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Caring too much?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Insa, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. Insa

    Insa Dreamer

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    The thing with me, I have recently realised, is that I am too careful with my ideas, and feel like I am not "allowed" to write and create in a certain way. In other words, half my mind when working on a creation is saying "Is this appropriate? Is this the right way to do it? Am I doing it properly?", as if here are specific guidelines I need to follow, even though I know there is not.

    I will have an idea, that I am fully in love with, in my mind, but then I'll read or see someone else's piece, and begin to second guess my own idea, deeming it suddenly unworthy and beneath everyone else's ideas. Almost as if mine is too cliché, too childish, not spontaneous enough. Being a person who needs and will only accept utter perfection in my work, I find this to be a difficult position to be in.

    So my question is, does anyone else experience this, or is it just me? Should I be second guessing, or should I just follow my own head and just create? And how do you deal with this feeling of self doubt?
     
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Comparing your unfinished work to anyone else's (finished or not) is a bad idea. How can you compare anything without having something real, something that has taken shape, something that has been molded and altered several times, in your hands? I wouldn't worry too much about comparison, except where the need for perfection can drive you towards greatness.

    Most everything you watch, read, or listen to has been worked and reworked to death. That is the reason it sounds or reads brilliant. It's hard work getting it there though.

    "It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way."
    - Ernest Hemingway

    You'll ultimately have to decide if you will allow self-doubt to defeat you or if you will choose to harness your fear to strive for the best you can create. No one can do that for you. No words can dampen that doubt for long, it will always return. All writers face it from time to time. You just have to come to terms with this and choose how you will process fear.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    You probably should do both. Not second guess yourself so much, but push yourself to writing to the best of your ability. However, you're torturing yourself if you expect to write a perfect first draft. It's nearly impossible for a new writer (which I'm assuming you are.) Here are some things that have helped me loosen my own need for perfection:

    1. Pre-write: Every day before you actually start writing, pre-write what you want to write about. Write some notes about what is going to happen in each writing session. It helped me a lot as far as helping me write more steadily.

    2. Outline: Lots of people may suggest this as well, but doing an outline (detailed or not) will also help organize your thoughts so you actually have a complete idea of where your story is actually going.

    3. Know Your Ending: If you know your ending, you know what you're working towards. This has helped me a lot because now I'm not just meandering through a story that I have no idea how it's going to end.

    4. Trim the Fat: If you have a lot of characters, plots, sub-plots, and a big, massive world, maybe it's better to focus on a handful of characters and a more direct plot. This will probably make your project easier to write because you only have a small cast with less breadth.

    5. Don't Read Other People's Stuff: (Ninja'd by T. Allen, but so true! :) ) When you are writing, don't start reading other people's stuff and comparing yourself to them. You will be disappointed every time. Know your own limitations as a writer going in to each new project and try to work on making those things better. If you have trouble plotting, focus more on improving it. If your characters feel flat and directionless, try writing down a series of goals, personality traits, etc. to help flesh them out in your mind a bit more before you start writing.

    Everyone has self-doubt when writing. Is this good? Will anyone want to read this? The key in writing a first draft is to shut that voice out. When you're finished with your first draft (the frame of your house) then you can start cleaning it up and painting it (editing). There are always stages of writing, but if you get hung up on making everything perfect from the beginning, then it makes it hard to progress any further from the idea stage.

    Hope this helps some!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
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  4. The Writer's Realms

    The Writer's Realms Minstrel

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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I agree with what T.A.S. and Phill have said.

    Don't worry about your ideas/being unworthy. You truly never know until you're finished how good a story can be. Most stories on the surface level can sound uninteresting. Eg, Two Hobbits walk for a year, avoiding dangers, to drop a ring into a volcano. It's when you dig into and edit your story where you find the magic in it.

    My first drafts, I constantly make bad choices and errors. When I realize a mistake, I make note of it and continue writing as if I'd fixed the mistake. Only after the first draft is done do I go back and rework and fix things. The second draft is where I start really worrying about if something is done proper.

    Don't fear making a mistake or writing something bad. Believe you can come back and make it better. Because practice writing a complete, and even imperfect, story is what makes you better, not writing one sentence, even if it's a perfect sentence.
     
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  6. Insa

    Insa Dreamer

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    Thank you for all your advice - I am new at this so I am finding it hard to choose a right way of writing, but your responses have been very helpful :)
     
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Are you writing novels or short stories, for now? Shorts are vastly better for the starting writer you say you are, because you can get through a complete tale without giving doubt too much time to pile up, then look at it as a stepping stone to the next experiment. So much of writing is pure trial and error, there's no substitute for a bit of "fail faster till you succeed."

    Plus, with short stories you can make a point of not reading other things for the days you're doing intensive writing-- then when you're between tales feel free to read again. It can be painful seeing the pros do something so much better, but it's still the best source of raw material and inspiration.

    (Besides, we all write because we love stories at least as much as the writing process. Learn to write by giving up reading? some bargain!)

    One trick if you keep comparing your idea to someone else's: pick at least two tales out there that resemble yours in different ways, and think of how the intersection of them creates new patterns that are more important to you than either. "I'd kill to make a dragon as good as his, or a thief like hers, but what I want to do justice to is if the thief used to be the dragon..."

    What might be the best help in the long run is to be read up on writing theory, and work out your own priorities or rules for what makes a story work. When you can look at your tale and say "They did it better, but I know a story needs A B and C and I got them in there the way my concept needed," you can start to trust your foundations. Then, go on to the next tale and...
     
