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I want to stop caring.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Nimue, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I don’t write. I’ve put out less than 5k words since November. I sit down to write for an hour with everything else blocked and come up with 150 words. That was a pretty good day. I wish more than anything else that I could be content with not writing, with just reading and daydreaming and planning things out sometimes, because that’s all I’m doing anyway. If I could just excise this misguided desire to write a book, I wouldn’t be spending every waking moment alone guilty that I’m not writing, that I haven’t written, that I won’t write.

    Yet with every song I listen to, every book I finish reading, the stories come welling up again, and putting them on paper is the most vivid they’ll get… All I can wonder is whether it would be more painful to keep trying for something I have no aptitude for or more painful to sever that limb & name it the failure it is. The balances keep sliding; it’s inevitable. The world does not need or desire another clumsy, mediocre fantasy manuscript— I’m the only one that needs it, and at this point I don’t know why.

    If I can’t yet cut out that childhood wish, too long-grown to be nipped in the bud… I want to stop caring. I want to write awful things when I want to, and not mind how misshapen or infrequent or incomplete they are. I want to stop judging writing a minute old, for being ugly in its skin and bones… I don’t want to think about anything beyond its utility. I want to write a rough draft and not choke on it. Like when you’re drawing and don’t see the sketch, but what you imagine, when the eye willingly fools itself and lets you work on… Where has that useful delusion gone? How do you find it again?
     
  2. goldhawk

    goldhawk Troubadour

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    Ira Glass on Beginners:

    "Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone has told me. All of us who are in creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is a gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.

    "And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do something interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all got through this.

    "And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece.

    "It's only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You just gotta fight your way through."
     
  3. Ruru

    Ruru Minstrel

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    I feel what you have written, especially when you suddenly wrote about the childhood wish. I write because the world of my imagination when I was a child seemed too bright and too strong to not put down on paper. To become another world like the books I read so avidly. But now, so many years later, I fight for the time I tell myself I need in order to write, only to wonder why I need to write at all. It seems likely that few will ever read my efforts, and often enough when I read them myself, I cringe.

    There are dark phases, of thinking it is time perhaps to put it aside, to move on as I have moved on from other childhood hobbies. But then it all swings around again, and I remember that mostly, I write because I take my own small enjoyment from it, because of the immersion in my own private world that is so akin to the reading of books.

    And so I make notes, scribble sentences and cross them out, and sometimes, if I'm lucky, pour out a page or two in a pent up burst. And when none of that comes to me, and I sit idle twiddling my pen, I come to this forum to read, and find out that I am not alone. I think my delusion returns when I allow myself to write for the enjoyment of it alone, and forget all the rest for a while.
     
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  4. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    How about you try switching to short stories and poems Nimue? You'll be finishing stories left and right, and if one doesn't turn out well? Well, then you can easily start another, and another, and another. It's the same as book writing, but far less pressure and far more satisfaction.
     
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  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I'm a bit surprised to read this because I've read some of your work before and it shows promise. Even so, I'm going to give you some hard truths. Deep down, you already know them, but since we all fall off the train at times, they're good to consider when needed.

    If you want to stop caring, then do so.

    If you can't stop caring, then stop whinging about it and get to work.

    You're simply afraid of one of the following:
    A) You're afraid of the hard work.
    B) You're afraid of not writing eloquently.

    If it's A, I've got bad news for you. The only way to get better is by doing the work, by sitting your ass in a chair and slogging it out. If you can't bring yourself to work hard, you'll never be any more of a writer than you are right now at this moment.

    If it's B, then you're simply being unfair to yourself. You're comparing your beginner, amateur self to books written by professionals, who've also had the benefit of professional editing. That's an unfair comparison, and one that's fairly common, but oh so damaging.

    Of course, it sucks. It should! Few people have ever sat down and whipped out a masterpiece because they were just so damned talented. They worked hard. They understood that their work was originally garbage and that it took study and experimentation to improve their skills. They set about training and educating themselves on craft and different techniques, and they wrote and revised, wrote and revised. All the greats went on a steady diet similar to this, and there are exceedingly few exceptions.

    "The first draft of anything is shit." ─ Hemingway

    “Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” ─ Michael Crichton

    “Very few writers know what they’re doing until they’ve done it.” ─ Annie Lamott

    “All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.” ─ Erica Jong

    "Only ambitious non-entities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one's sputum." ─ Vladimir Nabokov

    Look at some of those quotes by famous writers. Hell, even Nabokov & Hemingway understood their first attempts were absolute shit. So, either stop making excuses, suck it up and do the work, or do something else with your time. No one is forcing you to be a writer. If it's what you truly want, you'll be willing to put the effort in.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2018
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I think I'm going to get that put on a tee shirt...
     
