In which I talk about personal writing difficulties


#1

Got a lot on my mind about writing but it boils down to ‘my confidence is gone’ and the one way i know to get past it is also hard as hell since it’s just ‘suck it up motherfucker and DO. stop caring if it’ll suck or that nobody will give a shit and do.’

Goes hand in hand with ‘there is no writer’s block. There is just you not wanting to do anything unless it turns out perfect from the start, which is impossible.’

Well that and the fact I recognize I don’t people well (regulars will understand this quite well especially after the past few days.) That is a hilariously under-stated thing. If I don’t people well how can I write a thing that depends on believable people interactions? Yea fine I get it, on page the reader fills in a lot of the gaps outside of story but it’s… This is the biggest hurdle i have outside of ‘just bloody do it.’

I’m less concerned about the fact every time I have an idea, Doctorw’s already done it better, or someone else has an example on hand that takes it in phenominal directions, or whatever. Nothing New Under the Sun is a thing. It’s…

I like writing, but I hate the idea that the most it’ll ever be is ‘write for you’ because to me I see ‘write for you’ is just self congratulatory wanking at how awesome you are.

Contrast with someone I’ve kept in contact with for close to twenty years who writes absolute garbage, Poor sentence structure, even worse character handling, and this annoying as hell habit of ‘person does thing, ‘dialog’ said person’ everywhere.

And yet they absolutely love writing and get lost in it in spite of the fact they haven’t gotten better in the entire time I’ve known them.

I’ve done the whole NaNoWriMo thing, even ‘won’ a few years. There’s just also the whole 'I never feel like i have time to sit down and write, except i have nothing but time, except most of the time when I sit down I don’t want to do anything.

There’s no question or anything for the crowd, just a case of ‘I’m talking and maybe if the peanut gallary wants to chime in awesome because I’m trying to sort my mind out.’


#2

How do you know that your writing will never have an audience? Why does it matter so much whether other people like what you write out not? I mean, not that many people get to exercise complete artistic freedom and get paid well for it. Those who do are often writing for themselves rather than the audience, and this is part of the appeal. If you practise, you probably will get better and focusing on your happiness will make your writing more authentic and rewarding for you (whatever anyone else thinks). Otherwise you could be as successful as Cory and still hate your writing.

As for the second question, isn’t this just a kind of existentialism (correct me if I’m wrong, I’m not a philosopher). We’re all going to die and our efforts are generally insignificant beyond a small patch of space and time anyway, but this doesn’t change the fact that they matter and so do we. If this is your passion and you have the time to pursue it, go ahead. A bit of self love can be good for you.


#3

I think you’ve obviously thought about this enough that you’ve got most of the landscape mapped. I’ll simply add four brief thoughts.

First on deck is something probably similar to what you’ve heard before, which is that most creative types don’t flourish by thinking about the audience. I say most, because there are always exceptions. But write for you isn’t a call to intellectual masturbation. It’s a warning against attempting to please everyone (a goal you as a rational person know is patently impossible) or even some shifting idealized target self. I imagine there are precious few critically or commercially successful authors who write things they themselves would not, save being their own harshest critics, enjoy reading were it to come from someone else. It boils down to sincerity. A mercenary’s motive is the opposite of innovation. Innovation can and more often than not will fail. It’s a risk. Luckily it’s a risk that costs only time, and maybe you learn something from the failure, which is a pretty decent consolation prize.

Secondly, perfection is receding horizon. At the risk of being That Pedant, the Latin root basically translates into after-the-fact, meaning no more improvement is possible, it’s totally done. But there’s done and then there’s done. Some artists have to give themselves closure and move on from something, or it drags them back from exploring new ideas. Others are never ever finished until they’re dead, and keep on tweaking to the grave. If you can’t stop obsessing over what you’re working on, then maybe you’re among the former. If not, don’t feel you need to close the book on something just because people tell you that’s the only way forward, or even just because you released it into the wild.

Thirdly, yeah, most ideas are built on others. Cory presents pretty nifty ideas, but he’s maybe less original than you think. He’s steeped in the history of his genre, knowledgeable of the wider literature and isn’t afraid to draw inspiration from other artists and the wider world. Nothing is completely new. It can’t be, it’s not born in a casual vacuum. The whole freaking universe started as a single dense symmetric point. Everything is a new take on the old. This is pretty much what’s meant by the expression nothing new under the sun.

Finally one little bit of advice someone once offer me. Possibly you’ve heard it before. I’ve not done workshops or interacted with other writers, so maybe I’m the thousandth person to tell you this. But it’s what got me going at the one point in my life when I couldn’t think what to write. Just take a character and do anything at all with him, her or it. Roll some dice if you have to. Just start them moving. Sure odds are most of what they do you’ll want to scrap later on, but that’s how all discovery works, in art or science.

