View Full Version : My love for great stories, versus my inability to tell them.

08-24-2008, 03:09 AM
It’s suddenly becoming apparent to me that I might not actually be meant to be a writer. I guess everyone has their calling, and I mistook mine. I’ve tried to convince myself for the longest time that I’d make a great author, and every time I’d get the highest grades for creative writing assignments (which inadvertently seemed to happen a lot during high school), it would only feed my ego, deceive me into thinking I was a master of the craft and fuel my passion for writing. Well, as we all well know, school assignments are very much unlike ‘real’ writing and it took me far too long to make that distinction. I love reading books, especially books which tell a great story and stimulate the imagination; I’ve been confusing this ‘appreciation’ for creativity with actually ‘being creative’. O.K., yeah I’ve got some pretty mean ideas and characters stored in my head, but I can’t ‘write’. What I mean is I can’t capture the images and scenes in my head in writing. I’ve been trying to write a book the past couple of months, but it’s not working; that’s just not what I am good at, or ‘meant’ to be doing. The problem is that I have very vivid, clear images, ‘clips’, even, if I could call them that, which I can ‘see’ very well in my mind, but can’t describe in words. I’m thinking that maybe I should drop the whole writing thing, go to film school and try making movies instead. But you still have to ‘write’ the movie before you can start filming, hey? So I suppose that won’t be a solution. *sigh*. I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say I truly believe I’ve got stories to tell, and interesting ‘friends’ in my head who I love very much and would like to introduce to the world… I just don’t know how. Please, can anyone help with this? Any advice on how I can get a grasp on being able to effectively convey what I’m imagining in my head into words?

But just a thought: at the rate at which software and technology are evolving nowadays, I hope someone is working on a ‘Thought-To-Text’ converter now! I’d kill for that!

Ms Hollands
08-24-2008, 03:24 AM
Virector, don't give up. Something that really helped me with my writing (I was told during my English Lit major that I couldn't write essays) was studying linguistics at the same time. It made clear in my mind all sorts of aspects of the English language that I'd never even heard about or often been confused about (eg, sentence trees, passive vs active, syntax etc.).

Perhaps it's not the approach for everyone, but I find my non-fiction and my fiction writing much easier with the linguistic knowledge I have. I guess I consider it a bit like the training required to perform a job correctly: you wouldn't send a new factory worker into a production line without giving them health and safety information and a thorough understanding of their role, so how can you write without having that required training?

08-24-2008, 04:01 AM
Victor you are not alone. That said, in a very real sense you are, in that writing is for the most part a solitary endeavor. I truly believe that what you can visualize you can actualize. Your posting clearly shows a good use of words. Perhaps what you need is more structure and less art. By that I mean building the frame work (outline comes to mind) that eases the natural tension between expression and formula.
You may need someone to mentor you. That is if you don't have someone close by to help you get through some of the tedium of working with words.
If I can help you privately please PM me.

Clair Dickson
08-24-2008, 04:09 AM
Put words to page. As best you can. Edit words to make them better. Edit words again. Shape, polish, hone. But without words on the page, you have nothing to mold.

You are not the only writer who visualizes what there story is. (Hi!) And you are not the only writer who has trouble getting those visions on to page. (Hi! Me again!)

Give yourself permission to write crap. At least then you have something to work with. Sometimes I write lots of crap, but it's a place to start. And the more I write, the more I learn how to mold the words, sentences, scenes into something that doesn't stink up the office.

If you write, you are a writer. If you write crap, you are still a writer. First you have to realize that you must crawl before you run. Put the words onto the page as best as you possibly can. Then edit them. Revise them. Edit some more. Add to them, change the words to better say what you are saying. But you can't mold what isn't there, so get the words down first.

08-24-2008, 04:25 AM
Thank you all for the tips. I understand it takes quite a bit before you can write anything decent, but I find it harder than doing certain things. Take for example this character of mine (who also happens to be my avatar) who is a pivotal part of one of my stories:


I drew him straight out of my head the moment I thought him up, but I have been having the hardest time describing him, and many other characters. How can I put that face and that expression into words? That's what I really struggle with. That's why I'm thinking of maybe pursuing film-making, because it's easier to 'show' than to describe, right?

08-24-2008, 04:30 AM
Vee, perhaps you should be a visual artist instead of a wordsmith? Your avatar is quite visually striking. Maybe that is your calling...

08-24-2008, 04:33 AM
Actually Vee, I had the opposite problem as you. I started out as a visual artist but found I couldn't express through paint & ink the images that were in my head. So then I began writing and that became a much easier medium for me to work with.
You know that you are an artist. You just have to find the best and most natrual way for you to express yourself.

08-24-2008, 04:37 AM
Vee, perhaps you should be a visual artist instead of a wordsmith? Your avatar is quite visually striking.

