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Writing, Anxiety and Perfectionism

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Jul 3, 2016.

  1. I'm very new here and I've been posting lots of threads recently, but this one is a little different. i'd like to share some stuff that's been going on in my own personal writing journey, and I want to know if anyone feels the same as me. (Please tell me someone feels the same as me.)

    Something you should know about me to give context: I'm very prone to anxiety. Sometimes it's just the tendency to obsess and worry, sometimes it's panic attacks and nausea so bad i can't eat. I'm a lot better at managing it than i used to be, which is a real blessing, but the tendency is always there. When i start to feel the symptoms i've learned to be attentive to--nausea, tight breathing, sweaty hands, fatigue--I can't do anything productive, least of all create.

    I'm also very prone to perfectionism. I'm judgmental of everything i read, but i'm exponentially more judgmental of everything i write. I've been told my entire life what an *awesome* writer I am. My ego has been relentlessly inflated. You'd think this would be good for my self-esteem, but it's not. Whenever I write something, i judge it next to every other thing i've written. I think about what all the people who have praised me would think. I ask myself if this new thing i have written is as *awesome* as people think my writing is.

    I've been working on my work in progress since i was 12. Drafting, redrafting, world-building. Character interviews, dragon species profiles, maps. It's evolved and expanded over the years, and i'm deeply committed to it because the core of the story speaks to my inmost being, and i know it can become something breathtaking. It's my Magnum Opus, and i love it VERY much. Maybe a little too much. My dreams are impossibly huge and my expectations are impossibly high. I have so many great ideas that i think are far better than anything i've ever read, but still i find a way to judge them. Still i keep on looking for ideas that are EVEN MORE great than the ones i already have. In fact, i've spent so long dreaming about my ideas that i'm actually quite afraid to set them on paper. I'm afraid they won't live up to my own standards. I feel like THIS book, the Magnum Opus, has to be BETTER than everything i've ever written. Or at least as good. Better than everything i've ever read. I'm frightened of making the mistakes i notice and judge in others' books.

    You see, when i started writing a novel at 12, i had no idea how to write a story, no idea if anything i wrote was any good. My first attempt was somewhere in between a mess and a disaster. i couldn't care less. But things changed later. I realized that i could make a career out of writing and that i could make these ideas and characters i had into a masterpiece. I was growing my skills, too, and i realized that i could write and write seriously well.

    Now, i've been blocked on my current work-in-progress--yes, that same book i began as a preteen--for about 1.5 years. 1.5 years means hundreds of pages of notes and outlines. 1.5 years means dozens of hours spent brainstorming, meditating, despairing and outright sobbing. I didn't even know it was possible to have writer's block for that long. And people typically don't. They think of the idea that's been eluding them and they move on. I've had writer's block. This is not writer's block.

    Several fears are eating me inside, shutting down the passion i used to have for this book. 1) the fear that my book is not, and never will be, good enough. 2) The fear that the passion to write will never come back. 3) The fear that this book will never be written. That it's not "the one". This is most paralyzing of all. This book has been with me through so many changes in my life. I've devoted so much time to it. The idea that i may not be able to write it, that it's destined to never be read, is terrifying to me.

    I keep hearing the advice, "Just write. Don't worry about that others think. It's okay to make mistakes." And i try. I fight the voices, hard. I set goals, i make deadlines, i try all kinds of methods to dominate the fear. But whenever i sit down--butt in chair, as we've all heard--i feel crushing dread. I feel that all too familiar fatigue, that nausea, that tight feeling. Lots of things can trigger my anxiety but this time it's writing.

    Now, anxiety MURDERS creativity. Squeezes the life right out of it. Perfectionism is the same way. Together they are killing my book. I know i can write a book because i've done it. Not just once but several times.

    I joined this forum partly to get help with my ideas. But my ideas are just fine. I don't need new ones or better ones. I need to write the ones I have, because they are GOOD ideas. But--this is sucking the passion out of me. I don't feel excited when i think about my ideas. This scares me. What if it doesn't come back? Not being able to write this book kills me inside because i love it, and i'm committed.

    Sorry this was so long--so, In conclusion. Has anyone ever felt this way? More importantly, has anyone ever been able to beat it? Is it important to feel passionate about my ideas? What should i do to help myself and the story i'm writing?
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Booze... lots of booze. Just kidding, heh heh.

