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Perfectionism, pessimism and inexperience

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by LionHardous, Nov 18, 2021.


Do you also feel unqualified and unable to write what you want?

  1. Yes

    4 vote(s)
  2. No

    10 vote(s)
  1. LionHardous

    LionHardous New Member

    I'm Leonardo and I'm 22.
    I've always been an awkward person; the kind of awkward that would rather go to a library than a bar, or substitutes socializing with gaming.

    Perfectionism and pessimism were traits that accompanied me all my life.
    Naturally, this manifests in my writing too. I rarely feel motivated to write as i never find anything GOOD ENOUGH.
    But even worse, it inflames my sense of lacking life experience.
    Some times, ideas for plots and stories pop up in my head but I probably filter out 95% of them as i soon realize that it is not an idea that sets my veins ablaze. Or it's just an idea I took from a show im watching.
    I'm also captivated by scenery and ambiance, leading to fluttering ideas about fictional realms that die forgotten in a clutter of folders.

    Due to my situation of not being social, of never having felt love, or depressing about my life circumstances, i think I'm unqualified to write any interaction between people, or any signs/feelings of love.
    At 22 years old, i technically haven't lived yet.

    How do you guys suggest i battle this perfectionism and lack of experience in life, except for the obvious go outside and live.

    Thank you for your patience and time.
    MommaKat likes this.
  2. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

    If we only write stories about things we have personally experienced, then fantasy and sci fi wouldn't exist, period. None of us have ridden dragons or killed bad guys with swords. But we might have ridden horses or whacked our siblings with wrapping paper tubes and we can use our imagination and extrapolate from there. Here's a good bit from Le Guin about how she wrote about sailing in Earthsea even though she never sailed (and the one time she boated she sunk it lol).

    It's definitely normal to have an idea and then not pursue it because you don't think you're skilled enough to do it yet. I had an idea for a story in high school, about guardian spirits that were personifications of the cities they lived in, how they would grow and change over the years as the cities grew. I'm from New England so there's a lot of really old cities that saw a lot of stuff, that used to be really important but are now nothing. But I also lived in the middle of nowhere and knew nothing about living IN a city. I didn't pursue that idea because I knew I didn't have the experience YET. But now that I live in Oakland, California, I definitely know what it's like! There's places I can go and do research, people I can talk to, I can take reference photos...the concept of the story has grown and changed, too, as I've grown and changed.

    Writing is a craft, and all crafts require practice. Nobody picks up a hammer for the first time and builds a mansion. You build some crappy bird houses and napkin holders first. You've probably cooked yourself food, right? And there's been times you've royally screwed up. Every great chef had that happen, too. We learn from our mistakes and failures, but if you never make them, you can never learn. Every published author has tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of words sitting in a hard drive or notebook somewhere that's never going to see the light of day cause it's not very good, just like every baker has burnt cookies they threw out.

    There's lots of blogs, podcasts, and books that have writing prompts. They'll give you an idea or concept and you write a few paragraphs of...something. Practice a kind of genre, point of view, voice, style, don't use certain words, must use certain words, you're practicing, discovering what you like to do, what you're good at, and since you know it's practice, you know it doesn't have to be perfect.

    A good way to practice writing and to have FUN (because fun is very important when creating) is to write fanfiction or do roleplays. Fanfiction really helped me grow and to silence my inner critic. I was writing stuff because the idea was funny or stupid and I thought other people might enjoy it. I wasn't worrying about things being perfect, I was thinking about how I could do quick jumps between two POVs to keep up the pace and build tension. None of what I wrote was perfect! And that's fine! Some of it sucked! But I learned a lot, like I hate writing in second person, and I can't handle more than 4-5 characters in one scene, otherwise there's lots of people standing there not saying/doing anything.
  3. Lynea

    Lynea Sage

    Maybe just read some contemporary romance? It's pretty good for getting that 'slice of life' and understanding how writers portray relationships and stuff.
    LionHardous likes this.
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    When I was your age, I felt pretty much the same way. No idea I had was good enough. Anything I tried to write was never good enough. I'd spend hours and hours trying to perfect the little i did write, but I never got anywhere with it. I kicked around like that for many-many years.

    For me, what got me to finally make progress was to accept that the first draft/attempt would always be bad or deeply flawed in one way or another. I allowed myself to just write without concerning myself with the mistakes I was making. My attitude was I'd fix it on the second draft. So that's what I did. It still wasn't easy. Some days the words would come. Other days, it'd be like trying to poop out a skyscraper. All the while I was writing, I was also reading and studying books on story structure. I tried to apply what I learned from the books to varying degrees of success. I eventually finished that first book, and it was crap. I spent a lot of time revising and after the 4th draft, I realized I didn't have the skills to fix all the issues in that first book, so I moved on. But now, I knew I had the ability to at least finish a novel.

