Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

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benjdutton
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Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by benjdutton » December 17th, 2009, 2:56 pm

Over the last few years I've struggled more and more with my writing: I turned 30 this year and have been writing since I was, what, five years old. I know my talent improved, really coming into it's own when I was 19/20. My writing at 21, 22, while I was studying for a degree, was strong, vibrant. I read some of that stuff now and it makes me shiver at how good it is. Now, with one novel out there, I'm trying to write another (or rather another three) and I'm thinking of the reader, of marketing and trying to produce the best book possible, and I feel my writing is dry, dull. I feel I'm getting worse. That my ability is being pulled away from me. I'm suffering a bad case of the crazies. I want to write, to make writing my career, but as all my friends begin to settle down, have good jobs, money, girlfriends/fiances/wives, I'm being left behind, single, poor and going crazy with doubt. So, how do you know if you're good (or rather still good)? How do you beat the crazies?

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Crystal
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by Crystal » December 17th, 2009, 3:34 pm

I am no expert. But I'd like to suggest something.

Stop writing for the reader. Write what excites you. I get the feeling that is what you did in your 20's. I think your anxiety of being good enough is bottle necking your creativity.

Go back to enjoying the process.

Good luck.
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 17th, 2009, 4:38 pm

I think a fear that the next book isn't going to come or that your talent is deteriorating is a perennial nightmare for any writer. Creativity feels so fleeting, and I think everyone fears at some point that they're losing their talent or that their next book won't be as good as their last.

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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by Nick » December 17th, 2009, 5:02 pm

benjdutton wrote:Over the last few years I've struggled more and more with my writing: I turned 30 this year and have been writing since I was, what, five years old. I know my talent improved, really coming into it's own when I was 19/20. My writing at 21, 22, while I was studying for a degree, was strong, vibrant. I read some of that stuff now and it makes me shiver at how good it is. Now, with one novel out there, I'm trying to write another (or rather another three) and I'm thinking of the reader, of marketing and trying to produce the best book possible, and I feel my writing is dry, dull. I feel I'm getting worse. That my ability is being pulled away from me. I'm suffering a bad case of the crazies. I want to write, to make writing my career, but as all my friends begin to settle down, have good jobs, money, girlfriends/fiances/wives, I'm being left behind, single, poor and going crazy with doubt. So, how do you know if you're good (or rather still good)? How do you beat the crazies?
Mayhaps this will do nothing for you, but I say stop writing for an audience. Any audience. I find if I write for myself, my writing is good. If I write with even just one other person in mind as a reader, it tanks miserably. It's in the subsequent drafts that I stop and think "If I weren't me, would this make sense to me?" Also, stop worrying about producing the best book possible. Just write what you want to write. Sure, you run the risk of something not being your best work, but every author who has been published multiple times has pieces that are stronger and weaker. You can't expect every single book to be a hit.

As to your anxieties, welcome to the world of the arts. Surely you have heard "the artist must suffer" or similar phrases? I think it's in our nature, really. We hate it, but we need the pain. And of course looking at it a bit more practically, the fact of the matter is all arts aren't the easiest field in the world to get into, and even getting in does not assure you a steady job, as opposed to, say, the corporation where my mother works. She will always have that job unless the company goes under or she makes a major cock-up. But if you ask me, those stable jobs are soul-sucking, life-stealing purgatory at best, and true Hell at worst. Better to be half-frozen in a dodgy flat and enjoying one's craft than comfortable in a proper house with a suit. But that's just me.

Sorry, just realised that probably isn't helping any. Pay no mind to that last paragraph.

Regarding knowing if I'm still good, well, I don't even know that I'm good now. I like to think that I'm good. I've been told by people who I'm neither friend nor family with that my writing is good, but that still doesn't necessarily mean I'm good. All I can do is keep writing and hope. Hope that I truly am good, and hope that some day my writing is picked up. Really there's only your writing and your heart. Lose faith in one and the other will surely follow. As for beating the crazies, as I said, just keep writing. Even if I think it isn't worth it, I make myself keep writing. Sure, I might stop and take up a new project, but I keep myself writing. To not write would be a grave shame indeed.

