Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm a Bad Writer.

Sometimes, I feel like my book is terrible. I read it and I think everyone will HATE it and I will NEVER be successful and I may as well throw myself off a CLIFF because all of my hopes and dreams are being DESTROYED AS I SIT HERE in my gray cubicle in this ADORABLE NEW SKIRT THAT WAS ONLY $5. (Oh actually there was no reason to yell about that one. $5 for a skirt is a really great deal.)

I think everyone struggles with these feelings at one point or another. Everyone gets to that weak spot in their manuscript, or reads a particularly awesome book and thinks, "What I wrote will never, ever be this good. EVER."

What's a writer to do? Here are a few of my favorite options:
  • Whine. You probably have a few writer friends, or perhaps a few supportive IRL friends. So...try a little complaining. It's not very effective at solving your problem, but boy does it feel good! And if you don't have any friends (Aw...) join Twitter! Then the whole Internet can listen to you complain.
  • Read your favorite scene in the whole book. If you want to be productive, make it a line edit. Remind yourself of your best writing, and the things you are capable of doing - those scenes that make you say, "Wow. I wrote that?" Then, you can jump back into your revisions revised and ready to go. 
  • Take a break. Eat some chocolate. Exercise. Just get out of your head for a minute. Sometimes you just need to quiet the mean, critical voice.
  • Revisit past accomplishments. Think about the biggest thing you've achieved so far in your writing career. Maybe it was getting into a difficult writing workshop, or landing an agent. Maybe it was just a really nice blog comment on a blogfest entry or even on a regular entry. Maybe you got an A++ and a gold star on your third-grade spelling test. (Impressive! I once got a 100%, but misspelled my name. #HeatherWIN.) Whatever it is, revisit a past accomplishment. Remind yourself that you are AWESOME and you CAN do it. My accomplishment is reading my VCFA acceptance letter, because I honestly never thought I would see that white envelope come in the mail with my name on it.
  • Edit until the bad writing is GONE. When none of these things work and you still feel like your book is bad, there's only one thing to do...make it better.
I can't lie and say that this banishes all my doubts. I still have them. I still worry if I'm a total failure, if my acceptance into VCFA was an admissions fluke and they're just too embarrassed to admit it, if everyone who's ever read anything I've written is lying through their teeth with any compliment they give. But you have to push those fears aside. Because living in doubt won't get you anywhere.

And now, blog readers, a question...What do you do when you feel so much doubt about your writing abilities that you want to set yourself on fire just a little bit (or maybe just eat an entire gallon of ice cream)?


  1. I definitely go the route of taking a break, or making pretty drastic edits. Sometimes it's best to step away from the WiP before I just delete entire chunks of book!

    "if you don't have any friends (Aw...) join Twitter! Then the whole Internet can listen to you complain." LOL Such true and awesome advice. Love it!

  2. I actually don't really have a "set myself on fire" "I'm the worst writer ever" time. I start a first draft with the honest belief that it's allowed to utterly suck, cause that's what revisions are for, but more often than not I'm surprised how much I like what ends up in the first draft. Sure they need edits but still, I like them.

  3. Whenever I have a particularly bad day (like the one I had recently, remember the cookies and the crying?) I take a day to sulk. If I don't do this, it's like I can't move on. And after my sulky day, I'm right back on the horse. Works every time.

  4. I feel like this all the time. My poor husband hears me complain about it constantly, and then he tells me to shut up and go back to writing. That usually works!

  5. I'm less of a "set myself on fire" person as a "cover my head with a pillow and hide" person.

    Sometimes I take a break and work on an outline for a future project, or just do a random writing exercise. Something to help me feel creative again and remember the fun parts of the writing process.


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