Why, thank you! :)

Ms Hollands
08-24-2008, 04:39 AM
It doesn't matter how you describe him: your readers will see their own character in their minds.

And anyway, do you need to describe him in one go? You can surely just refer to features as you need them and build him (and others) up from there. Also, I know nothing about drawing, but that's a pretty cool image you've done.

08-24-2008, 05:15 AM
I've often thought I'm an excellent storyteller but a mediocre writer ... I can come up with great stories, but I have trouble expressing them. Then I go make myself a cup of tea and remind myself that I should be writing, not making up excuses to not write. :P

I do second the suggestion of being a visual artist though. It doesn't mean you have to give up writing--you could try creating a graphic novel, one that you both write and draw. Having no experience in this myself, I can't give any advice, but it doesn't hurt to try new media in which to express yourself. You may find it's the right combination of your visual artistic talents with your passion for storytelling.

08-24-2008, 05:30 AM
I do second the suggestion of being a visual artist though. It doesn't mean you have to give up writing--you could try creating a graphic novel, one that you both write and draw. Having no experience in this myself, I can't give any advice, but it doesn't hurt to try new media in which to express yourself. You may find it's the right combination of your visual artistic talents with your passion for storytelling.

I've thought about graphic novels, but I don't know much about it and I'm not sure I can even pull-off an effective graphic novel, but thanks! :)

08-24-2008, 05:55 AM
Ve, You asked how we would describe your avatar. Try it as I would. Deconstruct the drawing. How would you describe the hair--lank, course, straight, yellow, grey, white, hollow gold? Now the eyes, piercing, hooded, wide, wild, soft? The chin, strong, weak, wide, narrow. The nose, flat, pointed, etc.
You see where I'm going? If the whole is too elusive then deconstruct it into manageable pieces. This is a technique that works with most elements. A room for example can be mapped on paper with all its parts. Whole planets can be treated the same way. When you drew the avatar you must have started somewhere. Go back there and begin again, only with words.

08-24-2008, 06:13 AM
I too have a fundamental disconnection between the imagery I hold in my mind and my ability to express that through words. What I "see" is so much more vivid than how I describe it. Unlike you, however, I also have zero visual-artistic ability. The only real talent I had was music, and I found that boring. Kind of makes it pointless to attempt to be an artist at all.

Oddly enough, this difficulty in describing things extends to my reading habits as well. I tend to skim any setting details and I ignore character descriptions. My mind prefers to come up with its own idea of how things look. Accordingly, when I write first drafts, I omit that information. A big chunk of my revisional process is adding description.

Nonetheless, I haven't given up. Not yet, anyway. Most people seem to come into their own as writers in their 30s. If by my 40s I've still had no success, I'll give up. Fortunately for me, that's 15 years away.

I don't know how old you are, but if you're younger than me, all I can say is: quitcherbitchin'. In fact, I'd probably say the same thing even if you're older. Because there are plenty of people on this board who are more than twice my age and still haven't given up.

Danger Jane
08-24-2008, 06:49 AM
I've thought about graphic novels, but I don't know much about it...

Solution: Research graphic novel writing/illustrating. There is a sub-forum here on AW devoted to comic/graphic novel writing.

...and I'm not sure I can even pull-off an effective graphic novel, but thanks! :)

Therefore you're not sure you can't.

Vee, it sounds like you're getting wrapped up in the difficulty of writing. Yes, it's damn hard to express the thoughts in our minds, because those thoughts don't seem to appear in word form often enough. The solution? Hard, hard practice and discipline. Accept that sometimes your words will fail, get them written, and later, you may find that you can find better ones.

You may well be primarily a visual artist. But why give up so soon on writing? You're 17, if I recall. That's very young to give up on something you felt you had promise in--even if you're having doubts now.

We all have doubts. The authors whose books you find on the shelves? They kept writing despite them.

08-24-2008, 07:10 AM
Thanks very much, everyone. I'm certainly not looking to give up any time soon; I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I did-- I'll never be happy if I let rot the tales in my head! I'm simply trying to figure out the most 'comfortable' (for me) means in which to express myself because just as not everyone is a talented musician, or illustrator, or poet, or whatever, not everyone can be good at writing-- I think I quite fall into that bracket, so I'm trying to find my way in which to tell my stories. I just really love the idea of an actual book, because you can tell your audience so many more things, show them the minds of your characters AND your own, in a way films might fail; I mean, think of the Harry Potter movies-- anyone who's read the books knows those movies don't do the books justice at all (IMO), however you want to look at it. That's why I want to write books-- all of my attempts are feeble and flimsy, though, so I'm trying hard to work out the kinks. I know I've still got plenty of time (unless... unexpected... 'things' happen... *shudder*):

You may well be primarily a visual artist. But why give up so soon on writing? You're 17, if I recall.

18 now, since May. :) Thanks, everyone!

08-24-2008, 07:32 AM
Psst! Here's a secret -- don't tell anyone.