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Nabokov had an eye for the icky, didn't he?

    I sort of agree with T. Allen Smith. If you can stop caring, then you should. Anyone who can possibly stop writing--or stop creating any other sort of art--should endeavor to do so. It's not possible for some. They just keep trying to write, however fitfully, because they can't seem not to write.

    I'm further along than you, Nimue, in that I have some completed work I'm not embarrassed to show, but I'm right beside you on the emotional level. Writing does not bring me joy, and the childhood fantasy vanished long ago--slain, I suspect, somewhere on the seven-year fields of graduate school. I keep writing, though, because it is the rope that suspends me over an abyss. Sure my hands are raw, but what am I going to do, let go? I keep writing because I'm sixty-six years old and I have more stories in me than I have years left to me. If wonder has escaped, maybe try desperation.

    To put it another way, maybe you don't need *that* reason to keep going, maybe you just need *a* reason. It doesn't even need to be a good one. I know my reasons appall some people--I've seen the look on their face when I say it.

    As for quality ... well. Go read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for a discussion of quality. As others have said, you are the worst judge of your own work, though one does get better at it the more *completed* works one writes. I won't even advise you to put aside the novel, but if a short story idea comes along, by all means don't make the poor darling wait. But if you take the time to write it, write all the way to done, which means all the way to having submitted it to at a minimum of nine magazines. Success means getting all the way to rejection. :)

    It's okay to despair. This is desperate work.
     
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  8. Hmm. Maybe you should visit a therapist to try to figure out what is at the root of this and reconnect with your creative self.
     
  9. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Then stop.

    Or...do you want to learn how to really write? If it's the latter then there will always be challenges regardless of where you are in skill and level of craft. You have to apply yourself and write regularly, even if it's 400 words a day like Tom.

    I'll throw this out at you as well: if you feel like a mentorship might help, I'll offer my services for free. Give it a mull over.
     
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  10. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I'm sorry, I shouldn't have posted this... No, I can't make myself take the way out, but I don't see the way forward either. It is disgust for the quality of my writing and it is fear of the hard work, utter laziness...fear that hard work will do nothing. I can't believe that my work would ever be published and I don't have the guts to self-publish, so the only purpose is self-entertainment...it's hard to work on something you don't believe in. I just want it. Irrationally, stupidly, I want it.

    I've worked on my current project for almost exactly two years and have next to nothing to show for it. 30k of rough draft. A rambling outline that isn't even finished (see: act III). Another first chapter and a bit of a second. Two years. I keep wasting my time. The cycle of procrastination and guilt gives my brain everything it wants: to do nothing and feel bad. That's not what I want! I don't know how to really, truly get out, not knowing all I do about my own habits, my own eternal failure to stick with it I was going to start a thread about beginning a daily habit before I bottomed out, and now...I can't believe that I could ever maintain a daily habit. Maybe I'll find a little faith tomorrow. I don't know.
     
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  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Honestly, 30k after two years is way further along than I was. Then again, you don't want to know long it took me to get Goblins finished.

    I'm not going to try to make you feel better. When in the pit of despond, that's where you are. It does help--it never helped me anyway--to have people stand up on the lip telling me all I had to do was climb out. All I can say is that from this outsider's perspective, that doesn't look like failure. It's just not as far along as you wanted to be.

    As for the quality, it's as I said before. That's a tough one. Maybe you're too hard on yourself; maybe you're dead on. I'm not good there at all because I've always had this silly idea that my writing is intrinsically good, even when it feels like I'm writing crap. Maybe that's experience, maybe it's core personality. It just makes you and I different.

    I hope you find that faith.
     
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  12. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Sweetie, we are all our worst critics. Writing and publishing takes both incredible humility and startling hubris, and what lies between is madness and too much coffee. Faerie Rising, the beautiful book I just sent to Planet Comicon, took something along the lines of 15 years to write. I don't admit to that very often, but it's true. Fortunately, the second book, Ties of Blood and Bone, isn't taking nearly so long, but it was almost as long in the development phase as the first. Writing takes the time it takes. Please, don't punish yourself for not pumping out words like Alexander Hamilton. He was nuts.

    Writers write, and you are a writer. Stories spin in your head like silk on a loom. That's all that truly matters. Write for the pure pleasure and joy of writing, of watching your characters and worlds grow beneath your pen, and don't worry what it may look like at first. All babies are ugly at the beginning. You will improve every day, even if you only write a sentence at a time. Write for you, write for love, because this is a mountain we are climbing and it rewards passion.

    You can do this. I have faith in you.
     
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  13. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    One thing I also want to mention here is that sometimes, writing difficulties can have foundations in mental health issues. Be gentle with yourself and maybe consider that your mental health may be a little precarious at the moment. As a writer who struggles with severe mental illness, I totally understand how badly it can derail even the most promising of projects.
     
