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I want to stop caring.

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

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    That's strange, pmmg. For me it's rather the opposite. In earlier efforts I was painfully aware of the writing itself and struggled mightily. Lately, though this happens only in unpredictable ways, I write the story and not the words. That is, my attention is almost wholly on attending to the details of the scene--the tone of dialog, a feel for back-and-forth and talking at cross-purposes, calling in bits of description, even moving through action scenes--and the words come readily to hand.

    The best analogy I can think of his playing guitar. As a novice, I was painfully aware of which string to pluck or how to place my fingers to make the next chord. With practice, that stuff came naturally, without conscious thought, even to the point of moving at the right time from a major to a minor seventh or some such. It flowed as easy as talking. I put the guitar aside for many years (fell in love with midi keyboards and sequencing). When I returned, that old clumsiness was back.
    Nimue and Penpilot like this.
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Ok, I need to pay closer attention to this site (despite assorted RL catastrophes)

    Nimue -

    I told you this several times over the course of 'Top Scribe:' I shall tell you again:

    Your stories are good. Easily as good as some of those that make print in established publications like 'Fantasy & Science Fiction' or 'Asimov's.' Depressed at taking a while with the big novel? Then write more short stories. That was what I did.

    I have been 'writing' on and off for longer than many of the posters on this site have been alive. Up until 2010, the total number of my completed works could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Except they weren't finished, they were just completed rough drafts. I came to this site with a list of five or six earlier projects that I deemed salvageable. Thus far, with immense effort - literally three years of on/off effort, I managed to get one and a half of those 'good enough for other eyes' (the half I broke down into novelette length chunks.)

    It turned out I had a whole bunch of stuff to learn. I did so with short stories, most written for various challenges on this site, most notably 'Iron Pen' - the model for 'Top Scribe' - close to two dozen of them altogether over a 2-3 year span. Only then did I start in with the longer projects again, failing one NaNo after another, but sticking with each tale until I had a passable rough draft anyhow. Now, I am slowly and painfully revising those stories. The current one: 'Empire: Capital,' was 35,000 words, the revised version should be around 50,000. I have been struggling with the rewrite since October (though I can plead a failed NaNo novelette in November and personal tragedy). 150 words a session? Welcome to the club. Only in the past few weeks have I started making serious headway. Right now, I am hopeful of getting Capital revamped by months end.

    Nimue: Your work has potential. Not ready for the novel? Then participate either in my Challenge or Devor's. Use those challenges to explore your world and characters.

    I started TS for the express purpose of helping people in your situation - time and again I would see promising, yet badly flawed examples in Showcase, or read threads posted by novices all to similar to this one.
    Nimue, Devor, T.Allen.Smith and 3 others like this.
  3. Tom

    Tom Istar

    Nim, you're a wonderful writer and a great friend to me. You've given me such great advice over the years, and I think I should return the favor.

    Take it slow. Write a little every day. It's what I'm doing--just making it a habit of getting words on the page, programming it into my brain so that when I sit down with my laptop and some free time it recognizes that it's time to write. A novel isn't an easy task, so I've let myself break it up with short stories and other, smaller projects whenever I start to feel daunted. It's healthy to allow yourself that breathing space instead of just plowing through until you're exhausted and spent.

    I still hate every word I write, because that's how I am. You and I both have insufferable pricks for inner editors. We both need to just power through the criticisms that rise to the front whenever we reread our writing. If it helps you, I'd suggest not rereading ANYTHING. I used to spend so much time editing, so dissatisfied with my own work that I would cut and cut until I'd destroyed everything I'd accomplished the day before. It got to the point where I was editing more than I was actually writing. This year I realized how hurtful this was to my workflow, so I've made a promise to myself to only edit once or twice a week. You and I seem to have the same writing habits--editing as we go instead of waiting until the finish. It's been scary, letting a rough draft be a rough draft, but very freeing. Just concentrate on the page you're on, and pretend all the ones before it are written in stone. Keep moving ahead.

    I love your work, Nim, and I think sometimes you can't see how amazing it is. You can be really hard on yourself, and it hurts your creativity when you're unforgiving of your own flaws. I know from experience. Keep fighting and dreaming, and tell your inner critic to shut the f*ck up!
    Nimue, Ruru and Chessie2 like this.
  4. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    I'm sorry for taking so long to respond to this...in part because I wanted to get some writing done before coming back here and ruminating over how bad I am at writing. Rubbed the rust off the chapter I got stuck on, reminded myself of what putting words down actually feels like. Not much, but not nothing. I am feeling better. I just need...a different tack. Some way to start over with my habits. I'm torn between pushing myself harder and easing up. Maybe it is both--pushing myself to write whenever I can, however much I can muster, but at the same time cutting back on stressing about writing when I'm not actively engaged in it, cutting back on reading about advice and criticism and wordcounts--all those terrible avenues for comparison. I want to rediscover some of the single-minded joy of writing I had even a few years ago, before my desire to get serious, be competent, started to be crossed by my own perception that I was failing, again and again, one stuttering draft and lost NaNo after another.

    No, I don't want to give up writing. That much is clear from how painful that's been to think about. At its root, this is about anger at my own inaction--but that can be solved. I don't know that I can change how I feel about my prose or my productivity, but I need to keep that from stopping me completely. It's frustrating--I could see it at work the last few days, trying to get something written. I'll open the doc and my eye will inevitably catch on the worst sentence on the page, I'll get that stab of disgust and ennui, and shut the doc again. When at last I do get into it, I begin to second-guess myself, wonder if I should cut this or that or if I'm starting from the right place or if there's enough conflict or if the tone is all wrong. Begin to sense how much I'll hate this passage when I read it the next day. While the negativity hurts, it's the uncertainty that paralyzes me--looking back at something and not even knowing whether I should scrap it or push on. Of course I don't know! The damn draft isn't even written yet. Tom, I think you're right; I need to stop re-reading at all. Part of the problem is that I'm not writing for any professional goal, but honestly just to entertain myself. But I keep re-reading the draft wanting to be entertained, and of course it isn't in any shape to be read. What do I do about these awful habits of the brain? Recognize them, put a pin in them, try my best not to give in to them, I suppose.