Hope that helps, if not, no worries. Best of luck.


#4

I’ve only written one thing for NaNo, but for me, the cure was outlining.

I started with a theme that I really wanted to write about (by which I mean a truth that I observed in the world that I wanted to express as a story), developed that into a (mostly) coherent plot, and then broke the story down into moments that I wanted to happen. Once I had the moments, all I had to do was figure out what logical actions my characters could take to get from moment L to moment M, etc.

Since I really wanted to get that story out of my head and onto the page, I was motivated to write. That’s one of the important things that I learned: if the heart of the story, the message that you want to get across, is important to you, you will be more motivated to write it. And, if you know where you want to go to next, then you can plow ahead.

You spend time criticizing the “absolute garbage” of your friend, but you’re going after the small stuff: spelling, grammar, narration, etc. That’s not the difficult bit, and is easily corrected in the editing process. The difficult bit is to write a compelling plot with realistic characters; all of your “tehs” can be corrected to “thes” later.

Terry Goodkind has sold millions of copies of his books, despite the fact that he makes no secret that he’s illiterate. The ideas and the characters are the powerful part; unless you’re Shakespeare and have such a command of the English language that metaphors, alliteration, and puns flow freely from your fingertips, then what words you use don’t matter until you’ve finished your narrative, and go back to improve it.

As for advice: Stop thinking about how you want to say something, and start thinking about what you want to say. The theme of my book was a question: “How can people do bad things while considering themselves good people?” and I wrung a story out of that idea, which is a hugely important question to me. Try and find a question that you want to answer — a truth that you want to express, but can never quite find the right words for. Then, think up a character and tell the story of how that character learned the answer to your question.

I hope this helps, and best of luck in your efforts.


#5

Personaly it comes down to nothing i do seems to amount to anything beyond ‘for family’ or ‘because why not?’ It isn’t wanting some kind of monument to self so much as ‘Does anything i do have some kind of point? Literally, anything at all or am I ust this screaming asshole shouting into the void?’

Nice to know, and I appreciate your words. The issue is more ‘I’ve been trying and casting nets out for a decade and a half and… Nothing. Plenty of people show interest during idea generation but not even asking for proofreading, just ‘hey the thing you were excited about is in a readable state want ot have a look?’ and suddenly everyone that showed interest teleports out.’

It doens’t help that I hate damned near everything that ends up on page. It is always a case I could keep editing, and editing, and rewriting, and still only get maybe at most 80% of what I want to have down.

Like I said before, which you seem to agree with. I know i need to do, and that’s the hardest thing in the world. Everything else is just excuses or details.


#6

We’re all that asshole, as far as I can see. Even if we’re famous or “important” during our lifetimes. We are very unlikely to be remembered long for anything we did, and that’s ok. I don’t even write my own words, I just translate them for other people. I keep exercising even though I’ll get slower and eventually just die. I am there for my family, I make food that will be eaten and forgotten by people who won’t be remembered by history either. Such is life, but it doesn’t matter. Seeking fulfilment in life does matter, family does matter and people’s best work is often done when they’re not trying to impress others. Life is still valuable and worth pursuing without any objective meaning.


#7

I do not share much of my creative writing outside a small circle of folks. I’m likely to run a small printing of a collection of poems and short stories, only to give it as a gift to friends and family.

There will be no e copy. Extra copies I’ll give away free.

It is mine and will be done how i like it. Do i think “others” might like a copy? I do not care…


#8

It is an investment on both sides. Confederacy of Dunces took, what, twenty years to publish? Blood meridian was largely ignored. Don’t take lack of engagement as a sign of lack of worth.


#9

Could you set the bar lower? Besides my philosophical differences I just don’t think his a good writer. I may be in the minority on this but that’s my opinion.

As for me the story I’m writing now has been stuck in second act problems for ages so I’m shelving it and working on other plot ideas I’ve got on file


#10

I guess it matters why you write. A painter doing it for enjoyment doesn’t have the problem a wanna-be professional painter has.

On top of that a painter trying to make a living at it but without “selling out” – keeping true to himself or whatever … Well he’s got a different problem.


#11

One of the reasons we are here, having this discussion is because he is such a great writer.


#12

I think Doctorw occasionally goes too far into Utopia-Land but I like enough of his ideas and like how they’re done enough that I’m ‘…why the hell didn’t I think of that?’

The point isn’t that what i want to do has been done before, it’s more ‘someone did more or less exactly what I wanted to do already.’ if that makes any sense.

Thanks for talking with me guys. Just having people that take the problem seriously rather than dismissive ‘well why not just write’ as flippant dismissal rather than elaborating on why that’ the solution, or act utterly dismissive of writing as a thing period is helpful.


