented what I was learning with writing books and searching writer's blogs. Now, a few years later (OK, five years this Nov) I have a lot of confidence in my writing. My book is 95% written but I still have a lot of editing to do on the earlier chapters. I think I have a decent book.

    I've gotten feedback the whole way through it. I believe that is a necessity for a new writer. I have a fair degree of confidence, maybe not the confidence it will for sure be picked up by an agent or large publishing house, but I have confidence it's as good or better than a lot of stuff I read that is published.

    I didn't have any problem showing my work to the group because I started by telling them, "I don't know how to write, but I have a story I want to tell." I wasn't embarrassed because I had nothing at stake, no confidence necessary.

    If you have ideas and worry your skills aren't there yet, start learning. My philosophy, I don't care so much where my writing skill is today, I care that I write better than I did yesterday.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Henri Bauholz's Avatar
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    One thing I learned from writing screenplays is that practically is a big issue. You can have the best script in the world, but if it takes place in Timbuktu, Mali or Perth, Australia nobody is going to seriously look at it. However, if you create a story of lesser quality that takes place in one location in Santa Barbara, CA your chances of someone being interested in your work increases dramatically. Almost bear in mind that film professionals are more likely to correct a problem area in your storyline that say a short story editor at a major magazine or a book publisher.

  6. #6
    Slow and Steady Jade A's Avatar
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    I struggle with worry about my writing quality, too. It's hard to get past that voice in your head telling you you aren't good enough. But the thing is that even if you write something awful, it's better than having written nothing at all. If you write something awful, you can use it as a jumping off point for something better, and to practice your skills. If you don't write, you never practice and you never get better.
    I realized this the other day myself: writing is about growth. Your growth as a writer and as a person. The growth of your characters and your world. You'll have some growing pains, but in the end, growth has to happen. Instead of shooting at a goal (get your script produced, for example), write for yourself. Write something that helps you understand yourself/the world/other people better. Maybe it'll become something, maybe it won't. But if it helps you grow, it did its job.

    Quote Originally Posted by Henri Bauholz View Post
    One thing I learned from writing screenplays is that practically is a big issue. You can have the best script in the world, but if it takes place in Timbuktu, Mali or Perth, Australia nobody is going to seriously look at it. However, if you create a story of lesser quality that takes place in one location in Santa Barbara, CA your chances of someone being interested in your work increases dramatically. Almost bear in mind that film professionals are more likely to correct a problem area in your storyline that say a short story editor at a major magazine or a book publisher.
    Yeah, when it comes to scripts, the cheaper the better. You can work around certain things like location if you find a production company with a partnership in whatever country you want, but for the most part you've got to shoot with what you can get your hands on.

  7. #7
    permaflounced
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    Quote Originally Posted by Henri Bauholz View Post
    You can have the best script in the world, but if it takes place in Timbuktu, Mali or Perth, Australia nobody is going to seriously look at it.
    Hey!

    Seriously though... there's no way to get around self doubt except to go through it and come out the other side. Every writer ever has experienced self doubt, and you've just got to work hard enough and improve until you have confidence.

    And agreed about the practicality of scripts. A lot of writers start out writing movies that are constrained by budgets and practical concerns, and the writing has to work around that with creativity. In some ways that's a good thing. There's probably no point in spending time trying to write a new Bond film. The likelihood of it being made is precisely zero because you're unproven and it would cost somewhere north of $150 million. But you could write a thriller set in a cafe at night with three characters. Sure, you can't dazzle the audience with car chases and scenery, but you can dazzle them with pure, bare bones story telling. That's the sort of thing that would make you stand out as a screenwriter (IMO).

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mr.Bohemian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RightHoJeeves View Post

    Seriously though... there's no way to get around self doubt except to go through it and come out the other side.
    Other than "I think I can" mentally, make yourself happier. Try to get more sleep, enjoy more/less coffee, get yourself physically comfortable. I write in the morning when I am freshest. I simply cannot do creative work any other hour of the day because I know I am stressed, naturally. I edit and do busywork past "creative hours". I love a good, self made coffee.

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