    I can relate to parts... writing since 12, and hearing about how good your writing is, while I sat there thinking it was crap. I stopped writing for many years... physically writing, not thinking about it, and went ahead and lived life, figuring writing wasn't the NFL, I didn't have to be young to write, LOL.

    Anxiety like what you speak of I can't exactly relate to. Paralysis in writing I have known in the past. My route to writing again took strange paths.

    One big thing I did was to take UCLA screenwriting courses, where there is a lot of attention to technical detail and structure, plus writing. Now this created some weird habits when compared to writing a novel, but it built some skills. Then, I got the attention of some producers, but no sales, and then this brilliant advice: Novelize this, get it published, and it's got a real good chance of movie rights being bought. Higgly piggly!

    Years after that, I finally got back to my roots (wife and two children and small business later) in fantasy fiction, but I took an approach more like I took with screenwriting, with attention to technical detail. I learned that when I thresh out the chaff from my writing I no longer gag on it. Boom! 125k word novel complete... cut down to 125k to make it more attractive to publishers in size.

    So for me, the catalyst to writing hard core was to write a few chapters, let them sit for months, pick them up, and rewrite them, study the craft, wait months, and pick them again, repeat until those few chapters didn't make me want to gag, let them sit another 6 months, pick them and find they're still good... I got them to the point I don't "hiccup" while reading, meaning I don't see my pet peeve word and style flaws.

    Unfortunately, you will may have to find your own path, I guess we all must to some degree.
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Everyone has what's called their "Golden Idea". It's usually one of their first ideas they've had for a story. They nurture the idea. they fall in love with it. They build it up in their head and know that if they can get it down, it will be the best thing ever. But they build it up so much that when written down, the idea of it holds so much baggage outside of the actual writing, it will never be able to hold up the weight of it. It will never equal what they imagine.

    It's like a childhood memory of some book, TV show, or movie. Once it gets pulled out into the harsh light of reality, it almost always fails to meet expectations.

    My golden idea stewed in my head for around 15 years. I rewrote the first few chapters dozens of times. And I could never nail down a plot, because I wanted it to be original.

    I could never make any progress until I gave up on the expectation that it was going to be perfect--or any good. I just did what people say. I just wrote. Four drafts and 275 000 words later, it was done, and it was terrible. And I really didn't know how to fix it.

    So what did I do? After a lot of soul searching, I moved on. I let the story go, and I wrote another book. While I was writing that book, I came up with tons of ideas of how I could fix that 275 000 word monster. I jotted those down, and then, wrote another book which had nothing to with the first.

    One day I might go back to that first book, but right now I think for me to improve as a writer I have to write. I have to take stories from beginning to end. I make lots of mistakes. I learn from them, and then I move on.

    I just started a story. I'm not sure if it's a novel or just a novella, but it may relate to that first novel I wrote. I'm thinking it might take place in the same story universe. This may lead me back to that first story, or maybe not. I'm not worried about that. All I'm concerned with is writing the best story I can now.

    Because that's all I can do.

    I don't think there's necessarily a right answer here, but IMHO, sometimes you have to let something go. What ever that means. Maybe it means setting the story aside because you're not ready to write it yet and go write something else.

    Maybe it means letting go of all the expectations and pressures of what you think the story should be and just write the gosh darn thing and let be what ever it's going to be.

    In my first college writing class, my instructor had us constantly writing. He said the purpose of that was so we empty ourselves. It took me a while before I understood what he was getting at.

    You see, as you write, the more you write, you purge yourself of all the pent up ideas, all the preconceptions and expectations that get built up over time about what you want to write and how you want to write it. This allows you to just write and let the words come instead of forcing them to be this or that instead of what they should be.

    If you hold onto something too tight you smother it. Like I said there's not right answer, but IMHO it's about letting go, what ever that means to you.
  4. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    Would it help if we took the opposite approach?... Your writing is crap! (Which means it can only get better!) *Disclaimer: I've never read your writing* Look at any author's early work and you'll see that the Magnum Opus is almost never their first book. You do get those rare cases where the so-called Break-out novel is a huge success (for instance, Catcher in the Rye) but that's rarely the case ... and usually (as in the case of JD Salinger) that "first book" came after years of writing fiction in short stories.