    I took all the lessons I learned writing the first book and applied them to my second book. Better results, but still after a bunch of revisions, flawed in a way that I didn't quite know how to fix. But funny thing was, as I was writing the second book, I came to realize how I could fix the first book. I jotted that down, set it aside, deciding that going back wasn't the right thing to do, so then, I moved on to the third book, then my fourth. All the whiled, I was still reading books on writing and writing short stories.

    All all along the way, I made many mistakes, I learned from them, and I moved on to the next thing trying to make that as good as I can. Writing a story is simple in concept, but it's a huge undertaking in terms of organization. There are tons of little things to keep track of and there are tons of questions to ask yourself about your story. And the only way to learn how to do it is to do it and make the mistakes. There were things that gave me fits in my first book that I barely give a second thought to now, because I figured out how to address them before they become problems.

    Don't think of each story as a destination or endpoint, but a single step on a longer journey. The more steps you take, the further along you'll get.

    It doesn't necessarily matter what your personal experiences are, because the fact is you still have experiences that are unique to you that no one else has, your personal view of the world, your attitudes, and your hopes. Those are the things you tap into to make a story your own. It has less to do with what you've seen and done and more to do with how much you're able to use your life experiences to enrich the story and reach the reader.

    At 22 there are stories you can write that I can't.
    LionHardous likes this.
  5. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

    The thing about writing (and life) is that it comes with experience.
    What I wrote at 22 was poor BUT it was the experience that counted.
    Writing is like carpentry. You don't become a master craftsman overnight. For most of us it takes years of practice. Same with life.
    Perfection is an illusion. Ain't none of us writing here no Shakespeare.
    So get stuck in and don't worry about perfection.
    LionHardous likes this.
  6. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

    Here's the thing. That was quite well written.
    MommaKat and LionHardous like this.
  7. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    When I first started writing [as an adult] I took a free online creative writing course.
    It had two main benefits for me.
    It taught me the basics of how I could write and showed me how other writers had done things.
    It also got me in a group of other people in just about the same position.
    I was not alone and others were thrashing around a badly as I was.
    LionHardous likes this.
  8. Minus the pessimism, my 22 yr old self could have been your twin. :)

    So, the one gift I'd give to the 22 yr old me would be the understanding of two truths.

    One, no one, and I mean NO ONE, creates perfection straight out of the box in any literary art.
    Two, self-labeling as a perfectionist might be the biggest lie you're telling yourself.

    First drafts and story explorations are messy, but they're meant to be. It's the layers of refinement, the second and third and fourteenth passes through, after you have the story on the page in its most imperfect form, where the magic begins to happen. Any author you love, if you were to have the opportunity to read their first drafts, would likely leave you wide-eyed, for they too often write ugly. They simply know that in the midst of the ugly and disheveled, is a diamond waiting to be polished and it's going to be a lot of work to get it there. Tedious work. Mind-numbing work.

    But there's no gem to be found without it.

    Completed novels, poems and stories are an art form! And contrary to the wild theories which say otherwise, no-one is born a writer. Words are nothing more than clay. They're messy, They're imperfect. They're raw. None of us have more access to them than anyone else. What you do have is a voice to develop. A unique perspective waiting to be found. A story no one had told.

    These too takes work and time to unlock.

    If you want use your perfectionist desire/tendency to your benefit, become the kind that realizes it's hard work and time, not a gift set aside for the few, which gets us there. Be willing to dig in the dirt, wallow around and see it all the way through.

    Otherwise, no disrespect to you or my 22 yr old self intended, we actually aren't perfectionists at all, but someone who used the term to talk ourselves out of the harder work of actually becoming one. I wish I'd understood that all those years ago.
    LionHardous likes this.
  9. Stevie

    Stevie Minstrel

    I don't think you lack experience. You've had the same amount of time as every other 22 year old on the planet. You've just had a different set of experiences from the ones that I guess you think you should have had or be having. That doesn't make your experience any less valid or vital than the ersatz livestyles that are sold to us as the way we should be living. So you prefer the library to the bar? Good. Bars are highly overated as centres of social experience. You prefer gaming to socialising? Good, if gaming makes you happier than socialising does. If people don't like that or think it's the 'wrong way' to live? Fuck 'em. Who suddenly made them the experts on how you should live your life?

    You have a complicated inner landscape that you struggle to navigate at times and perhaps people don't appreciate? Yes, that is difficult. Nurture whatever helps you steer through that landscape, in whatever form it takes - books, music, friends. Look long and hard at the things that don't.

