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Losing Interest When Writing?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by D. Gray Warrior, Nov 15, 2021.

  1. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

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    So, I love worldbuilding, and I like writing. However, I seem to lose interest pretty quickly whenever I try to write a story set in any of my worlds.

    I don't think I've ever been a very prolific writer even before this problem, as I abandoned most of my projects, but even then I would get in at least a few chapters. Now, it seems like I can't even write between a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs before I call it day.

    I've been forcing myself to write even when I am not feeling it because I think that even just a sentence is better than not writing anything at all.

    I also think a lot of what I write is just flat out bland , even writing something like fantasy.

    I believe my main issue is losing touch with my creative side and imagination, and there's stuff I deal with in my daily life like school and work that probably don't help with my issue.

    Does anyone else have this problem? How can I overcome it?
     
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  2. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Inkling

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    I think most writers go through this at some point or other. If I find myself getting stuck then I try to write something else, because I find that the most important thing is writing when I sit down to do so. That means that I tend to have one long novel and one or two short stories on the go at any one time.

    If you're going to be serious about writing (or indeed any studies or any job) then you have to learn to to do whatever-it-is even when you're not in the mood. It's very much a matter of self-discipline, and you have to practice.
     
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  3. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

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    Creating is an incredibly personal thing, so something that is interfering with that is something only you can figure out and solve.

    It's possible that you're trying to create in a way that doesn't fit your style. Some people need to structure everything out before hand: a painter might sketch the painting on the canvas first, or they may need to look directly at a reference; a writer might need to outline every thing that happens in a scene. Some people find any sort of structure stifling. Most are somewhere in the middle.

    You might be putting unreasonable expectations on yourself. When you say your writing is bland, what are you comparing it to? What about fantasy makes something magically un-bland? Who's deciding what is good or isn't? Who's deciding that you NEED to write very day, you must hit a certain word count to be doing a "good job" ? One of the things that can hurt you the most, in any thing, is forcing yourself to look, act, or think a certain way because "they" "say" you "should." Who exactly are they? Where are they saying this? Is it something you really should do? Like I said, creating is very personal, so a system or "rule" that works for someone doesn't work for everyone, and it doesn't mean it'll work for you. So if something isn't working, then stop doing it. If something is only making you beat yourself up, stop doing it.

    Some people are super creative when their life is stressful, some people can't create at all. It's different form everyone. If most of your brain is being taken up by stress about a project at work or midterms, then there isn't a lot of room for it to come up with stuff or focus on writing, and that's okay. You're not writing under a deadline, if you don't write you're not going to starve, so if you have to stop writing for a bit to manage your life, then do that. But you can still write down ideas or notes or very quick things in your phone to explore when you have the bandwidth to do so.

    I got into writing in high school and wrote pretty much every day, super late into the night, spent all of my days off doing it. But once I got into college and a year or two after that, I could barely write anything and I felt horrible about it. My mental health wasn't very good and I was constantly on edge about classes/jobs, anything I did put down I thought was garbage. It was a bad time! What helped me was improving my mental health (getting on the right meds), improving my life situation (not in a terrible job anymore) and getting rid of my inner critic. I started writing fanfiction, where I didn't really care if people didn't like it and I didn't have to worry about plot/characters/setting/whatever if I didn't want to. I tried out different things, too, like topics, genres, voice, tone, I figured out the kinds of things I DO like writing and the kind of things I don't. So when I felt ready to try writing original content again, I felt like a much more developed writer and a lot of the "problems" I used to have didn't really feel like "problems" anymore.

    Writing is supposed to be fun, and if you're not having fun, then try something else. Experiment, allow yourself to make mistakes, write the kind of stuff YOU want to read, no matter how weird or niche it is.
     
  4. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    It happens to everyone - even the most successful writers. I mean, let's face it, George RR Martin has been suffering from writer's block on the Winds of Winter for about a decade now.

    Ernest Hemingway suffered from it and suggested this cure for it:

    ...sometimes when I was started on a new story and I could not get going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.

    I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.’

