Thinking like a writer always gets me high. I come home some days thnking Oh My God life is great and it's just because i thought of a simile. Yesterday i saw a snake in the lake and though wow i can write pages on this. I ran a half marathon recently and got so much good stuff, and was so hyped up it was awesome. But like all highs, there must be lows. What do you do when you think nothing is any good, and what you thought was good sounds stupid, and cliche, or maybe okay but okay is shit. It needs to be way better than okay? What do we do when we start knocking ourselves down? Sometimes just writing something to someone about it can help (like now). Maybe this is the place for that. Everybody is like me in this, yes? I kind of hope so, although i wish everyone all high happy days. You all are good writers. I'm so happy to be in the presence, but sometimes it also is daunting.
I go through more Marlboros, and wait for it to pass. Sometimes I bounce stuff off Husband, he's a good bouncy intellectual surface, and he nags me when I don't write, and he nags me when I don't submit (he nags me quite a bit, actually).
Hmm. Well I do have the odd bout of "does everything I have ever written suck a massive amount of balls?" kind of anxiety, but it generally passes.
It's worth it though. The feeling when you crack a tough story, the lovely budding thoughts of a new idea, and best of all, when somebody reads something you have written and tells you they enjoyed it. Those things rock.
Just remember that nothing you ever write will be to everyone's taste. For every one of your favorite stories or novels there are buckets full of people that will hate it. Vice versa with the stuff that you think is shit.
I hit delete, than write something better.
I generally go through a very specific process where I think everything I write is miserable.
I contemplate suicide.
Then I show it to someone, the workshop or just a trusted person, and throw up a little bit while I wait for some sort of feedback.
Then it's over and I just work on what was mentioned and try to make it better.
Today I really want to write something, I feel overwhelmed by things that need to be said, but sadly I actually have to work at work today and I will have to wait. I'm not certain I'll feel like saying these thing later, or if I'll have the right words when things are more convenient. That's my problem more than anything. I get all my best feelings when it's not convenient.
@doll - Maybe it's just me, but I've found that it's easier to feel like you'd be doing awesome writing when you know that you won't be able to write.
I don't know. Just one of those days when I woke up in a very special mood I guess.
I used to have those all the time. When things freed up so I can write pretty much when I want they stopped.
I totally relate to everything in this thread. The creative process is such a high, but for me the low part comes once I'm all done and realize I wasn't able to accurately translate the idea and feelings in my mind into the story. My struggle is retaining the high and the creativity long enough to capture it on paper. The end result is always disappointing, but I hope this will improve with experience.
If I feel like shit about writing, I critique a story on Litreactor and try to be as enthusiastic as possible. It makes me feel like I've done some writing (even if it's writing about writing) and something that's useful.
I am your cheerleader that will yell at you for smiling or showing me your semi-colon.
"I am your cheerleader that will yell at you for smiling or showing me your semi-colon."
It took me a while, but I eventually found that Pocket Bryan Howie I was so in search of. He sits on my desk and shouts at me: Stop smiling! No one smiles that much! Show, don't tell!!
But if I leave him alone too long he starts yelling some pretty obsene stuff, so I can't have him around when company comes over.
Fuck. I don't like anything I've written and have no idea how anything I've committed to paper has been published.
Oh Grigori, you are so cute. I love the self loathing writer, we should shoot heroin together.
Sadly, this is what I do...I compare everything I write to movies I've seen, books I've read and if they are too similar I throw it away. Its always fucking Stephen King, he fucking raped the collective unconsciousness of all the good ideas. Him and joyce carol oates piss me off. Authors shouldn't be allowed to write more than 20 novels in their career. They gotta leave ideas for the rest of us. In the old days tuberculosis or the black plague or anemia took them out, now everyone has penicillin and all the good ideas are taken.
It's not self loathing, I just don't see merit in my work. It's like trying to write horror. I just don't see it.
No needles for me thanks. I've got tattoos. That's as close as I like to get.
Grigori, don't you write horror? Your stuff was horror in my opinion.
I'm starting to think that being mediocore at self apprasial as a writer is like being the one eyed man in the Land of the Blind.