    Wait... that makes you ... oh! Okay ... chances are, you still have lots to learn. (We all do.)

    Stop thinking about it as your Magnum Opus unless you plan on no longer writing when you finish... Every piece is unique and takes on a life of its own. If we're using the baby analogy ... don't make your children feel left out. They're all beautiful in their own way!

    Not being something you can do now doesn't mean that it's destined to never be finished. I've heard plenty of writers say stuff along the lines of "I always wanted to write this book ... so glad I waited until later in my career." You're either lacking confidence in yourself or lacking ability/skill to do your story justice. Gotta soul search to figure out which one it is.

    It's important that you're still willing to learn... an idea is one thing, technique is another. Don't make the mistake of assuming that everyone here doesn't have notebooks filled with our own good ideas ...

    If you haven't already, my recommendation would be to talk to a Health professional about your anxiety (I also have anxiety ... probably not the only ones here) ... you might want to look into coping mechanisms, vitamin deficiencies, and maybe start exercising ... don't know. Ask a doctor.

    Next ... I'd say ditch the book. I have a lovely Epic trilogy that I personally believe is brilliant but it was my first go at writing and it's locked away from human eyes atm ... will probably remain there until I'm ready (if ever) to take it on again. Put 4 years into it. Had a creative writing professor that took 8 years on her book (and she literally taught Creative Writing ...) Every project is unique and we all work at our own paces. That first book will probably take the longest. The more you know, the faster you'll be able to tackle them. I've been working as a ghostwriter for several months and I've been pumping out a novel a month... my clients seem to be happy and impressed with my work... which is really all that matters. I'll soon be making the transition into writing for myself full time (counting down the weeks!) I still get anxious before I turn part of the manuscript in ... will they like it? Did I capture that character the way they wanted it? Is the prose too sophisticated for YA? Is this too Fantasy for Sci Fi? Will they hire me for the next book in the series?... But as time progresses, that nagging voice of doubt gets quiet (still there just quieter) and my confidence in myself drowns it out. Always looking to progress but all I can really do is be the best I can right now.

    It's normal to doubt yourself. Chances are, nobody reading the book (strangers) have read your previous work. Stop lumping them together. Each piece needs to stand on its own. If it's not quality work, don't release it. Rework it until it is high quality. Stay humble and realize there's more to writing than great ideas ... there's always something new to learn. Read lots of different genres and pick up styles, voices, and techniques from each along the way... store them in your writer's toolbox for a rainy day.

    Put some stuff out for online critiques ... here or (once you're old enough) Scribophile is pretty great too ... obviously this site specializes in Fantasy so if you're writing Fantasy you'll have better luck here. (I write a lot of Mystery/Thrillers.) Keep writing until people you don't know say the writing is awesome (because let's be honest ... our mothers and friends are probably not the best judges).

    Trust yourself and have fun. Don't be afraid to take on something new. Not every story needs to be completed right away. I have 4 (of my own) books in different stages (and several more outlines) ... some will make it to hands of a reader, others won't. That's just the reality of art. Some of it you finish. Some of it you come back to, and some of it you just do for yourself.
  5. I just want to clarify, in case you misunderstood, and it sounds like you kinda did. I wrote the first draft when I was 12. About 80,000 words. Then, at 13, I wrote the second draft. About 90,000 words. Third draft got to 34,000 before I encountered severe problems continuing. It wasn't the first time I had written a book, but the earlier ones were novella-length stuff and the plot wasn't complicated. So, it hasn't been 1.5 years since first writing the book or conceiving the idea, that's just how long I've been stuck.
    I guess I still am on the younger side of this community, lol.
  6. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    Hmmm ... Don't know. Never taken a poll here. I'm in my mid-twenties (dear Lord! Can that be right? ... 1990's were awhile ago so ... yeah that's right! Eek!)

    Outside of FanFic (it sounds like) you're still on the younger end. That's okay (we all gotta start somewhere!) ... most of my writing friends in the Crime/Thriller genres are as old as my grandparents. I'm known in that community as the "baby author" ...

    Being young compared to others doesn't mean we can't hold our own though it does mean most of the MASH references are lost on me :)
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
  7. I really relate to the golden idea thing. This probably *is* my golden idea, and often I struggle with the idea that I might have to let it go because I'm very attached. It saddens and scares me.


