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Writing, Anxiety and Perfectionism

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

  1. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    I have severe anxiety. I deal with this by getting drunk. It's easy to say whatever you want when you don't care about what you say.

    I can say with complete earnestly that I feel what I write is trash. The backspace command is truly a best friend. And though I feel this way, I cannot help but try and try again.

    Failure is masked success, without one you can never see one.
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    So, DragonOfTheAerie, did you get it sorted?
  3. I'm quitting for now. I tried to start writing again, but it fell in fast. I joined Top Scribe, to have something else to write, but that too is becoming a source of stress, and i don't know if i'll even be able to write a submission in time let alone get it ready. So...I don't know what to do.

    I spent most of the morning building Lego figures of my characters.
  4. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

    My gut says that this is the wrong move. But at the same time, I do understand the need to take a break at some point. So I can't give you a conclusive answer to what I think is the right move, but I have some insight that I've discovered about myself that might be useful to you.

    For every novel that I've written from beginning to end, I've had a flop. As in, I outlined, and then started writing, and eventually got to a point (mostly at around the 50 or 60% mark) where I realised that the story just doesn't work like I thought it would. Then I struggle for days and writhe on the floor trying to come up with solutions to the impossible situations I've created. I suddenly feel like everything about the story is shallow and terrible and I just want to quit writing altogether and become a bean-farmer.

    But then I start looking at the core of my story and I scrap almost everything I planned, designed and wrote, and I come up with a new story, built from the ashes of the old one. The core of the story, the things that made me want to write it, they're still there. But I build the rest from the ground up.

    And in EVERY case, the resulting story is better. Much better.

    Now I don't know if it's just my special blend of crazy, or if it's something that you should look at, but if I were to make a suggestion, it would be this:
    Take a few days -- or weeks -- to figure out what the core of your story is. Take that core (that could include characters and places) and build something new out of it. Maybe it will turn out to be something that you don't like. Maybe it will turn out to be something better. If it's not, just discard it and keep at what you have. If it is, discard the old and keep going with the new.

    Whether or not this seems like something that could work for you, I wish you luck in figuring out the problem.
  5. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Just remember that you can't really find out if something will or will not work until you test it.

    To quote Thomas Edison -

    "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

    You should apply that mindset to your writing. Take your idea, test it, see if it works, if it doesn't then you know that you have to change something and test it again. If it ultimately doesn't work you move on. It's not a failure on your part if an idea doesn't pan out, as long as you continue testing new ideas until you find one that fits.

    I know that it's reassuring to have your ideas validated and encouraged by members of this site, but in the end you ultimately answer to yourself and only yourself. I wouldn't rely on using the forum as a tool for screening everything in your story in order to get a thumbs up or down by people who are not in your head space and can't completely understand what you are trying to accomplish. When I ask for advice I'm more focused on reader clarity and trimming what doesn't add to the story, not whether my idea is good or bad.

    Hope that helps a little.
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    @DragonOfTheAerie, sorry to hear you hit the wall again. I recommend repeatedly running into it. Tough on the head, but it does build up your calf muscles. :)

    Have you thought about writing something low stakes? Something entirely different? There are about a kajillion writing prompts out there. It may be a waste of time but does have the virtue of keeping pen in hand.
    Heliotrope likes this.
  7. I understand what you're getting at. Especially the part about writhing on the floor and becoming a bean farmer. But i feel like i've already done these things. Look, i don't know how many times i've rewritten this. I don't know how many times i've tried to scrap everything and build something new from the ideas i like best. I don't know why it doesn't work.

    So, i gave up, because that seemed like the only thing left...
  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    This thread highlights the main reason why I don't rewrite: the manuscript will never be good enough. Why waste my time rewriting the same story over and over and over and over and over and over again when the best use of my sacred hours is in starting/finishing another project? That results in more than one book under my belt, more stories to gain experiece writing, more characters and worlds to explore. To each their own but at some point, we must accept that the story will never be perfect. Nothing in this life is, and we just hold ourselves back when we chase perfection 'til our dying days.
    Heliotrope likes this.
  9. That's exactly what ive been doing. And i realized recently that it's not helping. I know i'm not always going to enjoy what i'm writing, but when it's making me miserable, i have no choice but to walk away.

    I write a lot of crap. I do a lot of sitting down and writing the first thing that comes to mind, and continuing with it until i can't think of anywhere else to take it. Some of that stuff is terrible, some of it sparks new ideas that could be more than terrible, and some of it is actually very good. However, it gets tedious after a while, simply because i have no emotional connection to any of it.

