Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Yesterday, I joined Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group, so I'm pretty excited! The idea is to post on the first Wednesday of every month, so here I go!




Last week, I was feeling down. I was in the dead center of editing the last bit of my story, when the idea hit me: what if all of this work is for nothing?


To me, my writing sounded dead. Page after page, everything I'd written sounded wrong. I started to think, 'my writing isn't like Patrick Carman's or Rick Riordan's, so what does that make me?' and 'am I actually a good writer, or do I just think I am?' To make things worse, I couldn't actually find anything wrong with what I had written. I just felt that somehow, in some way, it wasn't good enough.


I was tempted to open a blank Word Document and write 'hopeless' over and over until the answer finally came to me. (I didn't do that, of course.) I kept reading, but my doubts wouldn't leave me alone. Could all of the precious time and effort I've put into my work be a waste? Could all of this really be worth it?


Luckily, my mom kind of noticed that I was a little frustrated, so she told me to go play my violin for a while and take a break from editing. Playing my violin usually helps me cool down if things go wrong, so I took her advice and played. And I got to thinking.


I'm not writing because I want to be published. I mean, I do want to be published, but that's not really what it's about. It's about me. I'm writing because I love it. And if I wrote like Rick Riordan or Patrick Carman, then what on earth would I have to write about?


Sometimes it's hard for me to recognize my own strengths. When I'm editing, I'm looking for everything wrong with what I'm doing. And that's okay, but it makes it hard to appreciate what I'm doing right.


So, advice?


Take breaks when you need them! And if you write because you love it, then don't let silly doubts make you want to stop!


Have you guys ever felt that way? How do/did you guys overcome?


--Jess

25 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

We all feel this way from time to time. Take each day at a time and be never give up. I shelve a novel for a while if I begin to hate it.

Stephen Tremp said...

This is why I have my editor do a read through after I draft a book. Catch major problems ahead of time before finning out the MS, then refine as I go along.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Don't wrote to sound like someone ese. Find your own voice. Let that shine through in your writing.

fairbetty said...

You'll get there, Jess. You're still discovering your own voice! We all are! It takes a lot of time, writing, editing, and persistence to find your voice. Keep at it!

Suggestion... opening a new word doc is a good idea, and typing the same thing over and over is good, too... but make it an affirmation, something positive that you may not even believe yet about yourself and your writing, but that you want to believe... "I am an amazing writer with a marvelously creative story to tell." That's what I keep telling MYself :)

E. Arroyo said...

YES! You said this so nicely. You are not alone. =)

Cassie Mae said...

sometimes the best thing for me is to take a long drive or a shower or something. places where I can think and relax. You are definitely not alone in feeling this way. I've been tempted to write a 'hopeless' document too, lol.

Jess said...

Fairbetty~ It's always great to think positive!! I like to listen to dramatic and powerful music to inspire me, too, lol :)

E. Arroyo~ Thanks for stopping by!!

L.C. said...

Hey, Jess! I'm hopping over from Alex's blog. Nice to meet you! :-)

Definitely know what you mean. I'm in the midst of a revision and I feel like no matter how many times I go over it I find new things to pick at. In college, though, I remember doing some report thingy on Toni Morrison and she said at one point or another that she wished she could revise Sula, which is a beautiful novel and it baffles me as to what she'd change.

I think writerly self-pickiness is just one of those un-fun facts every profession has. It can't be all puppies and kittens or it wouldn't be a challenge, you know? :-)

Sara said...

Two ideas. One I've done before, is to do something else, anything else. Typically I will write a short story in a different genre. If I am editing something that's story based writing I will write something that's writing based writing, you know, something silly full of alliteration, because I like alliteration.

Idea two (I've never done this before but I came up with it while writing this comment): Edit for the good. What I mean is, don't read for all the bad stuff, read it and underline, highlight etc the stuff that makes you smile. You cant focus on the negative while you are looking for the positive, well, you can but its harder.

prerna pickett said...

great advice. Everyone hits the wall of self doubt every now and then.