    I've got a full cast of characters, an incomplete but still compelling world, and plenty of things that I consider worth fighting for, even besides the central concept that I like so much. So I think the solution is different.

    I've built up this idea in my head a lot. Thought about how awesome and perfect it could be. But, that's a standard I can never live up to. When you write a great idea down, it's like you've broken it. It's like you've soiled it by putting it on paper instead of letting it float ephemerally in your mind. I have long lists of things I want my book to be and include (literally. I can provide pictures.) I think that's what's killing me.

    A couple months ago, I decided to start a writing habit. Every day I would sit down and write whatever random crud came into my mind. I ignored capitalization and grammar and just wrote. Sometimes I didn't have any ideas and I would just ramble. Sometimes it would be terrible. But some of the most breathtaking pieces I have ever produced came out of that period of free-writing. I'd say many of them are some of my favorite things I've ever written.

    Why is my Golden Idea different? Because it's so meaningful to me. I've grown up with it. I can't just dash it off as an afterthought like I did those beautiful paragraphs a few months ago. I feel the need to micro-manage it and make sure every sentence is perfect. I have to make it live up to all the expectations I've built up for it in my mind.

    But this is NOT what I want for that idea!

    I loved this idea when it was first conceived because it was so much fun to write. Not because I thought I could make it into a best-selling novel. It brought joy to me.

    Maybe I'm not ready to write it yet, I don't know. I have tried to set it aside before, but then after a few months my characters start talking to me again and my ideas draw me back in. I don't think being ready to write is so much a matter of ability--I CAN write a book, I have done it several times--but of the fact that this is the story on my heart right now. I can't see setting it down forever. Maybe I will need to break from it to distance myself from all the anxiety and stress I've come to associate with it.

    I believe I need to find a way to let go of the destination and simply enjoy the ride. I need to stop imagining a finished book and go back to the simple joy of putting words on paper. I need to stop focusing on finishing and focus more on writing. That's the only way the story will become what it is meant to be instead of what I, from this limited, skewed perspective, think it should be.

    But this will be hard to do.

    I suppose my worry is that I've gotten too attached to this story and don't recognize that I need to let go of it. It's kind of a heartbreaking thought.
  8. I like the anonymity of the Internet. It means I can be judged by my abilities only and not by my age. At my age people are quick to assume I'm inexperienced and have no idea how to write.

    I have dabbled in fan-fic, haha!
  9. Having such an intense emotional connection to a story can make it hard to make rational decisions about it. Things tend to consume my mind, due to the way my brain is wired.
    As of now, I just know that I'm absolutely at the end of my rope with my own perfectionism and would rather write an awful, stinking, hideous, rambling, pointless mess of a story than NO story.
  10. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I've been writing since 2001 and for ten years, I wrote just to amuse myself. In 2011, I joined this forum, because I'd decided I wanted to try publishing my work. I had ten first-draft novels, all written on paper.

    Since then, I learned pretty much everything I now know about telling a story, and writing in general. It was a rough road. I've been a pretty prolific writer for the better part of fifteen years, and an every-day writer for at least the last five.

    Last year, I was really depressed after a move to a new area. I turned sort of reclusive, and that led to an extreme anxiety. I've also had chronic neck and back pain for more than five years, and that led to a lot of anxiety, too, because I'm always afraid of hurting myself, and I don't like to take pain meds, but I need them to function most days.

    It's been rough. So I wrote more than ever. And what I noticed, was that for me, writing caused more and more anxiety as I tried super hard to polish my work and get it publishable and professional.

    In fact, I didn't actually overcome the anxiety until recently. I still have it, but it isn't nearly as bad as it once was.

    I'm not confident at all. I have zero self-esteem, and I always feel guilty if someone says they like anything I produce, like nothing I do should be worth a compliment. I'm not a perfectionist, I just want to please everyone, so they are happy with me. I'm sure this thinking was developed in my childhood, where I never felt good enough.

    I can't relate really to the concept of a golden idea, because I have so many books I love, I don't consider any one better than any of the others. They're all just things I like for different reasons. Though I'm a sensitive and emotional person, it's actually really odd that I don't have an emotional attachment to any of my stories. I mean, I'm rewriting a novel right now that I wrote in 2008, but it isn't because i love it more than the rest, it's because to me, it made sense to pick one to follow all the way through to the end professional quality I've been trying to achieve, but I'm doing that only because I need to pick one thing to focus on. And this novel made sense because it begins the appearance of werewolves in my fantasy world, and by far, I think those characters have become very solid in my mind. Some other stories still need a lot more figuring out before I could be confident calling them "completed".