    So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

    More mundanely, I sometimes find it helps to re-read the last chapter you wrote and edit it. You need to edit it anyway and re-reading it gets you back into the story and you can go on from there.
     
  5. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    When I get writer's block or feel like giving up I picture motivational speakers being roasted slowly over an open fire in my head (I regard them as the scourge of society), watch some Tahitian traditional dancing on YouTube then do some image searches on Yandex to get some inspiration.

    I found this image the other day....

    images (6).jpeg

    The image poses so many questions that gets me thinking. How old is she? Is she angry, frustrated or just concentrating on what she's doing? What sick and twisted deviant devised that colour scheme for her costume? Where did she get those boots? And why is that boy with folded arms looking at her like that?

    And why are so many females in fantasy art portrayed with big breasts? Surely not everyone in medieval Europe were at least C cup, right?

    The fact everyone (except maybe that boy) seems to be treating her as if she's just part of the scenery gave me ideas for dealing with writer's block or when I'm losing interest in my writing.

    (Of course my interpretation of the image could be wrong.)
     
  6. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Archmage

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    As the others here have mentioned, it's about finding your process and learning about yourself, which admitedly is pretty hard. It starts with figuring out if you even want to write or not. There's absolutely nothing wrong with just worldbuilding. It won't get any stories written, but so what. If you have painting as a hobby no one questions you if you just paint funny landscapes which you put in a box when you're done. Worldbuilding is like that, just with words. There's nothing wrong with doing it as a hobby.

    If you do want to write, or perhaps you "want to have written" (which is what a lot of writers actually want...), then try a few different approaches. Some people can't write if they have plotted, others can't if they haven't. Some writers have to write each day and have to work on just one project. Others work on a dozen projects at a time or write in sprints, where they don't write for weeks and then spend a holiday doing nothing but writing. Some people like working early morning while others write at night. For each of those, there's dozens of succesful authors. And each of those authors works best if they follow their own method. So try a few things and see what works.

    For me, I had the issue that I would know the start of a story and start writing. But then at some point I'd simply run out of things to say and stall. For me, plotting was the answer. Just having a list of what chapters to write helped me. And detailing those chapters before I sit down to write them helped me even more. It means I only have to fill in the blanks, instead of having to keep a whole story in my head while writing.

    But that's just what helped me. As I said, try a few things, and see if they work.

    As for quality, there's two things here. Firstly, some people write great first drafts, while others write terrible ones. Again, everyone is different. But that doesn't matter. If you write great first drafts, then you probably do most of your editing in your head and get your sentences right before you write them. If you write not so great first drafts, then you simply fix it in the editing stage. I think it was Terry Pratchet who said "the first draft of anything is simply you telling yourself a story".

    Secondly, imposter syndrome is a real thing. Just because you think it's bad doesn't mean that it is. Often when I'm in the middle of a story my writing feels aweful. Then when I go to reread them they actually seem half decent. And then after two rounds of editing I'm surprised by what I managed to write. It's very well possible that your writing is better than you think. And even if it isn't then that doesn't actually matter. The only way to improve is to write. You wouldn't expect to be able to play like a concert pianist the first time you sit down behind a piano. Why would writing be any different?
     
  7. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    Don't be afraid of poor first drafts. And definitely don't let a poor first draft demoralise you. I personally doubt if any writer is capable of producing a pristine first draft. Some might produce something near final but only by self-editing extensively as they go along, in which case it's not really a true first draft.

    Editing, revising and polishing is a natural part of the writing process. So you should not get despondent if you look at the first draft and think "that's not that great". In fact, if you think that, you're probably on your way to becoming a decent writer.

    To quote Hemingway again "the first draft of anything is s**t." In fact he wrote 47 different endings to one of his novels before he was satisfied that he'd finally got it right.

    Writing is like modelling with clay - you start with something relatively rough and formless and gradually mould it into a work of art. Expecting too much, too soon is a sure fire route to demoralising yourself unnecessarily.
     