Donna K. Weaver said...

lol I feel like that about every other day. I'm finding that the process of learning this writing thing is a slow evolution. I remember hearing that when Barbra Streisand filmed the part in "Funny Girl" where she sings "People" she kept making them do it over and over again. The staff thought she was just being difficult. But when she was satisfied (like 14 renditions), they went back and compared the first one with the final, acceptable one--and the difference was HUGE. So maybe our growth isn't awesome from that last edit. But compare it to our first, and then we can see how much we've really improved.

Chemist Ken said...

It's a roller coaster ride for me. Sometimes I feel good about what I've written, and other times I think it's crap. I'm hoping the story will be better after I edit, but as this is my first story, I have no idea if I'm any good at editing or not. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Charlie Rice said...

I know exactly what you mean Jess. I play music as well and interrupting one for the other helps both. I write just to write as well. Yes, someday having a book of mine on the shelves in B&N would be pretty darn cool, and it will justify putting all the work and sweat into my writing, but I'm still going to write regardless of any "successes."

Angela Brown said...

Doubts are like little parasites. They rear their ugly little heads and take from you, from your self-esteem and your confience. In writing, that happens a lot. I know what it's like to read what you've written only to question it's worth. But you're right. Stepping away is good. Give you a chance to let the story marinate and your mind a chance to rejuvenate. That's one of the best ways to battle those pesky doubts.

Angela Cothran said...

I can totally empathize! Trying to do NaNo in November made me acutely aware of all my weaknesses as a writer. But what I do is pull back and try and put things in perspective. I think you have the key already--love. If you are writing out of love everything eventually falls into place.

MSBjaneB said...

When I get frustrated with the project I am editing or writing , I stop and listen to music or clean, etc. Sometimes I will just open another project and work on research for awhile.

Ciara said...

Don't doubt yourself. I have a few friends who wrote for fifteen to twenty years before they were published. Don't freak out. The happy ending is their success was huge from day one of publication. Their efforts paid off. Focus on the story not on the end goal and you'll win no matter what. *hugs*

Nancy Thompson said...

Ah, yes, breaks are supremely important. Long ones especially. Stepping away from your work can give you an entirely new perspective, especially if you spend your time away reading in your genre.

But you know, no matter how good a writer is or how many books he or she has published, they suffer from the same fears as you. That never really goes away. The fears just morph.

BTW, it's nice to meet you, Jess. I found you through the IWSG and am a new follower. Welcome to the group. I've been around since its inception, and I never have a shortage of insecurities to write about. Such is life!

Allison said...

Great encouraging post, Jess! I've thrown out pages and pages of writing that I just wasn't happy with, and I think that even if you end up throwing away the last 100 pages you wrote, just the process of writing is worth something. Every page I write--every sentence--makes me a better writer. Keep plowing forward! We've all been in those depressing valleys.

Allison (Geek Banter)

Julie said...

Hi Jess! I can so relate to this, I felt like I was reading about myself when reading your post! I love your advice and I'm definitely going to remember it when my "silly doubts" creep up again. Great to meet you!

Angela Cothran said...

Hey Jess :) Thanks for joining the character blogfest. I think it will be tons of fun.

Heather said...

Oh yes, I've definitely felt like this. That's great advice though! We can't be someone else and our writing can't be 'as good as theirs'. But it can be good in it's own unique way, our way. I love your revelation about writing because you love it. That's what it's all about!

Reiko said...

It's quite human to have those doubts every now and then. When it happens, it's up to us to decide what we should do about it. Your Mom so aptly helped you nip it in the bud. That's a great technique to remember any time it happens in the future.

The fact that you LOVE what you do is what is most important. Cherish the freedom you enjoy to be able to do what you LOVE. Just the way you described your insecurities tells me that you are a great writer. Stay the course and never give up!

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, yes, all the time. Sometimes I still feel like a total and complete hack. Like someone will figure out that I really suck, and then everyone will know.

It's a common fear. Glad your mom helped you through!

The Golden Eagle said...

Definitely. And great advice--I always find that taking a break can help to refocus. :)

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