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How to deal with indecisiveness?

Gurkhal

Auror
As some may or may not have noticed I have become, or maybe always been, very indecisive so that I seem unable to hold to my decisions in regards to my writing (which has kind of withered at the moment) due to this.

Thus I come here to ask if anyone knows a way to deal with indecisivness?

My main symptom is having second thoughts about stuff all the time and jumping around, always hounded by second thoughts that leads to keep going and never settle down on a story, a setting or whatever.
 
Do you share your stories with anyone?

If you share, you're committing. Whoever you're sharing your work with will expect some consistency.

Your current pattern sounds like brainstorming to me. Which is fine if that's the stage you're at. It's fine to have lots of different ideas. It's fine to play with them. It's fine to make changes.

Sometimes the idea you discard for one story becomes the basis for a different story. That's brainstorming. That's how it works. And sometimes you just plain discard the idea. It was fun to play with, but it doesn't end up on paper (or screen). That's okay too.

Sounds like you just haven't moved on from the brainstorming stage.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I agree with every word from Rosemary Tea (do you really drink that?), but I have a couple of questions.

About those second thoughts. I'm interested to hear how that works, exactly. You have an idea you think is a good one. What happens then? What follows next, third, after?

At some point in the after, you get the dreaded Second Thoughts. What are those, exactly? Do you write them down?

How many are fatal to the project? Just one thought, one misgiving is enough? Try tracking that. What you're aiming for here is to get an objective look at these second thoughts, what they look like (is it always the same), when they start arising, how you deal with them, and at what point they torpedo a project. Seems to me, until you can take these things out and look at them in the clear light of day, they will be bogeys in the fog, always scary.
 
I agree with every word from Rosemary Tea (do you really drink that?)

Yes. It's quite soothing.

Seriously, rosemary, sometimes with other herbs added, is something I use to get myself through writer's block and procrastination... which, in my case, tends to be linked to performance anxiety. I have trouble just going ahead and doing the work, I tend to worry about how it will come out. I don't know if it's an actual effect of the herb or just psychological (probably both; herbs have psychological healing properties too, and self acceptance is one of rosemary's), but it works for me.
 

pmmg

Istar
My method of handing this is commit to write something, good or bad, and dont go back. Write the end, and only then decide if it needs to be altered or not. This goes along with one in hand is better than two in the bush.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
One of the things I had to leave behind in order to make progress in writing is to stop being too precious with my stories and my ideas. You're going to make mistakes regardless, so just give it some thought, make a choice, and live with the consequences. You can always edit and rewrite. And if it still sucks after a rewrite, learn from your mistakes, move on, and try to do better next time.

Twice I've thrown out the last half of a novel to rewrite that half from scratch.

After struggling for years with my first novel, I just said screw it and decided I'd choose the most straightforward and cliche path in front of me. As it turns out, it wasn't as straight forward or cliche as I thought. It still sucked, but I finished, I learned, and I did better with the next novel, and the novel after that, and the novel after that, and the novel after that.

If you're always afraid to take a step forward for fear of stepping on a landmine, you'll never take a step ever. You have to be bold and just go for it.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
Do you share your stories with anyone?

I have on occassion when I have finished writing something I have gotten some pretty good feedback on it. So I feel that I can write things that people would enjoy reading. When I can actually commit to the project of writing it and finish it.

If you share, you're committing. Whoever you're sharing your work with will expect some consistency.

I agree but until I feel that I can deliver I don't feel like I want to commit and disappoint someone else.

Your current pattern sounds like brainstorming to me. Which is fine if that's the stage you're at. It's fine to have lots of different ideas. It's fine to play with them. It's fine to make changes.

I desperately want to get past the brainstorm part and start the writing. I've got too many stories I want to tell.

Sometimes the idea you discard for one story becomes the basis for a different story. That's brainstorming. That's how it works. And sometimes you just plain discard the idea. It was fun to play with, but it doesn't end up on paper (or screen). That's okay too.

I agree.

About those second thoughts. I'm interested to hear how that works, exactly. You have an idea you think is a good one. What happens then? What follows next, third, after?

Usually its "Can I pull it off?" or I start to think about something else and lose the momentum that's been building.

At some point in the after, you get the dreaded Second Thoughts. What are those, exactly? Do you write them down?

No, I haven't so far. Its mostly questions of myself if I can or should write this or if I'll get into problem for it by steeping one someone's toes or something and it keeps building and building.