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jrector
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by jrector » December 17th, 2009, 5:24 pm

How do you beat the crazies?
I don't think you can.

Everything I write seems terrible while I'm writing it, then once I finish and move on to something else, I find myself wishing my current project was as good as what I was writing before.

It's a never ending cycle, and one you (or at least I) can't win.
Author of The Grove and The Cold Kiss

Kaitlyne
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by Kaitlyne » December 17th, 2009, 10:44 pm

I've heard some really great advice so I'm going to reiterate it here: Right the first draft for you. Worry about the rest on rewrites.

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shadow
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by shadow » December 17th, 2009, 10:56 pm

just forget your past masterpiece, and focus on writing a great plot and likable characters. Forget about the audience and just writ for yourself. Happy Writing!
~shadow~
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Mira
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by Mira » December 18th, 2009, 1:11 am

Ben - this is my belief. It's not possible to get worse. That just makes no sense. How can you practice a skill and get worse at it? No, I don't think that happens. If you're practicing your craft, you're improving in it.

What I do think can happen is people get blocked. Pressure and anxiety can dry up the creative urge very quickly. Trying to figure out the market, too. That's partly because the part of our brain that clicks on during survival times is the logical, analytic part. That's the editor, the judge, the weigh and balancer. That part of our brain is great during editing, but not great for accessing our imagination and creativity. That comes from a very different part of the brain.

Sometimes people try to force it. Examples of that are people who really hit it out of the park on the first novel, and then turn out mediocre books after that. They're pushing too hard. They're trying to meet demands upon them, rather than follow their creativity where it wants to take them. Unfortunately, the industry can really aggravate this. It doesn't understand that the best thing you can do for an artist, is support them, even nurture them, but leave them alone in terms of demands. Demands backfire. That includes the demands we put on ourselves, too.

So, how do you reconnect with your creative muse? Well, you can probably answer that question yourself, if you check inside and wait for the answer. Some part of you knows what you need right now. But I will say that reducing the pressure would probably really help alot!

A writing book I really love is Brenda Uelands, If You Want to Write. She talks alot about how the artist needs time just doing nothing. It's a great book, abit outdated, but still helpful. Another wonderful book for artists who are blocked is the classic "The Artist's Way". Whether you choose to do the excersises she sets out or not, just reading the first few chapters is very helpful - it was for me anyway.

Don't get discouraged. Lots and lots of artists get blocked. Me, for example. ALL THE TIME. :) There's even a term for it. Writer's block. That's how just how common it is - they invented a term for it. :) People definitely work past this, so just give yourself the time and gentleness you need to get beyond it.

Best of luck to you! :)

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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by litenup_rach » December 18th, 2009, 9:23 am

Last Monday I was messin' around googling writing stuff, and just happened upon an opportunity to submit for a writing competition. Not only did it seem like a great way to put something out there anonymously -- while I've been told I'm a really good writer, I've been way too anal about whether or not it's 'good enough' to submit -- it also seemed extremely challenging... 1500 words by Thursday; for me 10,000 words are a piece of cake; 1500 words is horrifying WITHOUT the challenge of the 3-day deadline.

I've had a concept in mind for almost a year but hadn't had the cahonas (sic) or confidence to get it down; the storyline was historical and extremely powerful... this seemed like the perfect 'what the hell' opportunity to write it and submit it so others might actually read it.

I spent three all-nighters, STRUGGLING to write as if SOMEONE ELSE WAS, in fact, going to read it... at this point in my comfy little 'writing career' there are only a handful of people I've entrusted to ACTUALLY LET READ my stuff.

After the second night, I was upwards of 2000 words and not even close to getting to the point. I engaged my alpha reader, expecting a tear or two but after scratching her head and reacting with: 'you know, I'm not one for short stories; it might just be me. I see the direction you're trying to go but I'm just not feelin' it," I realized that I had spent two frickin' nights worrying about writing for those who would be reading it. I had put everything including the kitchen sink in the story to make sure they 'got it'... unfortunately, all that struggling lost the power that the 'story' had on my heart until there was just too much to try to 'get.'