    I do want to thank you guys for all your kind, wise words... Maybe I should go back and try to respond to everyone, but it's late and I don't know if this should be re-hashed--just know that I read everything and thought about it and did unfortunately tear up a couple times, heh. I don't really deserve the reassurance when I haven't put in the work, but still, I'll store away both commiseration and advice for reflection next time I hit a rough patch... All I can do is try and muddle on in good faith and just, just put words on the page.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I traded joy in for determination a long time ago. There's a payoff, though. There's genuine satisfaction once you get one of the miserable things to completion. Meanwhile, I refuel on small items--a turn of phrase, a bit of dialog, a bit of positive feedback from a beta reader. I'm pathetic, I'll take most anything.
    Lisselle, Nimue and A. E. Lowan like this.
  6. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

  7. Lisselle

    Lisselle Minstrel

    Hi Nimue. I felt so sad reading your original post. We hear the siren song of writing, and it is a beautiful torture a lot of the time.
    I write to immerse myself in the Worlds I have created, and I can only do so by assuming NO ONE will ever read my work. I will NEVER try to become published, and I ONLY write for myself! That way all pressure is gone, and I can allow my creativity to flow, and be my work, living each scene as though I were there.
    I hope you find your Magic again, even your posts are beautifully written. I find that I can only truly be happy when I write every day, so even if I do not feel like writing, I make myself. Good luck!
    I have a quote above my computer-
    "There are many wonderful things that will never be done if you do not do them." - Honourable Charles D. Gill.
    Nimue likes this.
  8. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    Thank you for this, Chess. A good read, clear, common-sense, and he avoids a lot of the this-way-that-way prescriptivism that’s so hard to swallow. He makes it sound so simple...

    Persistence is everything, then; only I feel whatever the opposite of “driven” is right now. Adrift, maybe. I’ve written 5.5k in the past 6 days. None of it was on what I should be writing, just a fluff piece that’s essentially unreadable by virtue of its premise. I’m hoping to ease myself back on track with less rust. It’s just oh, there it is, you wrote as much in a week as you have in the past four months, you could have been doing this all along, why aren’t you?. I don’t know—it is possible—maybe I need to admit to myself that my main project is equally fluffy and lean into the scenes that I enjoy, quit believing that it must be valuable, worthy, well-balanced, readable... Maybe it’s possible to carve something readable out of the worst of my self-indulgent fluff. I’ve yet to see it.

    Cut for more indefensible venting.
    I just cannot, cannot get over the feeling that I should have been where I am now 5, 6 years ago. In college, coming out of college, I had no excuse not to write better. Just ignorance and vanity. For that matter, where am I now? What exactly have I done? Let’s see. About three years ago I joined this forum, 2015, and since then I have: Abandoned a novel. Failed my extremely low word goals during every NaNo. Written two short stories a year. Abandoned another rough draft to start again. Painted essentially nothing. Have not learned how to finish anything or edit anything. Haven’t even learned how to outline properly, apparently. And yeah, that’s the entire point. I should have moved past this ages ago, absolutely. It’s inexcusable.

    Siiigh. Can you tell I’m turning 27 next week, and real happy about it?
    Lisselle likes this.
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I think many feel similarly. I know I did and do. But one of things I've come to realize is that we all advance at our own pace for whatever reasons. And that you're not ready until you are.

    There are times I wish I knew what I know now when I was 20, but, IMHO, that's the trade off, time and effort for experience and wisdom. I know that there are things I can write now that I could never write when I was 20. I just wasn't ready in many ways other than writing skills.

    Try to move passed this feeling because the past is immutable. The only thing that you can change is the now and the future. To dwell on the past too much is like putting money into a broken vending machine. You can put as many quarters as you want into it, but what you wish will always be out of reach, and all you're doing is wasting more and more money on the impossible.
    Lisselle and Michael K. Eidson like this.
  10. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

    Hey Nimue.

    Hope you’re feeling a little better. Apologies—I haven’t read this whole thread.

    This is difficult stuff to deal with, and no two people’s paths will be the same. But, I thought I’d share how I handled my own version of this problem.

    First of all, I just finished my first novel the weekend before last (there’s a thread about it in Writer’s Work). I’m pretty sure it didn’t turn out all that well, but I’ll let others decide that. But strangely, even though I’m not real proud of the story, I’ve been in a pretty good mood. I think there are two reasons. One is that I planned on finishing, told people I was going to finish, and made good on that part of it. The other is that I’m really fired-up about getting to the next story. Right from the start I’ll be addressing the shortcomings I discovered while writing that first novel. This second story should be bigger, better, more ambitious, and all around more satisfying.

    The entire time I was working on the first novel, I had a sinking feeling that I was overlooking things, doing something or other wrong, or just flat out blowing it. Somehow, I packed those voices away and allowed them very little oxygen. I knew this thing might not be great, but just pushed myself through anyway. I’m glad I did. Early on in the revision, the thing had more or less reduced me to tears. I took a break with a short story or two, then went back to it.

    It wasn’t until just a couple of months ago or so that I realized the story wasn’t going to work. I finished anyway. I don't know how the next one might turn out, but I’ve got higher hopes for it.

    My suggestion is simply to give yourself permission to write a mediocre novel and then stick it out no matter how it’s going.

    Take care!
    Michael K. Eidson and Penpilot like this.

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