Is it normal to hate your own writing?


#1

Just a thing I’m trying to come to terms with while trying to force myself to write. Out of everything I’ve written, almost none of it doesn’t induce some kind of involuntary ‘God I don’t ever want to see this crap again’ reaction. I am told this is normal. I have even repeated the advice I was given about powering through anyway. Thing is I can’t work up the motive to write when I hate all of it once I get down past penciling in world ideas or character background and get to actually writing a story.

If this is normal, how do other people work past it? I’ve ‘won’ nanowrimo several years and I just can’t for the life of me figure out the how of it anymore and I need to start doing again, if for no other reason than to just start doing something again.


#2

If you write for a living? Yes. I’m a journalist. I’ve never had a mentor that didn’t struggle with the self-perceived quality of their writing.

The best piece of advice I received about improving my craft was actually during my short stint in art school. One of my professors quoted Walt Stanchfield, who worked for Disney and mentored a lot of their animators throughout the 70s:

We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.

No one is awesome at anything when they’re starting off but the only way to get better is to do it, and I promise you that you will get better.

And it’s actually a great thing you hate your writing because it means you aren’t delusional about it. You can determine what’s bad writing and what’s good writing, which leads to the second best piece of advice I received from a mentor. You have good taste:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

That’s from Ira Glass.

So you’re on a good path. You just have to remember that (1) you suck right now but you will get better and (2) you can recognize good writing from bad writing, which is largely something you’re just kind of born with.

The third thing is that I’ve also never met a great writer that has felt like they’ve wrote a “perfect” piece. You can spend your whole life rewriting and reediting a single story because you’ll always be getting better and your taste will also evolve so you can spot flaws in your piece that you didn’t before, but doing that is a death trap. It’s chasing the horizon. You’ll never reach it. At some point you need to decide that what you wrote is good enough, enshrine is as an example of “this is who I was at the time”, and then move on to the next project.


#3

Did you like your writing that was recognized at nanowrimo?


#4

Winning at nanowrimo means simply you reach a word count.

As for Ira Glass. OK that’s fine but it’s… Great. practice? Except there never seems to be an audience for what I write.

Oh but you’re supposed to write for you!’

Nope. Sure it’d be nice if I wrote for me, but writing for yourself is pretty selfish, plus you can’t see your own flaws if it’s ‘just’ for you. Everything I do seems to be ‘just for me.’ Gaming? My interests in retro and maker stuff?

Oh you’re a whiner you just want someone to pat you on the head and tell you how wonderful and special you are.’ (That one was from my stepdad.)

Also incorrect. Granted it’s always nice when you get validation you’re not hounding down a blind ally and are doing something right for a change, but I realize I have flaws. I also realize I have some talent, butt if I can’t find an audience I can’t find an audience I can try to get to possibly stay interested enough to maybe throw money my way, or even talk about/debate, or even rip off my work. That’s something I want, to be respected enough people want to take from my material and use as starters for their own.

The core problem is I have actually completely stopped and can’t find any real urge to start up beyond a vague discomfort at the idea I’m not writing anymore and that I should.


#5

I’ve never won a prestigious contest like that one, but I think you’re onto something.

Writing can be about sharing a story. If we knew we would be abducted by aliens tomorrow, is there a story you would want to tell someone today?

Whether or not you told the story like a “genius” would you tell it?

If the answer is no one then maybe there’s not a story to tell at this moment.

But I bet you do have a story you feel should be shared with someone.


#6

It isn’t a contest man. ‘Winning’ is simply completing the task inside of a month. There are sponsored rewards but no ‘prize’ beyond writing your first draft inside of a month (it really does feel good if you can manage it.)

I have, however, gotten published a couple times in a now-defunct PDF web-zone sold on the ipad. So technically I’ve been published?


#7

Did you like what you wrote? You still haven’t said.


#8

You don’t need one. Actually, audiences can often be pretty bad because a lot of them won’t have good taste (so they can’t recognize the good parts of what you’re writing), might have horrible taste (so they think the mistakes you’re making are actually awesome), they might be biased (predisposed to either like or dislike you as a person), or a combination of those three things.