Thursday morning at 5:00 a.m. a first in my lifetime of writing, I became an arsonist... a slash-and-burn maniac. One hour and a 1,484 word count later, I saved it, printed it, and gave it to my alpha asking for a straightforward, no-holds barred review. Twenty minutes later I could hear her crying in the next room... not sobbing, mind you... gutteral, gut-wrenching, tear-jerking crying. I thought something had happened and rushed in to see if she was ok. She could only look at me shaking her head, totally in tears trying to spit out the words "I can't stop shaking... it's so powerful... I can't believe you wrote this."

Moral of the story... I will never, ever, never write FOR a reader again. It's all there in my heart just waiting for me to let it go.

Ermo
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by Ermo » December 18th, 2009, 10:39 am

jrector wrote:
How do you beat the crazies?
I don't think you can.

Everything I write seems terrible while I'm writing it, then once I finish and move on to something else, I find myself wishing my current project was as good as what I was writing before.

It's a never ending cycle, and one you (or at least I) can't win.
Ha, that's so true. I do that too.

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shadow
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by shadow » December 18th, 2009, 11:26 am

Mira wrote:Ben - this is my belief. It's not possible to get worse. That just makes no sense. How can you practice a skill and get worse at it? No, I don't think that happens. If you're practicing your craft, you're improving in it.

What I do think can happen is people get blocked. Pressure and anxiety can dry up the creative urge very quickly. Trying to figure out the market, too. That's partly because the part of our brain that clicks on during survival times is the logical, analytic part. That's the editor, the judge, the weigh and balancer. That part of our brain is great during editing, but not great for accessing our imagination and creativity. That comes from a very different part of the brain.

Sometimes people try to force it. Examples of that are people who really hit it out of the park on the first novel, and then turn out mediocre books after that. They're pushing too hard. They're trying to meet demands upon them, rather than follow their creativity where it wants to take them. Unfortunately, the industry can really aggravate this. It doesn't understand that the best thing you can do for an artist, is support them, even nurture them, but leave them alone in terms of demands. Demands backfire. That includes the demands we put on ourselves, too.

So, how do you reconnect with your creative muse? Well, you can probably answer that question yourself, if you check inside and wait for the answer. Some part of you knows what you need right now. But I will say that reducing the pressure would probably really help alot!

A writing book I really love is Brenda Uelands, If You Want to Write. She talks alot about how the artist needs time just doing nothing. It's a great book, abit outdated, but still helpful. Another wonderful book for artists who are blocked is the classic "The Artist's Way". Whether you choose to do the excersises she sets out or not, just reading the first few chapters is very helpful - it was for me anyway.

Don't get discouraged. Lots and lots of artists get blocked. Me, for example. ALL THE TIME. :) There's even a term for it. Writer's block. That's how just how common it is - they invented a term for it. :) People definitely work past this, so just give yourself the time and gentleness you need to get beyond it.

Best of luck to you! :)

I really really agree with you Mira! I just had to say that because you went over some very important facts in your post :)
~shadow~
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

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Sara
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by Sara » December 18th, 2009, 2:53 pm

You beat the crazies with blind faith. You put your head down, turn the music up, and get the damn thing written. Eventually you'll push through the slump. Promise.

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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by casnow » December 19th, 2009, 1:10 am

Here's a question for you: Are you as passionate about the subject of your current work as you were about what you were writing about when you were 21/22? If not, there is the reason.
I don't know what you are writing, but if you are passionate about it the vibrancy will come out - it might take a some editing to get there, but it will. If you don't feel strongly about it, you'll have to work much, much harder.

benjdutton
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Re: Do you ever feel you're getting worse?

Post by benjdutton » December 20th, 2009, 9:11 am

You guys and gals are probably right. I've been wondering whether I've been writing the wrong sort of thing. So afraid of repeating myself I've been trying to write things I normally wouldn't. I'm going to return to my comfort zone, write somethings just for myself and see how it feels. Thank you for all your comments.

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