    Sorry I can't relate more, but I just want to say something.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. We all struggle with something, and I firmly believe that this community is the right place for folks who need support, whether it's emotional support as we take risks, or as we try to reach for our goals.

    The one thing that made the biggest difference to me in the last year, was listening to Donald Maass' advice. I have been finding my voice again, after spending years trying to be someone I'm not. And with that, a lot of my anxiety just dissipated. Sure, I still worry my crit partners won't like what I'm writing, but at least I no longer feel confined in a persona that doesn't even fit me.

    I'm not sure what you should do to overcome the things that are happening in your situation, but I took months off writing. I dint think about writing, I didn't write a word. I probably didn't even read anything. Clean break. For months. Just to clear my head and reestablish what I was doing this for.

    Once I felt completely cleansed of everything troubling me, reconnected with my family, and got my real estate license, I approached writing again differently. I came back to it with a serious goal; to be myself, whatever that was. NO more lying to myself and trying to sound like every other writer out there. no more complicating my stories with layers of shit that doesn't support the simpler messages of my stories.

    I found good friends who give it to me straight and keep me honest. I put all my best tools on top of my tool box. I stopped giving in to my bad feelings. And when they surface, I call a friend in my crit group who will always make time for me, even if I don't know what I want to talk about. Being connected to other writers is the only reason I'm still here, still writing, because without their support, I would have given up last winter, when i felt utterly defeated and incapable of improving my work to a professional level.

    Hang in there. We all have times we want to quit. If I hadn't hit rock bottom, I wouldn't have known how strong I am. I wouldn't KNOW this is worth it to me. When it doesn't come easy, and you have to fight for it, reaching your goal is a victory. Every positive comment I'm receiving from my crit partners right now feels like a big victory.

    I hope you come out of this thing victorious!
  11. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hi, DragonOfThe Aerie. Welcome to the forums. :)

    I'm glad that you've decided to share your concerns with us because pretty much every writer struggles with anxiety at some point. Your experience is normal but the good news is that it'll eventually fade. One thing that you might take into consideration is that you're very, very young still. Give yourself time to mature into your craft, to learn more life experiences that you can add to your stories, time to learn about your writing process and how to construct a good story in general.

    Your OP states that you're emotionally attached to the story and that perfectionism has brought you to a halt. I've totally been there. I also started writing young (methinks many writers have) and to be honest, writing is one of those skills that takes time to hone. It takes a good deal of discipline and maturity. What you write now will suck and it's going to suck for a while. That's okay. I'm not saying that to be mean, but instead to let you know just how much time you still have to write so many good stories. Writers don't just write one book or one golden idea. They write many stories. You have an entire life ahead of you to sharpen your writing.

    Whether or not you put this story aside and work on something else is entirely up to you. Keep at it. Allow yourself to get discouraged because it happens. But once the nagging sensation of wanting to write returns yet again, honor it and go back to your story. Explore being a writer. Write short stories, long stories, read a lot, educate yourself on writing, and enjoy being a kid. As you mature, your craft will, too. You appear to be rather exasperated with your situation about this pesky story. Relax! You have soooo much life and time to write many books. Good luck!
  12. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

    Hi Dragon

    I can relate a lot to what you say, I suffer with anxiety as well. First thing I would say is don't pay much attention to the worries about "things will never change...", because after struggling for years with various problems, I can say that things always change (even when we don't want them to). What worries you today probably wont bother you in a few years time. I've had periods in my life where I have obsessed and worried about something, thinking I will never be able to stop, and a couple of years later I won't give it a passing thought.

    You're still so young, a lot of things seem scary but as you age you will feel differently. Your perspective of life will change, and many things that once scare you won't seem so scary after all (of course there will be plenty of new things to scare you, like when you realise you aren't immortal!). I know that the anxiety is difficult (impossible?) to reason with. I deal with it by writing in a journal, getting it out of my system, and then doing my best to ignore it throughout the day. Next time you feel anxious, try getting a pen and paper and write how you feel, explore exactly what it is you are anxious about. You say you are scared your book wont live up to expectations, but that's not something to be scared of itself. What do you believe will happen as a result of it? What are you actually afraid of? Sometimes getting to the bottom of it can help you with trying to overcome it.

