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Feelings of Failure

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Princessbljack, Jun 20, 2017.

  1. Princessbljack

    Princessbljack Acolyte

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    One of my biggest obstacles when attempting to write is my sense of failure. I have a fear of failure that when combined with my anxiety often keeps me from going out and accomplishing my goals in life. One of my goals im life is to share my stories with an audience. I think I'm very good at creating characters and story ideas and it's one of my very few talents. I have a very good imagination. However, I feel like I can't write. My writing skills are bad, I word things oddly, I change tenses all the time without realizing, I explain too much, I don't give enough detail. These are things that go through my head when I try to write and things I catch when rereading my work. I often feel like I'm going to fail as a writer and it keeps me from trying to write. Does anyone else ever feel the same way?
     
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  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I used to feel that way all the time. As a beginning writer my ideas overshot my ability to execute by a wide margin. That, and a natural fear of my inability to write eloquently, made being a writer seem like a monumental task.

    Eventually though, I decided to do something about it. I read a ton of books on craft (still do). Worked writing exercises I found online. I watched YouTube videos on writing craft (An excellent channel to start with is Brandon Sanderson's channel Write About Dragons).

    Once I started digging into craft fundamentals and experimenting with different techniques, I learned just how much I didn't know. Still, slowly but surely, I added tools to my toolbox. I'm still learning new methods all the time, even though I feel like I'm a good writer now. But that's not enough. I want to be great.

    You just have to decide if you truly want to be a writer, enough to do the years of hard work it'll take. If you do, then buckle down. Become a student of your craft. To be a pro, you must work like a pro.

    Maybe though, you aim for nothing more than being a hobby writer. There's nothing wrong with that either, but I'll leave that conversation for others.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
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  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Transforming the vision in your head to the written word in a coherent, readable manner is tough. It takes experience. Lots of experience. Which means writing, and accepting that your first effort will fall far short of that vision. But keep at it.
     
  4. fiera43

    fiera43 Scribe

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    I do which is why I have never written anything. But setting a time just to write to get in the habit and having several people help you with the editing could help.
     
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think your fear of failure is totally natural and normal. Writing is both a very personal and very isolating endeavour which amplifies any underlying anxieties and fears.

    You might be able to comfort yourself by knowing that the most successful writers in the world both started off with weak writing skills and many of them still fear their work will be rejected and that they will fail.

    I have a good friend who has been writing NYT bestsellers since the early 70's. In an interview about an award he received he said this "Self-doubt is one of my constant emotions." I hear that from my friends who write for a living all the time. It is very common. This particular guy dreads going into his office in the morning because very morning when he does he reads what he wrote the day before and concludes it is crap. When he comes out of his office for breakfast his wife invariably asks "How bad was it this morning?" So you are very much not alone in your fear of failure.

    You just can't let it paralyze you.

    TAS also makes some important points. Writing is a learned skill and it takes time to polish it. Nothing comes without work, but if you do work at it, you will get better. I have seen it close up. My wife started writing fiction a few years ago, wanting to make her living at it. I thought her early work was pretty good. She then went and got a Masters in Writing Genre Fiction and I thought her thesis novel was pretty damned good but it didn't sell. So she kept working at it, by practising, joining critique groups, taking courses and seminars, and her writing just kept getting better. Her first novel came out this year, and it is doing really, really well. When I think about her thesis novel it is just so much better. But she keeps working on her craft, still taking courses and getting brutally critiqued by "friends" etc and her second novel is done, and to me it is far stronger than the first one. You never stop working and getting better. Yesterday a friend in England sent us a picture of her book for sale in an airport. When I think about the writing journey she has been on I am continuously amazed.

    That is a long winded way of saying it is perfectly natural to fear failure in writing, but many many writers experience the same thing and if you don't let it stop you, keep working on your craft and embrace quality criticism, you will get better, and you can be as successful as you want to be.
     
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  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    All the time.

    For me personally, there are two lines of thinking I have whenever I've realized I am paralyzed or at least blocked from a fear of not being able to accomplish what I've imagined in my head:

    1. Yes, I really am not doing something right.

    2. But, if I don't even try, I'm never going to do it right.

    The first of these can actually serve me in a helpful way. I may feel blocked for some time, my head just a cloud of indecision, but eventually I'll acknowledge #1 and start to reexamine whatever I'm doing or not doing.