That's the problem. I'm too analytical. If it's not plausible, it's not scary to me. Things that go bump in the night don't even register. Being trapped in a vehicle that's flipped upside down into a ravine and is slowly being buried in sand while cooking in 100+ degree heat with no hope of escape. That tweaks me a little, but that's boring to the average person because there's not something actively pursuing you.
The average person will always be indifferent to your work, no matter who you are are or what you write.
For the first half of my creative life, back when I was a contributing member of society, I created visual art as my outlet for the dragons that raged inside. When those dragons didn't burn things in the pretty pictures I, and society, prefered, I used ot get quite violent. That, or I'd dive into a bottle of pain killers. Sometimes, both. Red, swollen knuckles can get quite achy when the wind blows cold.
Then I met someone, and for some reason all the impetus to draw, paint, scult, whatever, fizzled out. Then I started writing. The violence stopped, soley for her benefit, but the dragons still slam themselves against the bars of the cage. So, I just have to focus on the actual process now. I have to write. When the keys are clacking, I'm not thinking about the plethora of resources wasted on me every second of my life. So, I keep writing to stay high.
Ok, done rambling.
Writing is the one thing I'm good at. I'm an artist and an animator by profession, and while I boast confidence in such fields, I only do so because confidence plays a big part in getting anything you want in life.
When it comes to writing, I do have my low points. I can write well, but I can't finish. I have a way with words, but I feel my plots are dry as jerky. So what do I do? I keep writing.
I stopped comparing my written work to others' long ago, because everyone has their own style. What's important is to know the rules, and to know the rules before breaking them -- and I can do that. If someone has a mastery over wordage, I try to learn from them instead of crying myself to sleep under the covers. If I find a book I can call a favorite, I reread it -- I dissect it, so I can learn how to do something like that, too.
I've had my work taunted, teased, and torn to bits (literally) while growing up. The first story I ever wrote and printed was ripped in pieces by my dad, who took it as a critique of his parenting style. My grandmother found a chapter of a romance novel I was writing and took me out to dinner to have "a talk" about what a "proper" young lady should and shouldn't be writing. Somewhere along the way, I decided not to take writing so seriously. I kept it to myself. I would even flush my own work down the toilet to keep other people from finding it! But I never decided to quit. And one day a thought occured to me: My family and (then) friends didn't read. They didn't know what to look for. They didn't understand where it came from. What if I shared it with other people? Writers? Artists? People who know how to read beyond a 5th grade level?
Sharing one's work with the world, especially other writers, can be daunting. But the time I did do that here was such an awarding experience! There are all sorts of writerly folk on this forum alone: YA writers, high concept, fancy-shmancy, rough and tumble, dirty, gritty, raw, fluffy. And every single person here has a great opinion and clear, concise advice, no matter what kind of writer you are.
The only bad thing I do as a writer is not write. That's what gets me depressed... when I can't bring myself to open scrivener or pick up a pencil. Those are my low points.
But like I said, confidence is key. I practice confidence all the time. At first it's like play acting -- pretending to trust yourself, to be sure of your abilities. But eventually, some of that sticks. People trust you when you're confident, so you begin to trust in yourself.
I like to write music, essays, reviews, previews, short stories. Like everyone, i go through the "this is fucking awful" phase or I'm just lukewarm to it. Like Misskokoman says, confidence does play a big part. You eventually get enough feedback to know what you're creating is a) satisfying something in you and b) providing something that someone else is enjoying. Trust in that - and you automatically feel better.
A few things I try to keep in mind:
1 - You're not going to be everything to everyone. Not everyone is going to like what you do. Oh well. Fuck them.
2 - You're not going to knock every one out of the park. Some stuff is just going to suck. It's ok. It's part of the process. You're still learning, though.
3 - the good ideas, even if it's not fleshed out the way you want, is going to keep nagging at you. That short story you wrote that's not quite working the way you want - it's a great idea. You're going to shape it, eventually. That chorus you wrote that's killer but just doesn't have the rest of the song. Don't worry, it'll get there. You're going to work at it and it's going to find it's way. The best ideas stick around and find their way into your mindspace on a regular basis. I work shit out all the time doing monotous stuff or just walking around town and people watching.