How many are fatal to the project? Just one thought, one misgiving is enough? Try tracking that. What you're aiming for here is to get an objective look at these second thoughts, what they look like (is it always the same), when they start arising, how you deal with them, and at what point they torpedo a project. Seems to me, until you can take these things out and look at them in the clear light of day, they will be bogeys in the fog, always scary.

One follows the other in an endless stream of objections, critical remarks and I finally just abandon it.

My method of handing this is commit to write something, good or bad, and dont go back. Write the end, and only then decide if it needs to be altered or not. This goes along with one in hand is better than two in the bush.

I wish I could. But as I progress my resolve weakens until I abandon the project.

One of the things I had to leave behind in order to make progress in writing is to stop being too precious with my stories and my ideas. You're going to make mistakes regardless, so just give it some thought, make a choice, and live with the consequences. You can always edit and rewrite. And if it still sucks after a rewrite, learn from your mistakes, move on, and try to do better next time.

I don't feel I've got this problem. Its getting the first draft down at all that's the problem.
If you're always afraid to take a step forward for fear of stepping on a landmine, you'll never take a step ever. You have to be bold and just go for it.

In theory I know and I agree. In practice the fear of that landmine is very real.

The quest for perfection ends with incompletion

I agree.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>Usually its "Can I pull it off?" or I start to think about something else and lose the momentum that's been building.
Two separate issues here. The first is pretty important. I think of it as having faith in the story, or at least having faith in the characters. And yes, I know it's all me, so it's really having faith in my ability as a writer. This is where finishing stories becomes so vital. Do a few of these and you start having faith in yourself.

What that means on a practical level is that when you hit those stretches where you don't know if you can do it at all--whether it will be funny, whether the mystery will be mysterious, whether the big battle scene will actually be big--you go ahead anyway because even though you can't see your way clear just now, you've done it before and it worked, so you just have faith it will work again. It doesn't always, but at least you don't kill the story because of it.

The second thing is loss of momentum. That's hogwash in my book, though why anyone would try to wash a hog in a book is beyond me. It's right up there with waiting for inspiration. Much writing, most writing for some of us, is a slog. It's putting one word after another. In a real sense, this is related to the first point: have faith in the story, have faith in yourself. You don't have to enjoy it. It doesn't have to be fun or inspirational or easy. You just keep going. Just write.

>No, I haven't so far. Its mostly questions of myself if I can or should write this or if I'll get into problem for it by steeping one someone's toes or something and it keeps building and building.

This is why I asked about writing it down. If you do, you're forced to explain it to yourself, to make clear what's bugging you. Leave it all inside and it's all bogies in the fog.

>endless stream of objections
Well, it ain't endless. Again, I suggest writing things down, keeping a journal. If you start feeling like one of the pistons is misfiring, pick a time when you aren't actively engaged in writing (don't want to interrupt yourself). Consciously switch to Editor Mode. Write down what's wrong, even if it's just a feeling. Get the stuff out where you can see it.

Think of it like story ideas. As long as they're just ideas, they don't have substance, but they can nag at you. We turn them into stories so they'll shut the heck up. Do that with your negative vibes (shout out to Kelly's Heroes).

I don't mean to sound too prescriptive here, but you did ask "how to deal" so I'm being direct with the best ideas I have. Please don't ask for any more ideas, as I have only a few and have been experiencing supply chain problems. <g>
 

pmmg

Istar
Post or not post, I wish I could decide.

I wish I could. But as I progress my resolve weakens until I abandon the project.

This you must stop. If this is your pattern, you are creating a pattern of failure, which can only reinforce that you will likely repeat in the next effort. You must create instead a pattern of getting to the end. And the only way I know to do that is to so regardless of its quality. Good habits feed themselves. Bad habits feed themselves as well. You need to feed one and not the other.


My current story I began with only this in my head: MC leaves land, makes some friends, abandons her quest at the end. All the other scenes just appear or not as I am writing it. Not much of a formal outline. But, I am 25K words in, and so far so good.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
n theory I know and I agree. In practice the fear of that landmine is very real.

Try stepping on the landmine. Heck, jump on it, stomp on it, and make it go off. Once it does, and the smoke clears, you'll realize that it might sting a bit, but you'll still in one piece. And it's not as bad as you think it'll be. The anticipation is always worse than the consequence. One you realize that, and once you really believe it, you can jump on all the landmines and laugh.

