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Why I Quit Writing (and am Seeking Help to Un-Quit...)

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Xaysai, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    Hello all,

    Some of you might know me as the plucky, wide-eyed "new guy" around these forums from a few months ago who tried his hand at writing, jumped head-long into it, then promptly quit and disappeared for 3 months.

    During my time as an aspiring writer I was working with a publisher as part of a (fantastic) mentoring program to expedite my learning of the art of writing, and upon quitting I sent her the following letter:

    Has anyone ever felt this way? How do you overcome it?

    The funny thing is that I WANT TO WRITE, and I don't think I suffer from "writer's block" (in the traditional sense, I suppose), but I just...can't.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Dan
     
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  2. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    I struggle with this too. I am constantly disappointed in everything that I write because I strive for my work to be excellent. My biggest misunderstanding about writing was that it was easy or that I was already a good writer before I started "actually" writing. I believe I could have an entire novel made with the amount of words I have deleted in making my first chapter. And it doesn't help that I am incredibly slow.

    But despite that I have learned this: Hardly anything you do in life will be perfect because we are imperfect creatures. Striving for perfection is a vain goal. Don't get me wrong, striving for perfection is good, but seeking it as an outcome is foolish.

    Too many times I find myself looking for the "magic sentence" to add and no matter what I write/type, it never holds up to my expectations. What I do to counter this is I pick up a book by an author I really like, and go through and find everything about their writing that I don't like. This way, I show myself that even my favorite authors aren't perfect and that they too have weaknesses and flaws.

    I don't think I suffer from WB that much either, usually I have so many ideas I can't choose what to do lol. But I do suffer from chronic everything-I-just-typed-is-complete-trash-and-I-am-a-horrible-writer. It's just an obstacle I know I have to overcome. I just have to keep on pushing and realize that this is just going to be an uphill battle, but oh well. Life is an uphill battle. I would rather try and fail then fail to try.
     
  3. TheokinsJ

    TheokinsJ Troubadour

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    I often feel a similar way, I feel like I lack the motivation and the persistence to write, probably due to laziness more than anything else. I found I stopped writing for a while, I wanted to write, it's just getting into it was the hard part, and once I got going, I loved it. You say you "just... can't", do you mean you lack motivation? Or do you question your abilities as a writer? I believe that everyone has their moment where they feel like "what's the point!?" and they don't want to write anymore, but if you love it and you want to keep at it, keep doing it. Even if the books you write will never be published, even if the things you write are just random scenes or short stories or poetry- keep at it, because I believe every day you write and immerse yourself within your imagination, you begin to discover more about yourself, and it can offer a different view on life.
     
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  4. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    I forget who it is on here but in their signature it's a quote that basically says don't be afraid to do something because of the time it would take. The time is going to pass anyway.

    I love that quote
     
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  5. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Everyone who has ever worked towards something has at some point had doubts about their abilities. Some of them gave up, or refocused their efforts elsewhere; some fought through it, and succeeded in what they attempted. For some achieving that goal came with success in other secondary goals too - like fame and fortune - and for others it did not.

    What it sounds like you need to work out is whether you care enough about writing and what you want to achieve with it to push through the doubts.

    I frequently feel similarly. I look at what I've written and I see so many flaws; when I show what I've written to my fiance he sees even more. And that is discouraging. It makes me wonder if I will ever produce anything worthwhile. But the fact is, what I'm looking at isn't published. It's a first draft, my initial thoughts and feelings about what the scene in question is, and often it's rushed or bogged down with unimportant information, or whatever. I tell myself I can fix it in the rewrites and the edits, but even so, seeing all the things I need to fix is often overwhelming, and I feel I have to start again from scratch and fix it now before I can continue, because I can't be happy with what's there.

    I don't have an answer because I am yet to overcome it, but I think the way i'm going to approach it is to not look back. I will write, and not read what I've written (except the last paragraph I wrote when I start each session). That way I am unaware of the vast majoirty of the flaws and can thus hapily ignore them. When the first draft is done, I can type it up and turn it into a second draft in which I have fixed some of those problems, before looking for more problems to fix.

    Perhaps you (and I) need to get used to the idea that what comes from our brains is not immediately awesome, we need to go back and make it better, incrementally, until we can't make it any better any more. Our inability to produce instantly awesome writing isn't a failing, it is natural, normal - and it doesn't really matter, because what we write we can return to later, we can fix it in the next draft.