    I am now in chronic pain, which for someone suffering with anxiety is just the worst. When it first started I believed I couldn't cope, my anxiety was off the charts. I had no belief in myself, no resilience. It has been a few years, with some ups and lots of downs, but that voice in my head that says I cannot cope loses power with every month that passes, as my mind gets more evidence that actually, yes I am surviving through this (though sometimes just barely).

    Have you ever considered getting professional help for your anxiety? You are so young to be suffering with things like panic attacks and all this anxiety. It is not your fault, for some people anxiety is a disease, like an infection or virus, the brain isn't working properly and when treated it can really improve your quality of life. I learnt about relaxation exercises and they have been a godsend. I take medication as well (not tranqs), which helps a little bit and takes the edge off.

    Therapy has also helped me, when you have those worries that feel like they are just eating away inside you, it can help to just get it out once in a while, talk to someone about it that won't judge you or tell you "oh just do xyz, dont worry you're being silly", that will just listen.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
    TheCatholicCrow likes this.
  13. Thanks for the support, guys. It means a lot.
    On the other hand--DANGIT. Covers blown. Now everyone knows I'm a teenager. Maybe I should post a little something in Showcase to prove I'm not a noob, haha!
    I think I have several options. The first is to take a complete break of at least a few months. I took a six month break after the first draft where I didn't so much as think about the story. Then, I looked back at it and realized on the first page that there was NOTHING I could do with that garbage. The second draft was VERY different from the first and also way better. Anyway, anecdote over--I don't like this idea because I've been anxious to get it written for quite some time. I guess that seems ridiculous when I probably have 70 more years to write it before I'm dead. But I'm just impatient and I imagined getting the fourth (?) draft done a lot sooner.
    Second, I could try working on another of my ideas. I want to write other things, but I honestly don't feel ready to write many of my other ideas. I feel like I don't have the experience. I have plans for a kind of talking-animal type story (like Warriors or its spinoffs except more mature) but that one isn't coming together. I really want to write historical fiction, but I have no idea how to approach the research and I'll have to spend lots of time getting comfortable with the genre. I also have plans for a kind of short story collection but I don't really know where that's going. I have an opening line I really like, but not much besides that.
    Third, I could try sitting down and writing without a plan, just making it up as I go. I'll feel infinitely better if I can just get it down. But, I don't know if this is the best course of action.
  14. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    To quote Mythbusters, "Failure is always an option." :D

    You only gain experience by writing. If you save all your ideas until you feel you're ready, you'll probably never write a lick, at least not with any ideas you care about.

    For myself, I try to constantly challenge myself, write stuff that pushes my skill level. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. There's nothing preventing me from rewriting/reusing a failed story idea. And a lot of times I do.

    When I write a failed story, it tells me what direction NOT to go with the idea and gives me ideas of where I should go with it. It's never wasted effort.

    And quite honestly, I find ideas are a dime a dozen. When I'm writing, it stimulates my creative side, and ideas not related to what I'm working on currently flood to the surface. I have a wiki document that's full of story ideas, more than I'll ever use in a life time. And I'm constantly coming up with more.

    My basic approach is, take an idea I love, write it to the best of my abilities, and if I'm going to fail, fail spectacularly. 'Cause really, nobody is really going to know but me. At worst a few critique partners will. And as I said, there's nothing preventing you from getting back up an trying again.

    To me, there's nothing more freeing than not giving a crap about success or failure. Don't get me wrong. Maximum effort and all that jazz, but if maximum effort leads to maximum failure, so be it. For me, that's been a very helpful attitude to take.
    Russ and TheCatholicCrow like this.
  15. Russ

    Russ Istar

    Penpilot has a lot of good advice in his post.

    Part of being a good writer is getting to know yourself both as a writer and a person. Sometimes that can only be accomplished through failure.

    One thing I can say though is it is very rare that doing nothing is the right answer. You face several choices in this case and if one of them does not stand out based on your experience and self-knowledge you may just have to pick one, go with it and see how it goes.

    From the amount that this book seems to be haunting you I might suggest that you right a complete next draft as good as you can make it to "get it out". But I don't know you well enough to make that recommendation with a high degree of confidence.