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    The reasons could be legion. If you’re writing doesn’t engage you while writing it, it could be a problem related to the prose or structure of the writing itself that’s stalling your engines. I tend to know something isn’t working long before I know why, no matter what a reader might say. Diagnosing the enemy within or on the page is likely needed to overcome the trouble, although muddling and struggling might get you there eventually.

    One instinct you exhibit is right: Force yourself forward. Whether by carrot or stick or cat-o’-nine-tails… okay, that’s a bit extreme… keep on keeping on. Or as Dory said, just keep swimming. Writing is an art and skill, and somewhere in the subsets of skills related to Writing is a thing called Finishing. It’s a skill I and a great many writers lacked one point or another. When I finished my first screenplay it was a rush like nothing else I’d experienced, and made the effort worthwhile.

    All that said! When I started writing Eve of Snows I didn’t just plow forward to the end because I wasn’t satisfied with my prose. For one, I had a lot of screenwriting habits to break. So, I wrote, rewrote, edited and edited and edited until I had the voice and style I wanted, which took longer than writing the rest of the novel, before I finished. Some folks are fine with a crappy draft, I’m not. I consider the first draft the bones, muscles, sinews, guts , and brains of the novel, and editing slapping on the skin of the monster I’ve created. Finishing is good, great even, but finishing something you know is good is better.
     
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    writing seems dull, unable to finish.

    been there, done that...several times.

    with me, it often means the story is taking a wrong tack. I'm not writing a story, I'm writing words, Filler. Upon realizing this, I tend to go back, look at the bland stuff written so far, then go - how do I make this interesting? Is it really necessary?

    Yet, on occasion, stories do have slower sections, Character development, scene setting, other stuff. I try to mix these sections up a little - Tia isn't just descending the stairs in a decrepit castle, she takes a tumble and dang near falls through a hole in the wall - which is when the loudmouthed little girl with her starts in with her disjointed tale as to *why* the castle is in such poor shape.

    All that said, in the past, I have taken a plain old ordinary cooking timer, set it for half an hour, and made myself write till the bell rings.
     
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I'll suggest there's a big, qualitative difference between losing interest sometimes and losing interest always. I note particularly the OP saying they have *never* completed a single story.

    That's significant. I worked on a novel for years. One day, an idea for a short story walked into the room. Not much more than half an idea, really. Hardly more than an image. But it stuck with me and I was determined to get that story written.

    Here's the important part: I finished it *and* sent it out to various magazines. Got rejections but also got an acceptance, on condition that I improved this and that. Minor changes. I did that and it was published.

    And that made all the difference. It gave me not so much confidence as familiarity. I knew only then, after having written all the way to published, what the process was for me. I actually did a novelette and self-published it before finishing my first main novel. There again, getting all the way to done was hugely important in getting me through those patches where my focus, enthusiasm, inspiration lagged.

    Really I credit my academic writing. As a history major I had to write papers, and there again it was all the way through the "submit" process. Then came a master's thesis and a dissertation. So when I undertook to write a novel, I sort of knew the ground, even though fiction writing is a quite different beast.

    Finish something. Submit it.

    There really is no substitute. It can be short or long or middling. It might be lousy or great. Doesn't matter, because ultimately it's not about the work, it's about you understanding how to do the work. How *you* do the work. Until you get there, you are forever sketching.

    Also, if all you enjoy is world building, that's fine! It's a great hobby ... much cheaper than owning a boat.
     
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  11. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

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    That's actually not entirely true. I did write a script for a short film. I "finished" it in the sense that I completed the first draft. I'm just not quite sure what to do with it.

    I say "short film," but the script ended up being closer to the length of an average TV show episode.
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >I "finished" it in the sense that I completed the first draft.
    I can't help with scripts. That's a whole world unto itself, but there are tons of websites that offer advice. And we have a bit of knowledge around here.

    But I can help with the finished part. It's great that you wrote that, but until you've submitted, it ain't done and here's why: you can still change it.