#13

Question: Have you ever submitted anything for publication/been published? You don’t have to say where or what.


#14

We simply disagree on this but it certainly isn’t worth an argument :slight_smile:


#15

Actually I have, nowhere big just like… an e-zine that published on iOS for a little while efore going bust. However it did pay.


#16

The reason I ask is mainly because keeping up the motivation to write depends on your goals. If you want to publish, then you need to write and write and write. You need to catch a bad case of graphomania. Write that word on your hand lest you forget it. It’s not so much to generate quantity over quality, but to develop a habit and get lots of practice writing and building the craft. One of the ways to do this, is to embrace rejection as a goal. Your job then, rather than to generate high polish stories, is to get them into envelopes. I’m not saying you need to be slapdash about it, but it takes the emphasis and pressure off of you a little. When your concern shifts from writing well but not enough to develop, to writing much and developing over time, then you’ll start to hit a stride.

If you’re writing for yourself, but can’t be motivated: Fuck it. Not worth your time. Okay, maybe that’s harsh, but you at least need to reevaluate exactly why you’re writing. If well and truly is for you yourself, internally, then you should derive satisfaction from the act itself. If it’s drudgery… then why are you suffering?

The problem with adults is that we’re terrible at motivation because we’re egotistical fuckwads. Everything we produce is a referendum on our abilities and a reason to suspect we’ll never be good at anything. Children have the right idea. An eight year old dribbling a basketball for the first time sucks. They know they suck. They just don’t care. They dribble the basketball because its fun, and they keep doing it because it’s fun until they get better at it. Adults get frustrated quickly because the novelty of activities wears off a lot quicker and all we can think about is how we’re not better at it. This is why you need to short circuit any thoughts that are keeping you from being prolific and getting into a habit. If concerns about quality are bogging you down, emphasize quantity. Remember that any draft you write is rewriteable.

Also, you need to believe in your work, to some extent. Juno Diaz is one of my favorite writers, and he spent ten years on The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It vexed him, and it frustrated him, he wanted to throw it out a number of times but he kept going back to it because he felt the core of the novel was good. He believed in it. So my advice is to write like writing itself is the only goal. Get a clicky keyboard that makes you listen to your own cadence, write drivel every day for a year, do whatever it takes to develop a habit of it and get past the chore. What I found works for me is writing it like a script. Often I don’t have a problem writing, but getting my characters to do things interesting. I have problems with endings. I find I’m very fluent when I write about what a character’s backstory is, and what their motivation is, and how they got there. So I started writing these “how s/he got here” scripts and realized I’ve outlined complete stories worth writing resolving my problems finding my way through a plot, and it gets my fingers moving and my juices flowing.

Grain of salt bit: I’m only telling you what has been working for me extremely well since last Thursday, and better than anything else I’ve tried. TL;DR: Extrinsic motivation sucks. Tie your ego up in the act of writing (not writing well) and you’ll find yourself wanting to do it more.


#17

What is good? I enjoy cooking. Somethings I share my creations with friends and family. Would I make it as a chef in a trendy New York restaurant? Almost certainly not. Even if I was as competent a chef as required for that vocation, which I’m not, I’d have to reinvent myself. Half of being “good” in a marketable or even critical sense is marketing. There’s nothing wrong with that. On a planet shared with billions, visibility takes commitment. It’s why I enjoy many avocations, but only have one vocation I’m dedicated to mastering.


#18

I’m an excellent cook, but id fail so hard in a restaurant it would blow your mind.


#19

Whenever I cook for social gatherings, which is any excuse I can find, most people come back for seconds. Makes me happy. I’d be miserable as a professional chef though.


#20

Recent disgust at family reaction to Orlando caused a few things to jiggle together.

Mostly realization on why I take the lack of feedback so hard. Boils down to ‘this is the best shot I have at some kind of income, and i don’t feel like my material is good enough to try even putting in a self published format for consumption.’ Add in stories of ‘Oh hey person gets a ton of help,’ or groups i"m sorta part of kinda coming together for one reason or another and then getting told ‘I can’t help you, the only one that can extract you from this mess is you.’ It’s… just.

You pick that person, and this person, and have enough money to spend on a fucking warhammer minifig habit where crack literally would be cheaper… and you NONE of you can fucking invest in helping give me a hand up or even glance my way when I wanted to have a spare set of eyeballs?

It’s rage inducing to the point of making an already poor mindset even worse. I see writing as inherently a good activity and I have a thousand ideas, but it’s… Yea The fact this is the thing that looks like my best bet at some kind of personal income just hurts and it feels like i’ve been beating my head against a door that’s got a clear ‘pull to open’ notice attached to it.