    Good luck.
     
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  6. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    Like the OP, I have experienced moments when I questioned whether I was really cut out to be a writer. What's kept me in the business is that I've always possessed a creative streak, as in a desire to create things, and writing is one way I can express those creative impulses. I like to think of writing as an art in the same respect as drawing or painting. As long as I feel the drive to create any kind of art, I can write.
     
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  7. Twook00

    Twook00 Sage

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    Yep, same for me. I thought I just needed to sit down and write the big idea I had and all would fine. Then I realized how awful I was. That was about 5 years ago and I've YET to finish a story (short or otherwise). I haven't given up though. I realize that I have grown over the years as a writer, and I see that progress has been made. If it takes another five years to get published, then that's alright by me. I'll be patient.

    I just tell myself to keep at it. Really, you get better if you keep at it. It takes time, but the journey is half the fun.

    Lastly, part of my problem is that I am a terrible procrastinator. I work, I have kids, I only have time to write at night and by then I'm too tired. These are all excuses, of course, and I know that. If I would just sit my rear in a chair and finish something, I'd probably be selling my work by now.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
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  8. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    Your initial post shows more understanding of basic rhetorical techniques than some of the members of my writing group, and that at least gives me confidence in your potential.
     
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  9. Twook00

    Twook00 Sage

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    I thought the same thing.
     
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  10. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    One ultimately has to believe in his or her ability to relay a good story to the reader. Others can encourage, but it comes down to the writer being willing to put in the time and do what it takes to create the opportunity for success. Because, in the end, there is no promise or guarantee of success, however one might want to measure that.

    There is no 'one right way' to write a novel, or a short story, other than one has to get to the end--complete the process and make the work the best the writer can.

    Life is full of opportunities, and writing takes up time and effort. One has to give up some opportunities, and make writing a priority. Not necessarily the top priority, but it can't hover at the bottom.

    Only you, Dan, can determine if that drive and commitment are there--or might be some day. Writing can be fun, and there can be moments of excitement and achievement, but it's also work and sometimes toil, and sometimes setbacks.

    Maybe today isn't the moment. Maybe next week will be. Maybe it'll never come, although I hope it does for you, where you find the inspiration and the drive and the focus to develop the necessary skills and techniques to reach your writing objectives. It's like a long distance runner. Others can cheer for you, but in the end, you're the only one that can enter, and endure, and finish the race.
     
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  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Writing is tough.

    I just looked at the 3rd draft of my novel. When I put it away almost 8 weeks ago, I thought it was pretty good. Reading it this weekend, my thought was, "This absolutely sucks."

    It takes a lot of freaking work to get it right.

    For me, that moment when I finally put something to bed and I'm happy with it makes all that I put into it worth it. It took me a long time to get to that point even for a 14000 word novelette, though. I spent 10 years reading about writing and another two doing a lot of practicing, getting feedback, and rewriting.

    The bottom line, Dan, is that only you can motivate you. If it's worth it to you, you'll keep chugging along. If not, you'll put it aside for another hobby.

    Either option is fine, and, truthfully, it's not a decision you have to make now. If you're not driven to do it, you can wait until you are.
     
  12. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    Jabrosky,

    I think you've brought up and interesting point in regards to my motivation to write.

    If I were to be brutally honest with myself, I would say that my motivation to write lies in my somewhat narcissistic desire to create something that people will enjoy, and maybe I struggle to reach the level of motivation required to overpower my "perfection neuroses" because the payoff doesn't take place until long after the work is complete, and even then there is no guarantee that people will actually enjoy it.

    So then the question is: if I become a better writer, will a larger audience see and enjoy my work, and in turn help motivate me to write?

    I don't know, it seems like quite the chicken-and-egg conundrum.
     
  13. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    TWErvin2,

    I think you make a lot of terrific points in your reply, but the underlined portion stood out to me in a slightly different context.

    When I joined the Marine Corps in 1995, I remember the first time I ran a mile in boot camp, I came in at about the 12 minute mark. When I learned that to max out my physical fitness test, I was going to need to run 3 miles in 18 minutes, a little simple math led me to the discouraging conclusion that there was absolutely no way I was going to make it in the USMC.

