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Writing Confidences (1 Viewer)

KatPC

Senior Member
Dear all,

I know a lot may have read this somewhere in some old thread here or elsewhere (skipping this as another 'Oh look this person is depressed and wants to a message of encouragement etc, no help, boring') and you maybe right, maybe this is the inner mind getting all tangled up and confused, but I am not looking for anyone to cure my self esteem, just what I can do to pick good habits to over come the voices that are much stronger than my own.

What do you do when your writing confidences flag? They may not be to my low and fluctuating levels, but what do you do to combat it? To pick yourself up? Stop writing? Read a book? Watch a movie? Music? Chat to friends? What are your processes for not making this happen?

Thank you for reading.
 
Dear all,

I know a lot may have read this somewhere in some old thread here or elsewhere (skipping this as another 'Oh look this person is depressed and wants to a message of encouragement etc, no help, boring') and you maybe right, maybe this is the inner mind getting all tangled up and confused, but I am not looking for anyone to cure my self esteem, just what I can do to pick good habits to over come the voices that are much stronger than my own.

What do you do when your writing confidences flag? They may not be to my low and fluctuating levels, but what do you do to combat it? To pick yourself up? Stop writing? Read a book? Watch a movie? Music? Chat to friends? What are your processes for not making this happen?

Thank you for reading.
I wish I had a good answer for this because I'm currently struggling with it as well. Years ago, I was incredibly confident with myself and my abilities as a writer. I put out great work with consistent quality on an almost constant basis. Then I took a job selling cars. I loved it. I had a natural ability to relate with my customers, determine their needs, and put them in the right vehicle that fit into their monthly budget. Trouble was, I was working every day, putting in nearly 80 hours a week, not counting time I spent at home answering calls and setting up appointments. I didn't write so much as a paragraph or read a single book in three years.

Recently, I had to leave that job due to irreconcilable differences with the new management team that took over. I figured, no biggie, I've saved up a ton of money, and have very little in terms of bills. Now was the time for me to write that great novel and start making a career out of my passion.

Trouble is, after months of trying, it feels like I'm starting from scratch. At times it feels like all the knowledge I worked for years to obtain is just gone. My vocabulary, syntax, story structure, etc. It's all gone. Yesterday I spent four hours just stuck on the damn opening.

Ugh, sorry. Guess I answered your question with a little venting session. Hopefully someone will have some good advice for both of us.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Study.

If you lack confidence somewhere, you need to identify particularly the thing(s) you are worried about and study them. I typically would start reading a few blogs on a subject and figure out which ones applied to my writing, and which ones I believed ... not all blogs are written by people who know the subject as well as they believe they do.

Take those lessons back to something you're writing and apply them. Take a paragraph you think is sketchy and make it shine. Then another one.

One thing I like to do is spice up my action. Was it "he came through the door", or was it "he pushed through the door"? One is bland, one is action. I try to watch the action in my head and then write it evocatively. You can write better just changing out one word here and there for a more interesting word.

A bitchy woman who just got her way over objections left the room after the announcement she got her way. Was it "she left the room" or "she walked out of the room"? No, "she strutted out of the room". More interesting verb, and it ALSO had the advantage of building her character.

I was proud of something I did the other night. I had a guy with jet lag trying to stay awake. I could have written "The jet lag made it hard to stay awake.", but I wanted something more, so I started thinking about what it's like to fight sleep. I thought of something dragging his eyelids closed, and in a couple of minutes came up with "Jet lag entwined his eyelids, trying to drag them closed." Whether or not anyone ELSE likes that sentence, I did. LOL That gives me confidence.

Those are the kinds of things I did to get a more solid impression of my prose.
 
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JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
First, keep writing. You might get a hundred words a day. You might get a thousand. Or you might get ten you delete in the morning.

But write.

Even if it's garbage. Maybe especially if it's garbage. I restarted my going project six times. I'm still going to have to rewrite, and I'm fairly sure most of what makes it to paper is the product of a marginal creative mind unraveling like there's no tomorrow. It takes me a week to warm to any of it and when I read what's come together so far all I see is unadulterated trash.

Incidentally, this was supposed to be done by the beginning of October. And, incidentally, this fairly straightforward little horror story is turning into something altogether different than my rudimentary planning allowed. I'm almost ten thousand words into a short story I don't recognize.

This wreck is upside down in a ditch. On fire.

And the only thing keeping me from deleting the whole subfolder is the knowing that there's something in here I think might make for a decent character piece once the sledgehammer and chainsaw work is done. I have no idea when that might be. I'm not even sure anybody's going to sit through it when it's polished enough to show around.