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  14. Corwynn

    Corwynn Troubadour

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    Nimue, I know well what you describe. I feel too feel the desire to write, and yet am deeply repulsed by the prospect of sitting down and writing, even though I enjoy the act (or at least do not dislike it) during and afterwards. Some of us have heavier burdens to bear, and it is not fair to judge yourself by the standards of those who do not have to carry that weight in addition to everything else. You may not reach the stratospheric heights of fame and acclaim, but you can still accomplish the core of your mission if you really set your mind to it. Unfortunately, getting from here to there will take work, there's no two ways about it. However, that doesn't mean you have to do it alone.

    When I was a boy, I used to draw a lot. It was my hobby, and I was pretty good for my age (or so people told me), but at some point I lost my passion for it, and so I stopped. I wanted to start drawing again, but I couldn't bring myself to. I eventually convinced myself that drawing wasn't really my thing, and that I was never very good at it, nor will I ever be. Then, some years later, I took a drawing class, and it changed that perception. I was able to prove to myself that I do have a talent for drawing, and even if that talent is undeveloped, it can and will improve. More importantly, I found out that I did truly enjoy that act of drawing, losing myself in it, being invigorated by it. While ultimately I failed to reignite my motivation to create, I do at least have some memories and a few pieces of work that I can look back on with pride, and hope.

    Returning to writing, my job, as both a university student and a reporter for the campus newspaper, involves writing. Through this, I have been able to hone my craft, whether I like it or not, and I have become very good at it. Even if I haven't, and you haven't, the bar to being published is not as high as you may think it is, judging by some novels I've read recently.

    What you need, Nimue, is a fire under your ass to get you moving again. I don't know if you'll ever not need that fire, so far I remain dependent on it, but it's what works. Taking a writing class, or joining a creative writing club may be the best thing for you. Some accountability goes a long way. You'll also learn whether or not writing is truly "your thing" (I suspect it is). If you truly enjoy it, you'll be reminded why, and what it feels like. If your work really does have flaws (and whose doesn't?), you will learn what exactly these flaws are and how to fix them, instead of constantly wondering and worrying about every aspect of your craft.

    Some people will tell you to just soldier through it, but sheer willpower alone can only take you so far. Some of us need more help than others, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you need help, we here are willing to provide it, to the best of our abilities.
     
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  15. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I'd like to emphasize something Corwynn just posted....
    I have two groups of critique partners, one online and one live.

    The online group is composed entirely of members from Mythic Scribes. There's four of us in total. This group lacks any structure regarding submission requirements. We post work for review whenever it's ready & we review each others work whenever we're able.

    I get a lot of great insight from the reviews these partners provide, but perhaps more importantly the support they lend. Each an every member of this group has fallen off the train at some point over the years we've worked together. Yet, we're still together, struggling through this incredibly difficult task of producing a quality novel. I'm so very thankful for their help, but even more so for their friendship. It really does help to struggle together.

    The other group, the live one, meets once a month. There are review and submission requirements. If you miss your submission requirements, they'll call you out. When you're lazy, and it always shows in the work, they'll let you know. I've learned a great deal from these people and I've incorporated a great many of their ideas into my story, but the most important thing I've learned is that hard work, that extra effort, truly pays off.

    I hear what is working in the story. I hear the excitement over a good character. I hear that this dialogue or that description engaged them as a reader. I hear what was funny to them (learning to write humor has been oh so difficult for me).

    As a result of hearing the bad reports, striving for better feedback, and hearing the positive reviews, my writing has vastly improved during the four years this group has been running. I still think I have a ways to go, but I also know I'm so much closer to producing the quality of work that I demand before I publish.

    Nimue, please consider finding a group like this. If you can't find one, form one. My live group is a group that I pulled together after trying several other live groups that didn't quite cut it. Both groups are invaluable.

    I hope that helps.
     
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  16. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I think T.Allen.Smith and Corwynn are bang on when suggesting a real live writers group may work for you.
    But it has to be one that is supportive and positive. You may have to hit on a few to find one that fits.
    I write academic and technical papers and we have a critique session before we go anywhere near submitting or publishing.
    Sometimes a piece is torn apart, and that feels terrible if you've spent a week writing it.
    But it is always done in an effort to find out how it could be made better.
    So feedback could be "What were you trying to say here? It wasn't clear to me" and not "I think your idea is crap..."
    We have deadlines and submission requirements just like the real thing [exactly like the real thing for the submission requirements].
    Almost without fail I leave the room feeling down after a paper is submitted to the group and they show me what is wrong with it but so much better when I've rewritten it and you get the nods of approval.
    Okay I will admit that I don't practice what I am preaching when it comes to my fiction writing but my aim there is not that I want to get published. I write because I like writing. I feel better when I have a chance to write for half an hour with no interruptions... It's the cheapest therapy I know.
    That said I know that some of the lessons I've learned from the group do affect how I write away from my day job. And usually for the better... I've leaned that most stories don't work with appendices or in text graphics. At least my works doesn't. And to check tenses are constant [at least in the same paragraph].
    Good luck in finding a way forward...
     