    Once you've sent it out, the work no longer is entirely yours. I presume there's something analogous to a book or magazine editor who reviews submitted scripts and either accepts or rejects them. That's the step that really marks the work as done, because I can't really mess with it, changing your copy while a different copy is out on submission.

    If it's accepted, that's great! There will undoubtedly be changes to be made. Voluntarily or not. *chortle*

    If it's rejected, then you have to decide whether to submit elsewhere, completely rework the script, or to abandon it and move on to other things. Each of those changes your relationship to the work.

    But you also can think about a fairly important question meanwhile. It's a slippery one, in that the answer(s) may well change over months and years. The question is this: why are you writing?

    You might be writing because you are driven to it, cannot *not* write, and will continue to write for the rest of your life.
    You might be writing because you enjoy it, it's fulfilling.
    You might write "under the influence" as it were. That is, when moved by the Muse (let that represent whatever you please), but if not so inspired you are fine with not writing.
    You might write because you want to make a living at it, regardless of what sort of writing you are doing.
    You might be writing because you wrote once (or more) and received praise and want more of that. Nothing wrong with that! People become actors or comedians from similar motivation.

    There are no doubt other possibilities, and the above list is not choose one and only one. But the why of writing affects the implications finishing a story and even what it means to be uninspired. Which in turn affects what you think you need to do about it. If you aren't crystal clear about the answer(s) to the question, don't worry about it. Few of us are and, as I indicated before, the answers tend to shift around over the course of a lifetime.
     
  13. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Inkling

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    As skip.knoxskip.knox writes, it's all about having the self-discipline to finish what you write. That does take effort and motivation, but it also takes practice.

    I learnt to write to order (literally) as a staff officer - in an operational situation you have to produce an assessment or a set of written orders by a deadline no matter how tired, grumpy or stressed you may be, and what you write has to be good enough first time because you don't usually have time for any sort of re-write. (And the consequences of getting what you write wrong can be very severe indeed.) Journalists often find themselves in a similar position, writing and submitting copy by a given deadline - this is how authors like Dick Francis and David Gemmell learnt to write.

    You need to practice more than anything else, because that's how you'll find the writing process which works for you. From experience I'd suggest writing short stories, partly because I find they are the most difficult to get right. You only have a limited number of words in which to convey the story arc and develop the characters, so your writing needs to be tight and focussed. In some ways I find they're also less of a commitment, in the sense that it doesn't matter so much if a short story doesn't work as you'd intended - if you dump it you aren't dumping half a novel with a whole load of chapters representing several weeks/months work.

    I also find that setting aside a given time slot for writing is useful. But this also means commitment, becuse you then have to be disciplined enough to write when the time comes. At that point I find that what I'm writing is secondary to actually writing. What I write may be good, bad or indifferent and it may not fit the main work in progress - but it might fit somewhere else later on. So I write and then see where it goes.

    So, if you want to be serious about writing, set aside some time and practice, practice, practice. It's the only way. And it can be a lot of fun - that point when the words just flow and you can't stop is just wonderful.
     
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >So, if you want to be serious about writing

    That's a fairly big field. Does serious mean make a living at it? Does serious mean finishing a novel and submitting (or self-publishing)? Just for perspective, serious in my case meant the latter. Just getting a major story done.

    But once that was done, how then to be serious? So I changed the goal to be, make enough money to cover costs (ads, covers, edits, etc.). Still not there.

    But even then, that's more of a goal that a characteristic. I guess serious for me really just means keep telling stories until I look around in Altearth and decide there aren't any more stories to tell. OK, so what does "keep telling" mean? A book a year? Never taking time off? If I just stop for a month or a year, am I no longer serious? Or, with four books and four short stories published, have I already crossed the Serious finish line and don't need to worry about it any more?

    I'm not entirely sure. Which is fine by me. Being entirely sure feels decidedly uncomfortable.
     
  15. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    Tell me to write some political propaganda and I can have the first draft ready to go within a few hours (depending upon the subject). Get me to write fiction and... I just can't seem to get anything down on paper. That's primarily because the few times I had written and completed works of fiction that did get published in one form or another were complete and utter flops. That fear of failing again means that every time I write anything fictional I fear it's not going to cut the grade so I rip it up.