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  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Right on..... Agree completely.

    Here's another quote I wished to share with you from someone who knows far more about writing than I. Sometimes it helps me to remember things like this. It may help to realize that even world famous authors still face the same demons we all face.

    "Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." - SYLVIA PLATH
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  9. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    Considering Sylvia's demise, this quote is incredibly ironic.
     
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    True enough. However, she did suffer from depression...
     
  11. Insa

    Insa Dreamer

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    I've written childish short stories before...
    Moreover, I am currently working on a collab novel with 2 close friends, and it's 30,000+ words in, so I don't feel as if length, and filling it in is a daunting thing.
    I am just self concious about whether my actual idea, the plot line, is mature enough, or just plain good enough to bother to make into anything.

    I agree that I should practice with short stories though. I am not by any means an excellent writer, far from it, and it is very much early days yet, so it'll probably do me good.
     
  12. MAndreas

    MAndreas Troubadour

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    I think every writer, published or not, has doubts. Even those with lots of books out--have doubts.
    My suggestion would be to ignore all the doubts, all of the "right" way to write and just WRITE it. Take your self-editor, gag her, and throw her in the closet. Let your writing run free during a rough draft, you are the only one who can decide how you write- so let yourself find it out!

    THEN, when that rough draft is finished, that's when you go after it and slice and dice. But too much questioning during a rough draft can be fatal to completing a book.

    Best of luck!
     
    Insa likes this.
  13. Well, how long have you been writing? I mean, it's an aquired skill and it takes time to get really, genuinely good at it.

    There's nothing wrong with being concerned about your development and trying to evaluate your skill. That just shows that your writing is alive and that you're not stagnated. Just, try not to get stuck in restrictive thought patterns. Rather than "not being allowed" to write a certain way, try to see it as a chance to grow as a writer and to refine your art. Go ahead and experiment, try to find your style. You'll know when you find it.

    You know, for as common as perfectionism is among us writers, I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually benefit from it much. Maybe some writers out there can manage it, but in most cases I have seen, perfectionism is a source of unhappyness and anxiety.

    The problem with being a perfectionist is that you become blind for everything but your flaws. My advice is: Relax a bit. Don't be a perfectionist, try to be... ambitious. Even if your writing isn't perfect, it can still be brilliant.

    If you think there is something wrong with an idea, well, maybe there is. Maybe it needs more work? That happens. But there is also the possibility that it's perfectly fine and you're just worrying about nothing. When in doubt, ask yourself why you love your story - obviously there is some quality in there that moves you. That is what you're trying to write, not mere words.

    Remember: No guts, no glory. We have to be brave. We have to dare to believe in our stories, and take our chances.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
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  14. JediKnightMuse

    JediKnightMuse Troubadour

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    -Chimes in late-

    Definitely not just you! I've been experiencing the same thing lately, but it's not so much that I compare my writing/ideas/whatever to other published or unpublished authors, it's just...I have the ideas in my head, but then it's like my inner editor goes "nope, this is cliche, can't do that." Like, I've been thinking about having a character whose father or brother would be the 'bad guy' or antagonist but then I just go "nope, that's been done and is too Star Wars-y" (if you can't tell by my name, I'm a Star Wars fan), even though I know that Lucas is not the first person to have a father/son and good VS evil deal between characters, nor will he be the last. It's just something I haven't been able to push myself past lately, which is driving me nuts because I WANT to write and it's keeping me from just writing. I'm definitely not going through writer's block, really, because I have plenty of ideas (I keep a journal where I write ideas down), it's just a matter of pushing through whatever I'm dealing with so that I can actually put those ideas into a story (or more, since most of them won't fit into the same story).
     
  15. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Either learn to turn that editor off, ignore it, or whip it into submission. This is crucial to ever being able to finish anything.
     
  16. JediKnightMuse

    JediKnightMuse Troubadour

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    Yeah, I know. Part of the problem is that I'm sort of out of practice. From like...last January or so on, I didn't really work on non-role play or school related writing (i.e. my 2011 NaNo), so I feel like I just sort of fell out of practice, especially with starting a story without my inner editor nagging at me.

    I AM going to finally get past it, though. At some point soon. Hopefully. >.>
     
  17. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    I some times have a problem like that. The first time I started on my story I felt guilty because it was like harry Potter (boy realizes his magic, goes to school, finds adventure, beats bad guy) It had the same number of characters, almost, there were teachers and everything and I was going nuts. My dad, when learning and finally supporting my writing, warned me about plagiarism. he addressed it in a way that someone could steal my ideas but I was suddenly afraid that I was doing that to J.K. But I sat down, looked at the obvious differences (it was in no way a parody) and was fine. But then I started to get anxious. J.K is huge in the writing world. One part of my head kept telling me to make my work better, that I was doing it wrong, to do justice to her work. Another part was telling me that my changes were wrong and to make it better in my own head. That helped.

    It's confusing and stupid I know. But the answer was simple. One day, after spending several without writing, I went into my room, looked at my writing station and saw the problem. My writing and reading materials were all in the same place. So every time I sat down to write I had hundreds of book spines glowing in my face. Distracting me, pulling me by the hair out of my person as a writer. So I got a box, a moving trolley...thingy, and moved my books and other reading stuff out of sight from my writing station. I took another look and got rid of all post-its, flash cards and everything that even remotely resembled a nagging consciousness. That was months ago and I haven't had that feeling since.
     
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