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  17. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Nimue, are you asking for help? Or permission to quit? I'm a bit confused as to what you're in need of...
     
  18. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    To me, it's not a useful delusion, but a necessary tool. When I write that first draft, I don't give a damn about what others would think about it -- because they are never going to see it. I've seen writers who will write a first chapter of a first draft, and immediately ask others what they think. I would never do that. I already know it's bad, and to invite others to tell me so is like asking to have a bucket of scalding water poured over my head. It leaves me burning and wanting to crawl up somewhere and die.

    For that first draft, I write like it's NaNoWriMo. The end product will need editing, and I know it. I write a second draft, and usually a third and even a fourth. I make three editing passes after that, each one catching things I missed before. Then I send to beta readers. That's the first time anyone else sees my writing. In the beginning of my process, I really don't care whether what I've written meets any sort of publishing standard or would make anyone else happy.

    Then the feedback comes from beta readers. I discover I've still missed things. While I always ask for honest critiques from my beta readers, sometimes what they have to say can be disheartening. I've gone through this much of the process three times now. That is, three times I've reached a point with my WIP where I sent it to beta readers. Three times I've thought what I've done might be close to publishable. Twice now I've decided after reading beta reader feedback to revise the novel, each time for a different reason. Each time, I could have said, self, you're a failure. This is beyond your capabilities. You have no aptitude for this. Quit this and focus on some other hobby. Part of me was saying that. But I refuse to accept those views as my truths.

    As mentioned above, I've submitted to beta readers three times now. Right now, the third set of beta readers is returning their feedback. They have criticisms, much of it deserved. But even the feedback I feel is undeserved tells me something. It's up to me to decipher it and apply it to my writing in a way that works for me. And I can't let it get me down.

    Criticism is a hard pill to swallow, so I don't put myself in that position any more often than I have to. Others tout the virtues of writing/critique groups, and if you go that route, maybe it will work for you. I want to tell you that not everyone needs it. Try whatever you can think of that might be of help and see if you're right. If it doesn't work, try something else. I made the decision that failure was not an option. I will keep at this until I can't anymore. You can make that decision too if you want, and never look back. Or go some other route. Everyone is similar but different. You have to find your own way forward.
     
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  19. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I want this back too. I used to produce so much more before I became 'good' at it. Now my own standards demand the quality I am used to and its price has been the loss of a type of freedom to just write it without a care. Its like I cannot sketch anymore, I must always be shading. If only I could just switch it on when it was wanted, and leave it off so the words would just spill out poor and ugly, and get it done.

    But there it is. If only I could unlearn what I have learned...but perhaps that is the next thing to learn. Who can know?
     
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  20. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I struggled with my first novel for 15 years. Tons of false starts, I could never find the right plot, the right way of writing it, the right way to put all my ideas together. You know what got me going?

    I stopped caring.

    I stopped caring about if things were good. I stopped caring if things were well thought out. I stopped caring about being original. I stopped caring about failing, because I was already doing that quite well.

    What I did do was start putting words down on the page. I just sat down everyday and wrote for a preset amount of time. Sometimes I got a lot of words down. Other times not so much. I just let the whims of the moment guide what got put to page, and three years and three drafts later, I finished my golden, glorious 275k mountain of poop.

    For me, this let me know what finishing was like. It let me know what it took. And finally, it let me know I could write something that long, even if it stunk.

    I don't know what challenges you face day-to-day. I won't sit here and say that it'll be easy.

    But if you want to write, if you feel the need to write, just sit down and maybe try this. Pick a character, any character, put them in a random place, and just have your character meet who ever and do what ever comes to your mind, and see where it leads you.

    Don't think. Just write. It may or may not make sense, but who cares? If it's just twenty pages of them drinking a glass of milk, who cares? If its twenty pages of them contemplating how much they hate the color brown, who cares? If it's twenty pages of venting with your character kicking the crap out of the rude guy on the bus, who cares? The only thing that matters is have some fun, be silly, be terrible--accidentally and on purpose, be anything you want. Just don't be sitting still.

    Wander this way and that. You may find your way. You may not. As long as your having fun, it doesn't matter. It's time well spent, because it's better than feeling bad about not writing, no?
     
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