But if nothing else I'll have fleshed out the world and the cast. I'll have ventured into a genre I probably haven't visited in a decade. No telling if it's going to be any good. Probably not.

But it's something.

Keep writing.
 

Mark Twain't

Staff member
Global Moderator
First, keep writing. You might get a hundred words a day. You might get a thousand. Or you might get ten you delete in the morning.

But write.

Even if it's garbage. Maybe especially if it's garbage. I restarted my going project six times. I'm still going to have to rewrite, and I'm fairly sure most of what makes it to paper is the product of a marginal creative mind unraveling like there's no tomorrow. It takes me a week to warm to any of it and when I read what's come together so far all I see is unadulterated trash.

Incidentally, this was supposed to be done by the beginning of October. And, incidentally, this fairly straightforward little horror story is turning into something altogether different than my rudimentary planning allowed. I'm almost ten thousand words into a short story I don't recognize.

This wreck is upside down in a ditch. On fire.

And the only thing keeping me from deleting the whole subfolder is the knowing that there's something in here I think might make for a decent character piece once the sledgehammer and chainsaw work is done. I have no idea when that might be. I'm not even sure anybody's going to sit through it when it's polished enough to show around.

But if nothing else I'll have fleshed out the world and the cast. I'll have ventured into a genre I probably haven't visited in a decade. No telling if it's going to be any good. Probably not.

But it's something.

Keep writing.
This, so very much this!
 

Lawless

Senior Member
Trouble is, after months of trying, it feels like I'm starting from scratch. [---] Yesterday I spent four hours just stuck on the damn opening.
The experts recommend you write a number of short stories to get some success experiences under your belt before taking on a novel. If you can't think of anything better, the monthly flash fiction competition on this forum can be good exercise and not too taxing.

I don't think it's a good idea to spend too much time reading advice books and forum posts that insist how certain things have to be exactly this or that way. It can get very discouraging. The truth is, you don't have to be perfect in every detail. And, as the author of one creative writing advice book cynically said: "Reading about writing is a great way to avoid doing any writing."
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
just what I can do to pick good habits to over come the voices that are much stronger than my own

When I was younger and battled negative thoughts or was thinking something through I talked to myself as if it were a scene in a book or movie. I dont 'picture them' so much now but I still have conversations with myself in my head. (call me crazy or just a Gemini, same thing)
This might sound a bit 'odd' but bare with me...

I envisioned two 'people' in my head. Both "me"' but they were different parts of myself. (didnt look like me tho lol) One was full of doubts, negative feelings ect...the other one was more "rational and "positive." If I thought something sucked then the other one would say "eh its not that bad, you can always make it better" or "you are getting better" something that is positive but not overly positive where i constantly tell myself i'm wonderful 😂

So I basically created characters that represented myself and then had them dialoged like I would a story or a scene. It was how I processed a lot of thoughts and emotion at the time...

Maybe the key isnt to have habits that are louder than the negative voices, maybe you just need to find a "good" voice that is willing to take on the negative ones? Maybe finding a "good voice" is the habit you need? or at leas one of them?

As for my writing, when I take breaks, I inhale shows and movies mostly. Study the story structure and look for "clues" within the movie or show that I know mean something even if it isnt directly stated right away. I find it fun and inspiring. Movie/shows are different forms of story telling thats quite different from writing short stories/ novels but I find it easier to understand/ digest story structure that way. i'm reading of course but movies have always been my thing and its helped me understand story structure and plot beats.. Even if its different, at the end of the day the follow the same over all structure. Ever heard of "save the cat"?

Any who my point is, we all struggle you just have to find your best way to cope with your struggles. Even when I'm not writing I still like to brain storm and digest story. Some days I think my writing is ew, but its not and even if it is I can make it better (but editing has to wait sadly). and i'm obviously capable of improving because I already have.