Writing is hard. Downright difficult. For everyone.

Danger Jane
08-24-2008, 07:34 AM
I do understand what you're going through. For years now I've juggled writing, violin, and the visual arts, constantly trying to best express myself through one of those media. I seem to be consistently best with writing, next best with violin, and this is probably (certainly) due to having worked the hardest on these two in recent years. Which may be due to these two media being the best for me to express myself with.

Still, though, I don't plan on giving my 72 Prismacolor colored pencils too much rest while I study writing in college.

08-24-2008, 07:47 AM
If you have stories to tell, the only solution is to try to tell them.

I consistently struggle with this myself and have come to the conclusion that I am, most likely, not meant to be a writer. However, let it be said that I have not stopped writing and I will not stop writing until I'm damn good and ready. It should be the same for you.

One of the members here (Toothpaste, I believe,) essentially said the reason why I seemed to be quitting on a dream I long held--that is, writing and publishing said writing--is because I woke up and figured I couldn't have it, so I dropped it. Is this what's happening for you? Dropping something because you think you can't have it is a valid reason for doing so, but can you bear to do it?

One of the most difficult parts of writing is capturing that which you see in your head. It can take many years to learn how to do it. It's easy to become discouraged when you hear of people picking up the pen and being publishable in five years. But sometimes it takes longer than that. I've been writing for twelve to fourteen years. It took that long to learn how to apply the vision to paper.

What helped me with the vision is imagining it as a movie. I described the movie as it happened in my brain--in a literary way, of course. I coupled this by reading a ton of books in all genres and on a wide range of topics (there are a few things you can't get me to touch). It took four complete novels before I nailed it, but I did. I think the same thing might work for you.

It might also help to plan out what's going to happen in the story. Nothing extremely detailed, just enough so that you have a basic idea of what goes on. It's easier to picture that way!

You're like me. Pretty young. Too soon to completely drop writing. But maybe you are more fit to be a graphic artist. Maybe you could find someone to help you put your words into writing and you can draw those expressions.

Hope you do what makes you feel best.

08-24-2008, 08:39 AM
As a musician, I often have to come to terms with the fact that on occasion, the noises that go on in my head aren't always the same noises that come out my fingertips, but instead of lamenting my lack of ability to play, for example, "flight of the bumblebee", I instead realize my limitations, and embrace them. I believe there is absolutely something to be said about what I call "ergonomic art", my best works in art, music, and literature have all occurred when I wasn't trying, i.e. the "medium manipulating the artist".

Other than that believe in yourself keep trying yadda yadda yadda.

08-24-2008, 09:31 AM
One thing I noticed was that you referred to trying to write a book for a couple of months. The truth is that writing takes time to learn, just like anything else. I have been writing stories since I could pick up a pencil and I'm still learning. The fact is that you are likely to fumble in your first stories. You're probably going to make dozens upon dozens of mistakes and when you look at the story it's not going to be the same as what's in your head. But it's a start. Over time you will improve. When I look back at my first attempt at a novel, I cringe in some ways because it's a mess. But if I hadn't written that mess I wouldn't have learned from it and been able to write the next story which was less of a mess, and the next one which was even better. Don't give up. Learn from your attempts and work to make each story better than the next one but don't get down on yourself if you don't always succeed in what you you're attempting. Like everyone else has said, writing can be hard. But if you really want to do it, you'll do it whether it's difficult or not and that's the only way to improve.

08-24-2008, 02:04 PM
Thanks everyone. I'll definitely put in more work and see where it takes me.

Phoebe H
08-24-2008, 11:11 PM
It is possible that writing is not for you. My ex wrote a novel, got an agent, got positive responses to all of her queries, and then abruptly decided that she *hated* writing, and turned back to her first love -- she is an extremely talented cake designer. Eight years later she hasn't missed it for a moment.

But what she had realized is that -- even though she was good at it -- she hated every moment that she was writing.

That's what you have to decide: do you enjoy the process, even some of the time? If you enjoy it, why would you give that up? If you hate it, why torture yourself?

The results, good or bad, are irrelevant. Because you are the one who will have your butt in the chair.

08-25-2008, 09:17 PM
Oh, for goodness sake, Virector. You write a fine post for someone eighteen years old, showing quite a command of language. Unfortunately, you seem to be yoked to one mean bitch of an Inner Editor (perhaps that's him in your avatar?) Lock him in the closet when you sit down to write. Maybe leave him in there on bread and water for a while. He's altogether too vigorous.

NOBODY'S internal vision translates radiantly to the page, or the canvas, or the film, or the marble, or the dance steps, or the music. NOBODY'S. The idea is ethereal and perfect. Make it real, and all the accidents and ills of reality are visited upon it. So what? Write your crummy first drafts, then make them better. No one can do more than that.

08-26-2008, 11:00 AM
Thanks Phaeal; I'll shut that inner editor up!