When I took my first college writing course, the way the class worked was we each brought 1-3 pages to the class and read them out loud to be critiqued. Guess who got to be the first student of the semester read their stuff to the class? I'd never really shared any of my writing with anyone before, not to mention the professor was an award winning poet/artist. Add that to some significant social anxiety issues. It was code brown as I braced for my underwear to be instantly filled with bricks the moment I started to read. But I got through it. I got my critiques. I didn't get laughed at. I didn't implode. And after that, it was pretty hard to be scared of anything else in regards to writing.
 
Have you tried plotting?

I get the impression many writers think they're pantsers until they try plotting and discover that it actually helps. As a disclaimer, there definitely are pantsers, and there's nothing wrong with that. They write some fabulous books. But give it a go. It doesn't have to be a 20k word outline that's almost a novel in itself. Just write a few sentences per scene. This happens, then this happens, then that.

The thing is, a novel contains a lot of words (a shocker, I know...). Which takes a lot of time to write. At 500 words an hour a 75k word novel takes 150 hour to write, plus extra for planning, thinking and procrastinating. That's a very long time to be excited by the whole project. So excitement isn't going to get you to the end. It's also a slow and long creep uphill until you get there. Plotting on the other hand means you can simply focus on the next scene. You don't have to worry about 75k words. Just the next 2k-4k words of the next scene. That's a lot more manageable.

As an aside, if it helps, I read a story about Neil Gaiman once. He was in the middle of writing a novel when he called his agent. He complained, much the same, that he didn't know where the story was going, and it was all terrible and everyone was going to hate it. To which his agent replied: "you're at that point in your novel again, are you?" Apparently, it happened in each novel Gaiman wrote where he got to a point where it all felt awful. Just keep writing anyway, and you'll discover it's not as bad as you think.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
You know, I'd suggest that you try writing short stories. They are in many ways less of a commitment and they give another way of getting all those ideas down on paper in a format you can finish. That might help you settle yourself and give you the self-belief that you can finish a story.
 
Try stepping on the landmine. Heck, jump on it, stomp on it, and make it go off. Once it does, and the smoke clears, you'll realize that it might sting a bit, but you'll still in one piece. And it's not as bad as you think it'll be. The anticipation is always worse than the consequence. One you realize that, and once you really believe it, you can jump on all the landmines and laugh.
I really hope you're not a basic training instructor...
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
I really hope you're not a basic training instructor...
Ummmm, nooo...
CreativeObviousAsiandamselfly-max-1mb.gif
 

Puddles

Acolyte
You know, I'd suggest that you try writing short stories. They are in many ways less of a commitment and they give another way of getting all those ideas down on paper in a format you can finish. That might help you settle yourself and give you the self-belief that you can finish a story.
Yes I would agree with this, and it's what I plan to do personally. Write short stories, then a novella, then a novel, then a triology etc etc.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
Thank you all for your advice!

I've started to plot out some stories while this heat lasts. Plan is to take the plotted outlines to the computer when it gets cooler.

So far I've got "A day with Livia" and "Combined Arms" scribbled down. We'll see how this approach goes. I think the most important thing is that I'm doing some writing at least rather than turning nu hands with indecision.
 

Avery Moore

Troubadour
Yes. The answer is a big, resounding yes. In fact, I stalled on writing the first chapter of my novel for about two years before I just couldn't decide on the right backstory for my protagonist. I'd come up with a backstory, decide that it doesn't work, go back and change it, then decide that the last back story was better, change it back, rinse and repeat.

What backstory did I settle on, you may ask... Well... I didn't. I did end up writing the first chapter, but I'm still not sure if this is the backstory that I'm going to use. I may end up going back and changing it all over again. What I've essentially decided is that I'm going to write a first draft and, no matter how unhappy I am with decisions that I've made earlier in the story, I'm not going to go back and change them. I just keep on writing until the first draft is finished and then, once that's out of the way, go back and change all the stuff that I don't like.

My idea is essentially that, once I have my first draft on paper, I'll have a better idea of both the things that I should keep in the story, and the things I want to cut from it. Also, when I have a better understanding of what parts of that story I do really like, I can edit the rest of the story to fit around them. In the end, the story's bound to go through some pretty drastic edits, but it's better than just not writing anything at all because I can't decide how I want the story to begin.
 
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