It goes without saying that having a personal mentor would be ideal but that’s true of anything. No one on the planet who is world-class at anything got there alone. They all have great teachers, coaches, whatever – some sort of nurturing figure.

So like I said, all you ultimately need is yourself, but even Patrick Rothfuss showed his nine-year rough draft of The Name of the Wind to a handful of people he trusted over the years.

So don’t write. I firmly believe writing is never something that should be forced unless deadlines are involved, whether imposed to you by an editor, a publisher, or yourself, but if you have no such deadline, then don’t stress yourself out by feeling like you have to write because you don’t.

Take up a new hobby. Travel somewhere. Spend time with friends. Make new friends. Fall in love. Get your heart broken. Volunteer for something. All those experiences will end up making you a better writer. Somewhere along the line, you’ll come up with another story to tell and the keyboard will always be there when you come back.

But there’s no point is trying to tell a story when you don’t know what you’re going to talk about yet. The only way to get more inspiration is to find it.


#9

While I don’t doubt these are true things, travel for me is generally dependent on others and I have no real disposable income to take up hobbies. I’ve tried programming and art and other things that are cheap/free in the past but nothing seems to stick.

I may well have developed tunnel vision on the issue, but when I am very rockbound transportation-wise and with little to no funds that aren’t soaked up by living expenses I just don’t see what viable options I have.


#10

Writing, no. I’ve written for as long as I’ve been able. When I decided to try to hone my craft, I recognized that a lot of what I was writing was unreadable even to me. I still enjoyed writing it. I wanted it to be good, but it wasn’t essential. It was a playground for my imagination. Occasionally I’d lay a golden egg. Mostly I laid turds. I never wrote because I wanted others to read it. I have no objection to others reading it, but it’s not why I write. I write because, cliché though it be, it’s how I exercise my imagination. Knowing the joys of writing, I would be miserable if I didn’t.

But I have experienced what you’re talking about, albeit with singing. I have a good ear and a terrible singing voice. I’ve made concerted efforts to improve. I just couldn’t enjoy singing crap the way I could enjoy writing crap. Perhaps it’s because, althoughI like singing when I hit the note, it’s not an outlet that I couldn’t live without.

There nothing wrong with doing some things just for yourself. You don’t have to be providing 24/7. I agree that it’s selfish to do everything for yourself. If you want to write for you, then do. If you want to write for others, then write for others. It’s your creation.


#11

It is normal to hate your own writing.

It is normal to hate your own music.

It is normal to hate the sound of your own voice.

It is normal to hate looking at pictures of yourself.

Hope this helps.

Seek outside opinions!

Preferably people that don’t like you overly much.


#13

I read a really smart article, I think on this site, that made the point we are all born incompetent, and we don’t even know it. When we start to get good at something, we reach a point where we discover what really good looks like, and realize we still have a long journey to get there, At that point, most people give up.


#14

This is familiar territory to me. I don’t know if it will help you, but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of one of the last essays published on 43 folders, “First, care.”

This essay has honestly killed more projects than it has lit a fire under, but it’s a mercy killing. It’s worth taking serious stock of what you care about, and why. Vague discomfort isn’t a great motive force


#15

Hard to manage when I almost care about nothing except as reaction. I care about the fact race relations is stil lan issue in my thirties and hasn’t been solved to the point nobody gives a shit about color or ethnicity. Ditto with womens’ rights and fair treatment for inter-gendered/trans people.

I care but it’s not like day to day driving ‘I care about this thing.’ I have trouble mustering the will to care beyond ‘does the house look like a bomb was set off in it? Are the animals fed?’

However that is a wonderful link. I’m grateful that you shared.


#16

I find myself feeling this way too. I think you just have to grow a thick skin from your own self-criticism,and keep at it. I know, harder than it seems. But as @metsuken says, it’s really about working away at it and recognize that it’s a skill, not something natural that only some few geniuses have.

Chin up and keep going! You’re not the only one dealing with this, so I hope this helps you feel better.


#17

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