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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » What to do, when writing gets you down.

   
Author Topic: What to do, when writing gets you down.
Gan
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I'm sure we all go through times where we hit road blocks, and get stuck in ruts. I'm curious, what do you all do when you hit such areas? I don't let critiques get me down, typically, and force myself to learn from them. Sometimes, however, it can feel overwhelming--There's just so much to fix! Do you ever feel this way? If so, what do you do to combat the dreaded fatigue?


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Tiergan
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Yeah. Writing is tough. Critiques are great, but not always what we hope them to be. Sometimes they hurt, but as you say, take the best of each one. Even in the worst crit, there is probably something that can be improved on in your story. For me, I have been lucky. I have a couple good readers that I can always turn to help me when I am down. I hope I do the same for them. While I don't always agree with them, they have a knack of bringing the positive with the negative.

The main thing I remember when I am down, is, writing is fun, it is. Its why i do it. While I still dream about the #1 blockbuster, movie, game rights, comic books, lunch boxes, condom sales and all that, the truth is its not what makes me write. Its the stories I want to tell, and I have fun doing it. My first novel, by any measure of the word of good writing, was terrible. If I had posted it here, I would have been ripped to shreds, but, and a big but, I am still asked by the poeple who read it, when is the sequel coming out? you left me hanging, where does he go?

Chin up, it may not get easier, but hanging out here will make your writing better.


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Meredith
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This is one where I think everybody has to find their own solution. Because everybody's way of writing is different.

One of the things I did that let me get through The Shaman's Curse was to make a rule. If I had moved on by more than a paragraph, I couldn't go back and revise what I had written. Revision would come later. I could make notes about what I wanted to add, subtract, or change. But I couldn't DO it until I finished the whole story. I only broke that rule twice when I realized I'd gone down a completely wrong path and had to back up and go in a different direction. The first thing is to get the story on paper. Reality is that your going to go through several revisions anyway. But first you have to tell the story. All the way to the end.


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Gan
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Thanks both of you. Like you, Tiergan, I write for fun. I'm sure we all have dreams of having a blockbuster hit, but hey, that can't be the main driving force. It's too unrealistic to be as such.

I've been sick lately, which doesn't help. When it rains, it pours.

I do love the critiques. But, like you said, they make you aware of so many problems you didn't even think about.

Meredith, thanks for that. That's definitely a good idea. I tend to write slow, but in the end have better drafts. I don't know if I like doing it this way, though, as its easy to get discouraged rummaging over all of the errors.

I might try something similar.

[This message has been edited by Gan (edited January 16, 2009).]


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JudyMac
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Have you read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron? It deals with writers block etc. I find that the morning pages, walks in the woods and my weekly fun date with myself really help.

I never let anyone else see my first draft, it is too raw for good critiques, and I would spend far too much time changing things before story was even finished. When I finish a novel or story, I put it into my 'magic box' for 28 days, then go back and re-write. The second draft I put up for critique. The third draft refines it more and normally shortens the word count by approx 10%.

Sometimes working on two totally different stories at once also helps. I often have an SF running in the background when writing fantasy.

Most importantly, just have fun with your writing


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shimiqua
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For me, the thing that has helped me the most is to critique other peoples work. When I can look at someone else's work I have no emotional attachment to it, and then I can ask the questions that I wouldn't to my own.(Because I would be afraid of the answers.)
Then refreshed and with an open mind, I can turn to my own writing, and ask myself those same questions. Then my writing improves, and it is ME doing it, so my ego(fragile as it is) isn't busted up.
I always learn something from critiquing others, even if it is just what I am doing right, usually though, I find out how young I still am in my writing.
It's like Stephen King says in On Writing. You have to have two contadictory opinions about your work. That it is the best thing ever written, and also the worst piece of drivel ever produced.
Smile and write, cause if you can stop, then you probably should. I can't, I'm addicted, so I just grin and bare it, and one day my writing will be good enough to warrant all this work.
~Sheena

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Robert Nowall
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Of late I'm not so much down on writing as just not writing. I'm in a dry spell right now, casting about for new ideas while putting off rewriting some things in my file.

If I absolutely have to write, and can't get anything out with any ease, I try the one-page trick---I sit down at a typewriter (a word processor won't do for this), put in a blank page, and type till I get to the end of the page---then stop for the day. Usually by the end of the page I'm enthusiastic about writing---and I can carry my enthusiasm from one day to the next. And usually the next story comes easier. (For this kind of story, any old idea will do.)


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Meredith
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I just noticed, the latest issue of the SFWA Bulletin has an article on what to do when writing gets you down. I haven't read it, yet. But I thought I'd mention it.
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dee_boncci
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The best advice I ever found is to just keep writing. It seems to be a major tenet of the Artist's Way via the Morning Pages, since that was mentioned.

I would say that if critiques appear to be the source of the angst, refrain from getting any for a few weeks. Getting too many opinions and trying to address them all can be overwhelming. It's doubly so when the critiques come from a group of aspiring writers because we probably tend to put disproportionate emphasis on how we would do things, and on whatever facet of craft we've most recently been stressing over. And critiques on the 1st thirteen in isolation is probably another multiplier.