    I love world building and I've done it all my life. In fact, one of my world building projects was so convincing that I had investors from the United Arab Emirates asking to invest in the country I had created. Naturally, I said "No" and explained that it was a geofiction project.

    For me, it's the world building that makes or breaks the story. The key reason I wanted to write fantasy was because I saw a genre where I could create worlds where I could create cultures, societies, traditions, urban communities, governments, technologies, magic and other stuff that didn't have to conform to the way things are done in the the real world. However, to breathe life into those imaginary worlds, I needed characters I wanted to write (and read) about in those worlds.

    Taking part in these forums have also helped me with writing stuff, working out what to do with my WIP and also taught me some amazing stuff. And how to avoid making my next work of fiction a flop.

    So my advice to the OP is get involved with the forums, contribute to them and learn from them.
     
  16. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    But Miles ... I thought political propaganda WAS fiction.
     
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  17. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    It can take a long time to learn to write and to learn the discipline necessary to get stuff finished.

    When I was a youngster my writing was objectively terrible (technically speaking). But my writing improved because I had to write reports and later feature articles for magazines for my work (non-fiction). The magazine writing had deadlines and word count constraints, so the discipline of finishing was drilled into me over time. Even so it was years (decades in fact) before I ever had the discipline to finish even one piece of fiction writing. Plenty of false starts, plenty of experimenting, but nothing ever finished.

    Part of writing (the finishing part) is a grind. There is no escaping that. But feeling that it is a grind is not abnormal. Nor is it necessarily a sign that you are not cut out for being a writer. There will be days when the writing flows and other days when it feels like wading through a swamp. But that is the nature of the beast. Writing a novel with a 80k-100k word count is no small undertaking after all. A typical Phd thesis is about the same length and most people would consider that to be a really major ask. It is a major undertaking, so managing to complete one, even if it does not get published, is a major achievement in itself (and great experience).
     
  18. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    Propaganda mixes fact and fiction to create a certain narrative for the readership. That's why propaganda is so effective if done right.
     
  19. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Two truths to one lie is usually mix.
     
  20. I imagine you're doing the same thing writers do all the time, which is putting too much pressure on yourself to write the perfect/interesting/well crafted early draft. This is, of course, impossible. If you just allow yourself to write forward and not worry about all the endless details and cool facets of your world building, which you do no doubt find exciting, you might find your way to writing your story a bit faster and with less stalling out.

    Can't remember the name of the city, the third prince's middle name, the river, the desert, the details of the fancy magic system? It doesn't matter, That's not where your story waits. Write through all of it and mark the places you need to come back and rework or research or fill in. You don't even have to write in a linear way, Skip around, fill in gaps, write the ending first. Anything to keep you writing!

    Don't get stuck going back and editing as you go along either, For many writers, nothing kills momentum faster. I'd also suggest you don't reread today's writing tomorrow. When you call it a day, give yourself a prompt to start the new session when you come back to it and don't peek backwards.

    This, from a recent NaNo pep talk, is sound advice and a good visual:

    I always think of the first draft as the process of digging up the clay. Everything else—kneading, sculpting, glazing, baking the clay into its final form—that’s all revision. I dread the digging, but I also know that if I don’t make myself do it, I’ll have no raw material to work with.

    It doesn’t matter that the clay is ugly. That’s what clay is. Everyone secretly hopes to be a creative genius whose first drafts are golden perfection…but the reality is that’s never going to be the case. So the question of, “Will this piece of writing be worth reading?” is actually totally irrelevant in the digging stage.

    <>oOo<>

    So, you must dig. Through your fear, through your apprehension and even through your own boredom and self-critque as a writer/storyteller. You aren't going to create the story you hope to create in one go. Nor two. Nor three. Focus on one little thing, one scene, one chapter, one character introduction, one small event. Then keep going. Doesn't matter what comes out as long as you are making progress. There is no other way to get from one side of the deep chasm to the other.

    Good luck!
     
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