    Fast forward a year later, after getting up every morning to run and work out, and working through the pain (and in some cases, laziness), I ran 3 miles in 18 minutes 23 seconds, which, while not quote max, was something I never thought I would ever be able to accomplish, and certainly nothing I would have accomplished had I not placed an almost daily focus on improving myself.

    Writing seems a lot like running, just more painful.
     
  14. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for taking some time to provide such sincere feedback and perspective.

    Overall, I guess it serves as a clear reminder that I'm not alone in my struggling to create something that not only is "good", but that I will be proud of, and that other people will enjoy.
     
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  15. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    I definitely understand where you're coming from, Dan. I'm currently in a bit of a slump right now, and it seems like everytime I sit down in front of the keyboard all I can think is "this is stupid, this won't work, ect.". So lately I've just been writing scenes that I think would be really fun, like some kind of battle or a cool little segment of conversation or something, but instead of trying to make it fantastic, I tell myself before I even begin that I'm going to delete it. It takes away some of the pressure of forcing yourself to write something amazing, and instead just writing because, well, it can be fun. It's been working for me.

    Anyway, good luck, and don't give up. I liked your entries in showcase, and it would be a shame if you didn't develop it further.
     
  16. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    I've never felt this, but I could say is that if you enjoy writing, just write.
    I loved writing my first draft, and now I'm rewriting parts and it's getting tedious. So I started another story for fun, just so that I still have fun writing rather than 100% of it feeling like a chore.
    I'd say to, if you have ideas, come back to it sometime and try again. If you enjoy it then great, if you don't then I wouldn't do it. But that's just me, I write mostly for enjoyment.
     
  17. Ayaka Di'rutia

    Ayaka Di'rutia Troubadour

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    Have you explored different genres? It may be you haven't found the right kind of genre to write in, especially if you still have an urge to write. Have you tried writing non-fiction, poetry, haikus, etc.?
     
  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Dan, how do you write your stories? Do you pants them? Do you plan them? I went through several months this past winter where writing just didn't happen for me. I was bitter about it...until I came across some information by several authors on how to create plots, settings, characters, etc for stories BEFORE writing anything down. Not outlining (boring) but more brainstorming and asking "what" shaped questions. This has helped me immensely. Now, I am writing every day even if it is only a 15 min fast write on days I'm pressed for time. The ideas are endless and I am more confident about my work.

    If you want to write and are having a hard time doing so, then maybe its time to look at a different approach to your work. Writing should be freeing and exciting, you can have the experience that you want with this. Also, writer's block isn't necessarily a bad thing. Its a good tool for gauging where you are in the process of writing your story. I recently read that writer's block happens when something isn't happening right or flowing. Its helpful to pull back, breathe, don't curse yourself out for not writing, and think about what could be causing the hiccup. You are an artist, a creator of beautiful worlds and stories. Most definitely this will pass and you will write freely again. If you want any information on what I came across, I can PM you since I don't know if we can post outside links on here.
     
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  19. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    To be quite honest, yes, my writing process is a bit broken and I've actually been putting a great deal of thought about how to fix it.

    The problem I have is that I conjure up some terrific, vivid scenes in my head which I want to write (like a battle, perhaps), but then have to find a context for it, and create some before and after, and this leads to the story gets stuck. It's fun to write an awesome scene, it's not so fun to have to "bondo buggy" the scenes together to complete a whole story.

    This is solid feedback, thank you.

    And yes, if you want to PM me the info, I would love to check it out.
     
  20. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    Jeff Goins says that writer's block comes from two places. It's either fear, or you're empty and need to fill up. My guess from your post is that what you're facing now is fear. You're afraid your writing isn't good enough. It won't measure up. No one will like it. You're afraid that you will have to put in a lot of time to get better, and the payoff won't be worth it. You're afraid that even if you put in the time, the payoff will never come. Am I right?

    In the Marines, you faced fear. Fear that you would never run fast enough. Fear of this obstacle course. Fear of crawling across the ground at night with LIVE AMMO flying over your freaking head! You faced these fears and you beat them. Sure, you had DI's to make sure you did it, but it's not like they literally forced you to do anything. You could have said no. Walked away. Something drove you to push through and get past boot camp.

    You ran a mile in 12 minutes at first. That's a terribly slow pace, by military standards. But you improved. You got faster. Your muscles developed and your endurance improved.

    Treat writing the same. At first you won't be able to meet the standards. But if you keep working on it you will get there.
     
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