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The Misery of Writing

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Philip Overby, Aug 1, 2014.

  1. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    I would describe Poe as haunted more than miserable. I think Lovecraft was miserable, but he was struggling with mental illness.

    Perhaps part of the confusion is that pain is one of the stepping stones to great art. Some people cultivate their pain out loud to improve their art. That can be hard on the listeners, but perhaps useful for the artists.

    As writers we know that the way help readers connect with our characters is to make the characters suffer. Perhaps the miserable writers just want people to connect with them.
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    As much as I hesitate to agree with Jabrosky, I do find that the most difficult part of writing is rewriting for an audience. First I say everything I want to say, and then I have to make sure it's comprehensible to everyone else, and half the time folks still don't get what I'm on about. I have to keep trying, or it defeats the purpose, but I do wish sometimes that I had an easier time explaining myself.
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I'm sorry, could you rephrase that? I didn't understand a thing you said. :p Sorry, just being a jack ass and making a bad joke.

    For me, I found that the more I wrote and the more experiences I gathered in writing made the peaks and troughs of the roller coaster become less and less dramatic. There are still ups and downs for me, but they never throw me into a funk where I think I'm a complete failure or where I think I'm the king of the world. To me, it's just a matter of what-do-I-need-to-do and what-do-I need-to-figure-out in order to finish. It's not a matter of if I'll finish a story just a matter of when.

    I definitely think this is the case for some. Writers write, even if it's badly. Thinking about story and ideas without actually putting them down means the story remains perfect. There's a romantic aspect to writing that gets perpetuated by the moves and tv that writing is this burst of inspiration/magic that never requires work, which isn't true.

    I remember watching a Stephen King movie, The Dark Half. In it, there's a scene where a wife is praising her husband for finally writing his book. He's only written 10 pages, and she's predicting that it's going to be awesome. Ten pages, about 2500 words, there's no way you can tell how good or bad a book is going to be after 10 pages to a first draft. I cocked an eyebrow at when she said that.
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    This applies to so much more than writing. The idea of doing cool stuff is a lot more appealing than actually doing said cool stuff. I guess, in a way, that's a big part of why people like reading. It's a way to experience the cool stuff without the tedium involved in getting to the point where it can be enjoyed.
    Nobby likes this.
  5. Nobby

    Nobby Sage

    Yeehaw! Chainsaws are cool, yeah!

    -Until you get to work with the bloody two-stroke bastardness, chain-slipping annoyingness of the things.

    Yeah, writing is like that :)
  6. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

    My first instinct was to agree with this, but then my natural inclination to play devil's advocate got me wondering...

    Let's just say for a moment that Book X was definitely going to be a big success (loved both by critics and the rest of the world). I reckon you could tell a few things from the first ten pp of the first draft: first off, whether the author had an engaging voice and was able to put words together. Second, you could tell if there was the germ of a good setting and premise, and finally - and most crucially - you could definitely tell if you wanted to read more.

    I've told the story of my first acceptance many times - but in a nutshell, I was struck one day by a really powerful idea. So strong, I literally couldn't wait to start writing and was into it immediately (after 15 years of writing and ten years of rejection). When I had just 30 pp of the draft a friend pestered me to see it so, with some reluctance, I gave it to him one Sunday afternoon. The next morning at work, he rang and was absolutely raving to me about how good it was and that it was definitely going to be a huge hit. In fact, it was his enthusiasm that really fired me up after that (my first ever fan) and I found myself churning out the pages so that my friend could read it chapter by chapter. When I had about two thirds of the draft I decided to show it to a publisher, and the first publisher to see it said yes.

    So I reckon you can tell a bit about the first pp of a draft, but to be fair, the quote above would be right 99.99% of the time.
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
  7. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I know someone who is like this. He claims himself to be a writer but he actually hasn't written a story in months. So...because I sometimes have a hard time keeping my opinions to myself...he ended up offended when I told him that, in order to be a writer or get anywhere with it, one had to write more than just once every few months. He claimed that he just wasn't inspired.

    You know what? Sometimes I'm not inspired to write either. But the drive to create something to share with others is so much stronger so I make time for it and force myself to do it even when I'm not in the mood. I'm getting off topic here but there is something to be said for pushing one's way to the end of a story.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2014
    Jabrosky likes this.
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I think the idea of lacking inspiration and misery are tied together. I don't think I've ever got a good idea for a story just sitting there waiting for one. The times I have in the past just made me depressed. There's nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank screen or page, but we've all done it before. The best way I've come up with stories is by sitting down and start writing something. Maybe like:

    "Where's the rest of his body?" The wizard tried to blink away the booze. "Or am I just seeing things?"

    This opening line could go so many different places. Sometimes just writing an opening line is enough to be inspiration. Waiting for inspiration can definitely make one miserable because that means nothing is happening. Being proactive as a writer is paramount.
    Penpilot likes this.
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for a unreliable significant other to show up on a date. It can be spectacular when they show up, but more oft than not they'll leave you standing in the rain.