    On historical fiction there are lots of people around here who can help you. I ha e done research on historical fiction for some professionals so don't be shy about asking.
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'm not generally a fan of writing challenges, but I think they might be appropriate here. One of the virtues of a writing challenge, imo, is that you as the author are not invested in the story. The initial idea isn't yours.

    This has the merit of getting you writing words, sentences, paragraphs, of shaping an idea into a (usually very short) story, without affecting your Golden Idea story, without being set in your built world, and without any consequences if it sucks. I think of a parallel with music. You get an earworm. You can't get that wretched song out of your head. Best fix? Try humming or singing or playing something entirely different. A pop song in your ear? Feed it death metal, or maybe a polka.

    Anyway, before I wander too far into Metaphoria, writing something entirely different and (this is important) something a safe distance away from your "real" story, can be healthy. If you can't keep moving forward, at least keep moving!
    Caged Maiden likes this.
  17. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I'm with skip on this one. Before coming her to this forum, I had written ten novels in the same world, and it was very much a comfort thing. When i started doing challenges, I was hooked. I couldn't get enough. All my best work has come when I didn't give a crap. Like literally, wrote a story in a couple days, committed to one idea, followed through, and posted it on midnight of the deadline. Best. Stuff. Ever.

    I suppose that might not be the case for everyone, though. But I certainly feel the merit of stepping away from a work that has become too weighty is a great thing. Try something weird. Have fun. Do something you've never done before. A tone you didn't think you'd like, a POV character you've never seen. Anything that'll get you to flex your writer muscles and get your mind off the big problem that's weighing you down.

    I get weighed down a lot. That's why I take breaks from writing. I know I'm a better writer if I take days off, so I do that, and I make sure I create a balance between alone time spent writing, and hanging out with friends or family. Some days, I'll be really frustrated I can't find the right dialogue to fit a scene, and my daughter will come in my bedroom and say, "Sorry to bother you, Mom, but I want to paint." And sometimes I just placate her, but I've begun to just close my laptop and get out the paints, and join her. And after, I find that my writing goes so much smoother. Like my brain could stew on the problem without me punishing it and whipping it to go faster.

    So yeah, find some things to enjoy while you let your story issues percolate a little bit. Maybe even for a few days or weeks. I give myself as much time as I need, because I know once I get over the hurdle, I'll be back to 2-4k word days. But while I'm stuck? Oh man, I can stare at a blank screen for hours, just getting more down on myself.

    Best wishes!
  18. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello Dragon!

    The first thing that I want to say is that I suffer from Anxiety disorder too, and I know how awful it is. Sometimes people hear the word anxiety and they think that it's like being nervous, but it feels more like being trapped inside of a cage with a tiger that is going to tear you to shreds any moment and you cannot escape.

    Panic attacks are even worse, I went through a few of them some years ago.

    I do not know exactly how old you are, but the first thing that I want to tell you is that Anxiety is beatable. I deal with it quite well years after my worst moments with the monster, and I still manage to have loads of creativity and imagination. You can do it too! I mean, you can deal with it (or even defeat it completely, like some people have done) and create wonderful stories anyway.

    1) the fear that my book is not, and never will be, good enough. I think that perfectionism is not your friend, you need to get rid of it. Every story is destined to be what it should be, that's it. Your book will be wonderful for some people, and not so good for others, no matter what you do.

    What matters is that you help it to grow and prosper, and allow it to be itself.

    2) The fear that the passion to write will never come back. After completing my first Fantasy trilogy back in 2006, I was so heartbroken that I feared that the fire inside of me would never come back. That story had been everything for me, it had been my love... It took me months to let it go, and in the end I discovered that other stories were coming to me and I would love them as well. The Sparks always come back, believe me.

    3) The fear that this book will never be written. I used to feel precisely the same about the stories in my mind, when I was like 14 or so. Those stories have not been written yet, but they still remain with me and sometimes they raise their heads from the shadows and say "Hey, when is it going to be our turn?"

    They have never gone away, you see. Maybe it's just not their time yet to be written, and they are in my heart anyway. It's very possible that I will get to work with them one day, when the right moment comes, and the same can happen to you later in your life.