    An example. With my current project, I'd been spinning my wheels. I had a vision for how the first few chapters might go, but when it came time to write them...meh, just not working out. I came to realize that I'd been "saving up" some of the more exciting elements for later in the book, and this was why those first few chapters were a little too boring, too much spinning of wheels, not jelling in a good way. So I decided, heck, let's just throw some of that awesomeness into these opening chapters, let's more closely introduce and tie in elements from the main antagonist here, let's make my POV character more active magically, etc. This decision then made me realize I hadn't fully conceived of important elements of the antagonist and POV magical ability, heh. So, y'know, I hadn't been doing something right, even if, before, I'd gone through weeks of thinking I knew what those opening chapters should be.

    #2 is kind of an ultimatum. You either write, or you don't. There is only do. I think it's okay to not be a writer; there's no reason to live in permanent frustration, self-doubt, or depression. You can move on to other things. BUT, the alternative to not being a writer is to be a writer. Just write. If you write enough, you will get better. Because of #1. You say your words look bad to you, your sentences poorly written? The fact that you can see this is an indication that you can improve. You know where something doesn't work. As long as you know that, there's always reason to hope that you'll eventually not have so many of those sentences or, even if you do have those sentences, you'll be able to fix them in the editing process.
     
  7. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Have you ever submitted a short story that you just knew was the greatest short story you've written so far, and had it rejected? I'm not even talking about a novel here. I'm talking about a 4,000-word piece that didn't take anywhere near the time and effort of a novel. Well, short story writers deal with this all the time.

    Some aspiring authors might let a single rejection stop them. Those who really want to be in this business will figure out a way to handle rejection, anxiety, depression, and all the other bad feelings that will assail anyone intent on writing something others will enjoy.

    It can help to find a small market that doesn't pay anything, but that is right in line with your style of writing, just to get some third-party publisher to accept something you've written. Admittedly, even that is tougher than it sounds. But if you can manage it, the validation it gives you will help boost your spirits. It will put you on an upward path, and the feeling is priceless.

    Also, as others have said, it helps to be continually studying the craft. This can boost your self-confidence in the absence of other boosters.
     
  8. Aurora

    Aurora Sage

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    I think feeling like a failure is a human trait. We all have those moment where we wish to be better. When first starting out in writing, it's easy to be overwhelmed and frustrated by everything you're learning. The best advice someone gave me was to focus specifically on a story element in one book, then do it again in the next. It's helped. That way, the approach is a steady one. For example, in one story you can focus on dialogue. On the next you can focus on characterization. The next on plot. And so forth. When you get discouraged, remember everyone starts from the bottom & keep going.
     
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I am finally to the point where I believe I can write 90% of the time, but I still have those times where I think: yeah, I love it, but no one else will. And I figure anyone who says they like it are just being nice. Even when my editor says it's her favorite she's ever worked on in the genre... I go, yeah right. Suuurrre. But at least I like my writing part of the time now, that's an improvement! LOL. And even when I think the first book is good, I go crazy on the idea the second book will suck. I doubt this will ever stop.

    Craft books are good, but they tend to be better at structural things, they are a bit more quantifiable than what makes "good" writing. The First Five Pages and Self-Editing for Writers are two good ones. Of course grammar, except when you want to ignore it, LOL. Dialogue, look to screenwriting if you want to hammer your dialogue skills. Dialogue looks like low hanging fruit to a lot of writers but it isn't. And it's one editors supposedly look at early on, flipping pages to find it and see what your writing looks like.

    I tend to like books by editors and agents more than by other writers.

    One thing I think should be suggested more, is instead of "write write write" and "get to a million words" is take a chapter or two, at least 15k words, write it, then study craft books, then rewrite, study, rewrite, study, rewrite, study, rewrite, all the while letting that thing sit and age between working on it. If you can get 15-20k words to sound good, you can get a novel to sound good. Learning by editing is a good idea, because you'll be doing a lot of it. Then it's time to hammer the story craft and larger structure.
     