    Other people on here have stated that they have no emotional connection to any of their works. I can't imagine that. If i can't bond with a story, i get bored of it very quickly, and i have no motivation to continue. However, if i can connect emotionally to a story, that connection will see me through the hard times and help me to continue. My current work has always been my favorite story. i've taken long breaks from it at times, but it's always been there, tugging at the edges of my mind, beckoning me back. It's been a long time since i've actually been able to work on it, and that is weighing on me.

    I'm looking for something to care about, if that makes sense. I've been looking through all my old idea notebooks, but none of them are speaking to me. They're just concepts mostly, and i don't have any characters for them, or even a plot. I have many great ideas that could be made into best-selling novels, but i have no motivation to write them. I'll probably come back to them later, but as of now...?

    Again, Top Scribe is turning out to be much more stressful than i thought it would be. The deadline is less than two weeks away and i still don't have a basic plotline for the story. The prompts are very limiting and i'm having difficulty including them all. Since most of the scoring depends on how well you incorporated the prompts i might as well not enter.
  10. I'm looking to publish, so that makes rewriting necessary.
  11. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Right. So giving up will get you published?
  12. Not permanently. What i was doing before wasn't getting me any closer to publishing than giving up. I needed distance.
  13. ddmealing

    ddmealing Dreamer

    Absolutely! If I didn't do any rewrites my stuff would be totally unreadable.

    There's a point where you need to be able to say enough is enough, but a few revisions are necessary if you intend for anyone else to read it. Huge difference between draft #3 and draft #30.
  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Who said anything about leaving the manuscript unreadable? That's completely misunderstanding the point. I totally polish my manuscripts, have them looked at, edit some more, etc. But rewriting entire scenes is a no no. Typically, weak structure in the first draft remains weak in the consecutive drafts. This is something that I've heard editors say as well as some prolific authors. The best way to avoid having to do 30 rewrites of a manuscript is to continue studying story structure and try to get that as close to right the first time. But no one said anything about not editing or polishing. If you're doing 30 drafts of your work and your story is still not perfect or to your satisfaction, think of how many beginnings of other stories you could have conquered in all that time. How many endings. How many middles. How many antagonists, main characters, plot structure you could've tackled, etc. Every story is different and requires unique approaches. Rewriting the same story 30x isn't going to propel your skill forward in the same way as writing something new each time. Just my 2 cents.
    TheCatholicCrow likes this.
  15. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Aye. Distance is good. Gotcha.
  16. ddmealing

    ddmealing Dreamer

    Well, YMMV of course. I rewrote over 100,000 words of my first novel during the second draft. I rewrote the last 20,000 words in my most recent draft because my editor had a better idea for the ending.

    I think there comes a point where you need to let your projects go out into the wild, but I have no sacred cows at all when it comes to my work. If a scene needs to be deleted or rewritten to make the book stronger, it gets deleted or rewritten. Some of the best stuff in my novel came in the 10th, 11th, 12th drafts, and I've rewritten chapters many, many times trying to get them right.

    I am a pure discovery writer though. Sometimes I need to try and fail to find the right way through a scene, a plot arc, etc. Heavy outliners probably have a totally different experience.
  17. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

    Whether you take a break or not is entirely your decision, but I would suggest you think about why you're so unable to have a connection to your writing. What changed?

    It may not be writing related at all. Sometimes other things in our lives leave us so emotionally drained or distracted we just don't have anything left to give to our writing. I'm not saying that's it, but if its a problem you've grappled with for awhile, I think its worth examining other areas of your life to see if something's effecting your ability to write.
  18. Sometimes you can't get it right on the first try. I always have to write it and see what happens. I can't tell, from how an idea looks in an outline, how the idea will work in the real thing. Rewriting is necessary most of the time, at least for me. If i tried to get everything right on the first try, it would be so stressful i would never write a word. The freedom to rewrite is what gives me the freedom to make mistakes.

    To each their own, i guess.
  19. I'm not an outliner, so this might be the difference between the two of us. Whenever i outline, i end up having to throw out most of it when writing because it just didn't work out the way i'd planned.
  20. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I'm actually a huge pantser. Many times I've written about my process on this site and I'm very vocal about how outlining bores me to death, and how I've only finished 2 stories of the several I've outlined. The story I'm working on atm is from a half-baked outline, where I'm making the effort to learn and memorize romance plot structure so I never have to outline again. I'm simply trying to help but you keep making assumptions and shooting down what I'm saying in good faith. So okay.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2016

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