4 - you haven't written your best stuff yet. You're always getting better, learning more, experimenting more. You're not washed up or a has been or a never was. You're going to write something that you're going to love and be proud of. And then you're going to do it again. And again. Hopefully for the rest of your life. That's what we do.
I struggle with feeling like a fraud.
I've felt like I really wasn't a writer. I had read all the right books, knew all the right theories, knew the right things to say, and the right places to hang out and what coffee to drink, but I wasn't really a writer. If these people ever read anything I wrote, they would kick me out of the group and leave me to stumble around the city like the talentless hack I was.
The stories I sold, sheer luck and lack of taste on the part of the publishers. The columns I wrote, people trying to be nice, afraid to be honest about my lack of ability, a pat on the lead of the kid who was totally out of his league.
Every day, I wait for someone to come along with a cardboard box and tell me they found me out. Pack up your Faulkner collection and get out. Leave the Strunk and White, you don't need it anymore.
In the meantime, I just keep reading and writing every day, hoping to outpace the guy with the box.
He hasn't shown up, yet.
Oddly everything is quite hot or cold with me. One day I'll want to delete everything ever presented by me on the internet and die a peaceful death somewhere down the line, the next I will be absolutely confident with everything I do. I've come to find there are two different sorts of writers, those that are natural writers and those who have learned the craft that are searching for their voice, and then there are the people who hardly know shit about anything but have a story to tell. Being a, what appears to be rare, member of the latter I've noticed many things about other writers and have learned a great deal from those that know what they're doing.
Calling yourself a fraud is silly talk, if you wrote something, it's yours regardless of who you emulated to get it out. I think emulation is something all writers must go through on some journey to find their voice, a problem I see all over the place is that people choose very closely related authors to emulate. That's why any author, from Hemingway, to Salinger, to Palahniuk, all the way up to popular fiction folks like J.K Rowling will tell you the best way to learn how to write is to read. And not just read the same genre either, any writer should broaden their horizons. Read literary, transgressive, comedy, bizarro, horror, and romance. Read it all because in every single genre you will find something distinct and different.
It's very different, but I did this with poetry. Once upon a time I wrote poetry as a small message, without form, or much of a meaning. The only poets I ever really read was the obligatory Poe and the funny drunkard Bukowski. Looking back they all were kind of like this big overly raped bucket of piss between the two. When my reading expanded to Burroughs, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Philip Glass, and Leonard Cohen among original styled song writers, the form appeared.
I think it's a waste for writers to spend all of their time emulating one person when there are so many things you should be dipping your toes in. Stop going for one thing and go for it all, at least try to, something unhealthy and morbid I suggest to everyone is to start writing like you are dying. Try to throw every ounce of yourself into a piece as if it is the last thing anyone will ever see, that piece is your entire legacy. Do it, open Word and write that story, but do it on the pretense that you probably won't wake up tomorrow.
It probably won't be a masterpiece, but what you've got is the raw emotional core of a story to work around. If it works for me, a guy who less than a year ago used like 50 semi-colons a page, then I can almost guarantee it would work for someone with a more highly developed skill set.
Anyways, that's my experience and advice on the matter. Don't let too much get you down, or hell, maybe you should. Seems most successful writers never had everything handed to them, spend some time in the dumps.
Like 'ole Buk said:
As the spirit wanes,
The form appears.
Love what you're saying, Laurance. Well said.
I never let myself worry if something I'm writing is too similar to an established author's work in terms of style and content. Most great artists/athletes/etc. begin their careers by emulating their heroes. There's nothing wrong with letting yourself be inspired by one of your favourite writer's, and then trying to imitate what they did in your own work. We all might have a distinct creative "voice" inside of us, but it's not something that can be summoned at will with no practice. I've only been focusing on my writing a short while, and at the beginning everything I wrote read like a bad Lovecraft pastiche or a rejected Hunter Thompson manuscript; over time though, without even really realizing, more and more of my own "voice" has crept into what I've been writing. It's just about being patient, and not obsessing over it, you cannot try to rush yourself into developing your own unique style, none of the writer's we look up to did.