    Lack of experience. Isolation. Being different from the crowd. These are powerful themes that are worth writing about. Fantasy is a genre that lends itself to writing about being different. It crys out for it. The best, the very best fantasy stories are about the different. Write what you know, what's inside yourself. Write about yourself. Only, put it in a fantasy setting. Aboslutely do not write about what you think other people will want and expect. I hope that helps in some small way.
    LionHardous likes this.
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    A couple of things; maybe they'll resonate but it's okay if they don't. One, I would never label myself a perfectionist because that implies I know what perfect is. That I would recongize it were I to write something, or do something, perfectly. I think perfectionism--the belief one is a perfectionist--is a veil hiding something else. I've never been able to figure out what that might be. I'm imperfect that way. <g> Anyway, this by way of encouraging all perfectionists to try using some other word for a while. Or a phrase. Or even a complete sentence!

    Two, I am not my writing. This one's really difficult, but it's true. I learned it from years of academic writing, where I learned to take criticism that was both thorough and detailed, without taking any of it personally. It was all just comments toward revision and improvement. All the writing advice about just writing, free writing, etc. is aimed at getting that separation from self and text. The story can (should!) mean a lot to you, but without it being mean to you. Or as I heard someone else put it: all art is self expression; criticism is a critique of the expression, not of the self.
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    At 22? Hell… live and write. Perfection is impossible, but I eventually came up with degrees of perfection, including Functionally Perfect. Heh heh.

    After decades, I just wrote and rewrote a few chapters of the story I knew I wanted to write, sticking them away for months at a time, until one day I opened the drawer, read them, and said I found my voice! People had always told me I was good, but it wasn’t good enough for me. Then one day it was. I should’ve just done that years earlier, heh heh. But, living life through suffereing and joy will improve your writing, and aging does change brain function. Just plug at it, find your functionally perfect and roll with it.

    LionHardous likes this.
  12. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Archmage

    This reminded me of two of the most important books I've read when it comes to writing. They are The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, and The Book of Lost Tales, by Tolkien.

    The first is a non-fiction book which goes into how we actually become good at something. It's basically the 10,000 hours of dedicated practise idea made visual and backed up by science. It helped me with the realisation that it doesn't matter what your writing looks like when you start out. As long as you improve with each bit you write you're heading in the right direction.

    The second is an almost academic dive into the early writings of Tolkien, assembled and published by his son Christopher. It shows the origins of Middle Earth and the myths that later formed the basis for Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion. I'm a big Tolkien fan, and that is pretty much what you need to be to get through it. I love the epic feel of the LotR and I've read the Silmarillion multiple times. The language is just beautiful and epic and vivid.

    And if you read those early works it is none of that. They could have been written by any beginning fantasy writer. It's slow and meandering with little stuff happening. The language is bland and much of it is boring. Yes, you can see some of the rough gems hidden in there. But it is very far removed from the writer Tolkien would become. It shows the ideas of The Talent Code in practise. Tolkien kept writing and with each story and with each draft of a story he got better.
  13. LionHardous

    LionHardous New Member

    Thank you very much for your words.
    I'm going to allow myself to fail, which is something I usually fear and prevents me from even trying.
    When it comes to the inexperience, I'll be sure to observe human behavior and be more social, as i have to battle Asperger's and social anxiety, instead of succumbing to it.

    I'll check out the book by Daniel Coyle as well as try to find books about story structure.

    Once again, thank you very much for your time.
    Your words have helped me a lot with this.
  14. MommaKat

    MommaKat Acolyte

    Failing is relative. You do not fail if you write something and it is not exactly what you wanted it to be. Look at it and add to it, change it, set it aside and write over. What about the things you wrote felt good, ...and expound on those.
    Just write. Your forum posts are actually pretty good, all things considered.
    Don't push yourself too much beyond the boundaries you've set for yourself. In going to observe human behaviour, just go sit on a park bench or something and watch people go by. How does the couple pushing the baby carriage interact? How does the old man interact with the young lad who seems to be his grandson? How does the seagull behave, ...it doesn't have to be PEOPLE it can be things. How do the trees sound when the breeze soughs through the branches. Describe your pet? if your pet could speak to you, what would it say.
    my writing at first was pretty much garbage, but I just kept writing, and soon things began to sort themselves out. I had parents that were themselves avid readers, and I was reading things like Pearl Buck and R.F. Delderfield before I was out of high school.
    take an online English course, there are plenty of free ones out there. Having an assignment may help solidify thoughts you have..I think someone else suggested that as well.
    I look forward to hearing about your writing journey and I know we will see you gain confidence as time goes on :)
    Happy writing
  15. MommaKat

    MommaKat Acolyte

    I mean....this! You DO write well. just coax it out

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