    And i try. I fight the voices, hard. I set goals, i make deadlines, i try all kinds of methods to dominate the fear. But whenever i sit down--butt in chair, as we've all heard--i feel crushing dread.

    It's true that sometimes good stuff can result when we force ourselves to write at least one scene, but other times what we need is a break from work for some time. I have spent entire months without working on a story, it happens. Anyway, it sounds like you need a better medical treatment to fight off the Monster of Anxiety.

    Just sent you a private message, Dragon... Share with me anything you want =)
  19. Velka

    Velka Sage

    As you can see from all the responses, most creative types suffer from some form of anxiety, and if not Anxiety with a capital-A (being a clinical term), there's certainly anxiety in the I'm-never-going-to-be-good-enough-why-do-I even-try-it's-all awful-ARGH sense.

    Everyone is different, but like a few others have suggested, putting my 'Golden Idea' on a shelf was the hardest, but best decision I could make for myself as a writer. There was just too much emotional investment, and baggage, weighing down that story for it to help me become a better writer. I was just spinning my creative wheels for years, creating nothing but a rut of creative paralysis and self-doubt.

    Embracing other ideas, entering into challenges on this site, venturing outside of the genre of fantasy, and writing even when it felt like bashing my hands with a hammer, made my craft grow in leaps and bounds.

    I liken it to my current adventures in snowboarding. This winter I decided to take up the sport. I hate being cold and I'm terrified of heights, but I figured it would be rewarding once it stopped sucking so much.

    So, I took some lessons, fell down the bunny hill every day, and eventually stopped sucking so much. The problem was, I really didn't want to leave the bunny hill. It was familiar, I felt safe there, everyone else on the hill was falling and learning, so there was no embarrassment when I got another face full of snow.

    But there also wasn't any growth.

    If I wanted to get better at it, I had to get on the chair lift and use the skills and techniques I learned on the bunny hill on a larger hill. Terrifying? Absolutely. Embarrassing? UGH. Worth it? Yes. Different terrain, different angles of slope, different challenges all made me better (I still suck, but in new and exciting ways!).

    A painter doesn't sit and paint the same picture over and over again. A musician doesn't compose the same piece over and over again. Sure, they might revise and review, but a life's work cannot be defined by one piece of creative output.

    As for perfectionism, (please don't think I'm pulling a "You're young and once you're older and wiser you'll understand" in any condescending way, that is honestly not my intent), but I was crippled by perfectionism until my early twenties and I wish someone told me that "good enough" is actually good enough, a long time before that.

    Life is hard and messy, and as responsibilities and the general realities of being a functioning human being start to pile up, you learn that "good enough" is perfectly acceptable, and generally accepted.

    I've found it is impossible for me to be a perfectionist and still have a healthy and productive life. There's just too much going on. I try, don't get me wrong, but knowing when to say "good enough" is what keeps me on this side of sane. I try to do my best at my job, but there's days when "good enough" is all I can offer. I try to keep my house clean, but there's days where I clean up the dog puke but leave the dishes in the sink because I want to read and it's "good enough". I try to be a supportive friend, but there's days when I am emotionally bankrupt and send a text to a friend having a bad day instead of going out for coffee with them, and it's "good enough".

    And you know what? Everyone does it. No one is going to show up at your doorstep in a suit, holding a clipboard, to regretfully let you know that you didn't meet expectations and therefore are a crap human being and they're pulling your membership.

    The same goes for writing. Good enough is a perfectly acceptable goal. As you get better at it, what qualifies as good enough increases in quality, but the only way to get better at it is to allow yourself to write stuff that isn't good enough and learn from it (something akin to sliding down a mountain on your face and nearly taking out three skiers).

    Maybe one day my good enough will be good enough for my Golden Idea.

    Good luck finding your "good enough".
    Caged Maiden likes this.
  20. Steel Dragon

    Steel Dragon Dreamer

    Don't worry about being perfect. I used to play hockey, and every coach I ever had would talk about the "perfect shot"...and how pointless it was to try and look/wait for it. As one coach said, "If you can see the goalie, let it rip." In hockey it's rarely that first, perfect shot that goes in anyway. It's the banging around at the front of the net that comes after the goalie makes the save. But you have to take that first shot to initialize the sequence. So take the shot, and then worry about banging the rebound home later.
    Demesnedenoir and Sheilawisz like this.

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