    Definitely. There's a momentum to writing and to the flow of ideas. For me, it's a flow that feeds back into it self. When I write, one idea leads to a slightly better one and that one leads to an even better one, etc. And it all starts by just starting. The ideas and the words may not be great at first, but who knows where the feedback loop will lead you.

    The road ahead may not look exciting, but you won't discover the well hidden and less travelled forks down the road if all you do is look at the road every day and say it'll probably look more exciting tomorrow.
  10. SM-Dreamer

    SM-Dreamer Troubadour

    Writing doesn’t make me miserable. Not writing, not having written, not being where I want in my writing, that may frustrate me to no end, but the actual writing? No, never. The stories I have, that I want to get from my head to the page, they mean everything to me. Writing is the one thing I really don’t think I could ever get up, because I don’t think that I could ever not think about the stories and concepts and ideas.

    Never could not think, What If?

    And writing allows me to explore those.

    Now, as I said, not writing makes me miserable, and I never realized just how much so until a couple of years ago. We did some major renovations (gutted the house, really) and everything got packed away. Including my writing and drawing stuff. Even after the months of renovations, the box gathered cobwebs in the attic.

    It stayed there for about a year, in part because of work and the house and so much else going on that I never got back to pulling it down. Sometimes I'd pull out a notebook and start writing, but it never got very far and I was unsatisfied with it.

    I felt... itchy. Raw. Frustrated and miserable, and I honestly made the people around me miserable. Sure, I had books to read, but it wasn't enough.

    One day, going up in the attic to get something else done, I saw the box again and pulled it down. I opened it, and read through and looked at everything. Even the silly things I'd done as a teenager.

    It felt like something inside me had broken lose, like when I'd packed away the box I'd mentally packed away creating, too.

    So, no, writing does not make me miserable.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I'm going to agree with Guy. Writing's great. No issues at all with it. It's the rest of the stuff that goes with publishing that brings you down. Editing for a start is Dante's ninth circle of Hell. Publishing, doing covers, marketing (not that I bother with it much) all of that stuff I don't need. That's why I suppose trade publishing still appeals despite all the other negatives.

    Cheers, Greg.
  12. Bansidhe

    Bansidhe Minstrel

    Oh gods, no. Misery is definitely NOT required. Writing does not have to be hard. It's as much craft as it is art, and can take time to hone and build, but it definitely doesn't have to be hard. And, really, if you've lost the joy of it (or never had it to begin with), then what's the point? There's a difference between journal writing, non-fiction writing, and fiction story telling. There's also a difference between difficult, and challenging.

    Rule #1: It has to be fun. If it's not fun, you're probably doing it wrong.
    Rule #2: If you're not having fun, see Rule #1.
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I dunno, Bansidhe. There are an awful lot of very famous writers who say writing is/was a miserable process for them. Certainly not fun. More of a compulsion.
  14. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    It may depend in part on how seriously someone takes their own writing.

    In case no one else here has noticed before, I am much more productive as a visual artist than a writer. I draw a lot more often than I write, and I've finished many more drawings than stories. Maybe this is because, ironically, I invest a lot more in my writing than drawing. Drawing for me has always been a hobby, so I approach it with a more laid-back attitude that doesn't fret so much about final quality. On the other hand, I want my written stories to be as good as possible so I can make money from them. Ergo, I stress out a lot more about the quality of my writing than I do about my visual artwork, so in the end I don't get as much done in the literary field.

    Not that I'm necessarily recommending that writers adopt a lazy hobbyist attitude towards their craft. It might be good for productivity and maybe remove some stress, but it won't make your stories actually good.
  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I wouldn't say hobbyists are lazy, but just have a different focus. I approach my writing as both a hobby and as a career. This year I've made the most money I've ever made before writing. Not that it's a ton of money, but to me it shows that I take myself seriously enough that I'm attempting to get my work out there. Getting paid as a writer gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. It means, "Wow, someone liked this enough to pay me for it." Becoming the next breakthrough hit is not really my concern at the moment. Baby steps.

    On the flip side, I've probably had the most fun writing that I've ever had. I'm participating in contests, challenges, and keeping myself writing every single day. I used to tell my wife, "Crap, I have to get some writing in" like it was a chore. Now it's just a matter of fact, "Oh, I need to get some writing in."

    I think like a lot of others, writing in a way prevents me from being miserable. The point of my OP was that I see a lot of writers that don't seem to actually enjoy the process at all. They're in this constant flux of loving and hating writing. Sure, for me editing is less fun, but I don't hate it or anything. I actually learn a lot about my own style when I'm editing.

    However, I do think that for some writing just needs to be floating out there, never perfect, never complete, always out of reach. Perhaps in some way it gives them a constant goal to work towards. And if it's never put out in the world, it can never be criticized. I think a lot of misery may come from people reading their work and not liking it. Due to my writing being rather weird, I fully expect that some people are going to hate it. I think the earlier writers accept that they're not going to be welcomed by hundreds of glowing reviews, the less miserable they can become.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014

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