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Your tale will go through several drafts. For the first draft, and the second, editing is the least of your concerns.

    Your concern with the first draft is to get it done. This is real rough. The following stages (sort of) apply:

    1 - getting the first page written. Which means sitting before the keyboard and writing. Yes, it will be horrible.

    2 - the first chapter. We see quite a few prologues and first chapters posted here in showcase. Not so many after that.

    3 - the 3rd/4th chapter hang-up, or real roughly, about 8000-10,000 words. A lot of stories that make it past chapter one don't make it past this point. Most or all of the scribes here have digital drafts tucked away that reach this point and just...stop.

    4 - the 30,000 word cut. Now, your well into the 'muddy middle' - and mud, in various forms, is about all you can see. The characters are introduced, the exciting stuff is far away, and you'd need a +5 machete to cut through the plot-tangles. And don't even think about the plot holes. Real easy to just get stuck here.

    5 - Almost there. You thought you had it rough before? You haven't seen nothing yet. Just a few more chapters to go - but dragging your butt to the writing table is tough, and trying to punch out those last few thousand words is one of the toughest things you'll ever do. We get quite a few posts here from scribes who've reached the last few chapters and find themselves utterly drained. (I have been through this multiple times, with tales written during the various NaNo's. I have five first drafts, from 35,000 to 75,000 words sitting in the computer.)

    And all that is just the first draft. You still have to go back and prune plot-tangles, fill in plot-holes, get the characters consistent...that's what the second draft focuses on. (that's what I am doing now)

    Not until the third draft do you start worrying about grammar and whatnot.
     
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  11. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    One point I forgot to mention...

    Never, ever, EVER compare your drafts to already published works that you love. That's an easy trap to fall into, where you'd think...

    "I'll never be as good as <insert name of your favorite author>."

    OR

    "My story sucks compared to <insert name of your favorite story>".

    Remember, those stories have had the benefit of multiple drafts (probably more than you'd think) & professional editing. Yours hasn't. It's an early draft, and as another poster mentioned, it's going to suck. Allow it to suck as you, and the draft, improve.
     
  12. Saying that other people feel this way would be a grievous understatement. In fact, i think these feelings are all but universal to writers. I have felt this way sometimes. You favorite author has felt this way sometimes. Just about everyone who have ever pointed a pen in the general direction of a piece of paper has felt all the things you're describing.

    Other people will recommend study of the craft, getting a critique group, et cetera. All good things. My recommendations are to write bravely and a lot. Do not be afraid of defiling the blank page. Do you think your writing a mess? Good. Make a mess. Mess up page upon page upon page. Mess up reams of paper. Think of it as destruction rather than creation. Don't try to write good things. Write true things. Write things you're afraid to write. Write and write and write and write and write until either a) you've learned a thing or two or b) you're dead. I promise a) will happen first, excluding freak accidents and the quick onset of incurable disease. With every word you write you are defeating that fear, putting it in its place. Do it!

    I wrote my first novel without any idea of how and it sucked, but I finished that first novel and I learned. I wrote my second novel and it was better due to what the first taught me, but still sucked. I wrote my third novel and right now I'm trying to rewrite it, working my way toward not sucking. I'm not quite sure where I am, but I'm getting there. What i'm saying is, the experience of getting through those three books taught me more than reading about how to write books ever could.

    Studying the craft is good,but you have to kill the fear first. It's ongoing, i'll warn you. Don't stop.
     
  13. CSEllis

    CSEllis Dreamer

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    With my work I get this regularly, though far less often than I used to.

    I like to think of it like that scene in Lord of the Rings.

    "This task was appointed to you, Frodo Baggins, if you do not do it, no one will."

    It doesn't work immediately, but it helps, plus its an ego booster. (Although I'm not sure of the imagery regarding the ultimate goal being to destroy my writing...)

    I don't know how long the OP has been writing for, but for myself I've been writing for a while and the knowledge that there has been a definite improvement with each project means that whilst I might be stuck now, in a few months I'll be writing again and better than I am now.

    I'd also suggest taking a break if matters become too problematic. Read an exciting book, read an old favourite. Forget about writing and then it'll start to miss you and pounce upon you and you'll be all energized to write all over again!
     
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