I'm stealing from Jerry Cleaver here, but he breaks the writing process into to fundamental modes. The "flow" process, and the "editing" process. He attributes blocks and negative feelings to the editing process run amuck. For me it has been helpful to ignore the temptation to continually edit and revise as I go, to just get things down on paper as rapidly as possible, then go back and clean it up.

Maybe I drifted a bit off-topic, but my attitude is usually more positive when I'm getting a lot of words down or reworking a completed draft than it is when I'm hung up for an hour or two on a single paragraph or sentence during a first draft. Very little of my first drafts survives until the final draft anyway.


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TaleSpinner
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I like having several WIPs on the go at the same time. If I get annoyed with one, I can often work on another.

Another thing to do with writer's block, I think, is to do something else -- I go for photo walks, or listen to music, or enjoy a long, aimless drive. Somehow this mixes the creative juices up, gets 'em flowing again.

Also, leave the story on a back burner for a while, especially after some crits. This gives distance, and perhaps a better perspective.

Finally, while crits are immensely valuable, I don't believe it's necessary to respond to everyone's comments. One person's "Huh?" can be another's "Wow!"

One can't please everyone, so I try to please just the readers who seem representative of my target audience. For example, I have one story that's probably destined for an English market because American readers tend not to get some of the references, and to explain them would destroy its atmosphere. (Well, I like to think it's atmosphere; could just be hot air, I suppose ...)

Edited to add: BTW I think dividing a project into "flow" and "edit" phases are an excellent method, one I use all the time.

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 18, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 18, 2009).]


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Gan
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Thanks guys. I've been thinking about ignoring editing my stuff, until I get the outline finished. It's so dang hard though! I see an obvious way to write it better, and I can't help myself... and then three hours later, I'm still on the same sentence.

I think I have a problem.

Maybe I'll try writing "notes", rather than actually fixing the work up.


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Tiergan
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I second the notes Gan. You don't want to stem your creative juices too much be re-editing over and over at least not in the early sages. My first novel, the first 3 chapters took like 5 months, and the last 10 took 3 days. While the first 3 chapters have great lines in them, the last 10 flow so much better and are considred efortless to read.

The notes are a good idea, it will allow you later to go back and rewrite or edit the parts that need to, also remember if its a novel, it could change again the further you get into it, so the notes are a good idea.


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aspirit
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I once spent more than four hours changing all the "cohabits" to "cohabitors" to "cohabitants" and again through the cycle in an ethics essay. I used to read my emails, whether two words or twenty sentences, at least 14 times before sending. The only reason I noticed my repetitions was because a personal councilor already suggested I had OCD tendencies with writing.

That is a problem. If you're going through anything similar, then you're not convinced you're writing for fun.

Try writing observations and ideas on napkins and color paper, with markers or crayons. Scribble thought rambles in your messiest cursive. Tell yourself you could throw this writing away, and if it really mattered to you, you'd remember it well enough to start over. When you can play with your writing again, then move on to one of the other suggestions here.

Give yourself a short time limit when editing. Set a cell phone, alarm clock, or enlist someone's help. If you're not making progress when the alarm goes off or someone interrupts you, then drop what you're working on for a while. Let your brain mull over the trouble sentence while you're taking a walk, doing chores, etc.

Or, don't edit any of your work until you've completely drafted several stories and reviewed more published works. When you're itching to try new techniques, remember the goal is to bring your drafts one rewrite closer to a finished state. I don't know any published author who can finish a story in only two drafts.


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mikemunsil
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Or do something TOTALLY different and do a Liberty Hall Flash Challenge. That'll get your writerly juices flowing.

I have had great trouble dealing with depression and doubting myself as a writer; enough so that it stalls my work. When that happens I try to find something else small and easily accomplished that I CAN succeed at, regardless of whetther or not it has anything to do with writing. I make a point of noting it down as something to be accomplished, and after I get it done I note that it was completed. And even though it was something small, something insignificant, it gets me going and I start writing again.

Sometime we just need to relearn how to succeed.

[This message has been edited by mikemunsil (edited January 20, 2009).]


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steffenwolf
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I do enjoy a good flash challenge. Is LH back up yet?
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satate
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When writing gets me down I take a break and read a book. Then I don't feel guilty about not writing since reading can be considered studying for writing. I get a break, feel rejuvinated and probably learned something about writing from reading.
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mikemunsil
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Lh is mostly up but the flash challengws app is being difficult. Should just be a few more days.
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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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I find bashing my head on the wall or on a desk helps get things in line for my works of writing, then again i havent writen anything in a month.

but thats due to other things that i need to get fixed first.

RFW2nd


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Gan
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I've tried the bashing my head on my desk idea. Unfortunately, all it left me was a headache

Liberty Hall Flash Challenge sounds interesting... I'll have to take a look.

Thanks!


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