I dont know if you find this helpful or if I made myself look like a wacko 🤷‍♂️
 
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Terry D

Retired Supervisor
Dear all,

I know a lot may have read this somewhere in some old thread here or elsewhere (skipping this as another 'Oh look this person is depressed and wants to a message of encouragement etc, no help, boring') and you maybe right, maybe this is the inner mind getting all tangled up and confused, but I am not looking for anyone to cure my self esteem, just what I can do to pick good habits to over come the voices that are much stronger than my own.
First, you need to realize those voices ARE your own. Many great writers suffer from low self-esteem. It might be the single most common factor driving writers since... well since the first story was told sitting around a campfire cooking mastodon burgers. The caveman telling the story of the hunt probably felt like shit because he didn't get the mastodon, so he made himself feel better by telling the story, adding flourishes and drama as he did so. In our stories we are God. We create and control at will. That's a terrific therapy for people who feel bad about themselves, so do it. Do it every day. Write, write, and keep on writing. Personify that part of you that tells you you are not good enough. Make a character out of her and bludgeon her to death with metaphor and simile, choke her blue with narrative, and describe her death with florid prose. Words are your weapons, wield them without mercy against your inner self.
What do you do when your writing confidences flag? They may not be to my low and fluctuating levels, but what do you do to combat it? To pick yourself up? Stop writing? Read a book? Watch a movie? Music? Chat to friends? What are your processes for not making this happen?

Thank you for reading.
Read a bad book. You know, one of the ones that made you say, "I can do better than that." Find a bad passage and rewrite it. Fix it. Tell it your way, then sit back, look at the author's photo on the book jacket and say, "You ain't got nothin'!"

Or, read a book you really like and find a great passage and take it apart to see what makes it great and then write the same passage in your own words using what you learned. Concentrate on how the words feel as you write them, their cadence, their pace, how they sound as you read them. Then go to something completely original -- that dreaded 'blank page' -- dash off something of your own. Don't worry about getting a story completed, just focus on getting down some paragraphs that work for you. It's all about the practice. You've heard the old adage, "Dance like no one is watching?" Well, write like no one is reading!
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
I almost left this topic alone. I don't really feel a part of what everyone else here seems to be doing. I'm not writing for publication. And I don't have any personal identity as a writer, nor do I need that for anything.

I have none of the external forces driving my efforts. I have no editor, agent, publisher, or audience influencing my choices, efforts, reasons. And I have no internal personal imperative to identify as a writer.

I'm just a guy who writes. (I'm sure there's a "because" in there, somewhere.)

Because of all that, a lack of confidence in my writing does not keep me from creating and supplying all those peoples' expectations of success and pleasure. It merely stops me. And stops there.

And that lack of imperative seems to disqualify me from responding (?)

Except ... A stultifying lack of confidence in my writing feels like holding my breath. And, I don't know about you, but not breathing can't go on for very long.

Even though I don't have to do this, I do it, and, quite often I feel a lack of confidence with my writing.

So maybe I have something to add, after all?

What do you do when your writing confidences flag? ... What are your processes for [..] making this [not] happen?

For me, when this happens, I gain solace remembering that my lack of confidence comes from a need to protect myself. That perspective lets me "see around" the cruel words and feelings and react kindly to what is actually a protective impulse. (A bitter internal discourse is the worst motivator. Doing that, I join the distraction, join them at their stifling of myself. The irony of that is so frustrating.)

When the sense of "man you are shit and were always shit and you are really and totally thermonuclear hammered shit this morning" comes, I "look and see around" the bitter camouflage and look at what I am doing, what I am attempting. I remind myself why I am doing whatever it is.

I don't argue with the voice. I recognize it for what it is -- a barking dog, a passerby in the park yelling at me because they are frightened I am still wearing a face mask, frightened (as I am) by the terrifying risk of taking a breath -- and I move on.

The loss of confidence means something within me is afraid. But that's not all of me; it's just one of the many things I carry clanking down the path.

So I stop writing, but not because the voice is afraid. That would be a self-defeating error. Hearing the voice, I do not at all acknowledge the pain and I deliberately choose ahead when and where to stop my work. A line further, a sentence, a paragraph, a section, a scene beat, the description of a character's lifted hand. I chose. The work suggests.

The voice gets no agency at all.

I stop by my own deliberation and I point out aloud to no one that I need to stand and stretch; need some hot water for more tea; need to focus my eyes on something three-dimensional and farther than 20-inches away; need to look out the balcony door, out into the tree tops for the autumn light streaming from that never-ending universe-spewing plasma spigot 93 million miles away that allows me and everyone and everything else what we are doing, creating.

I remain the center of the moment. The voice is merely a passing breeze bringing an odd scent.

(And it will soon feel that impoverished impotency. And it will, eventually, not feel so important to speak so terribly about the very vessel within which it rents existence.)

I treat it like a coarse and thoughtless but well-meaning friend, needing a few pointers about getting along with people. But never in front of the work. It doesn't get to influence the work that way.

It wants to influence the work? It needs to participate in a creative, not destructive, way. Show me how to be creative about the fear of creation; I'll look, listen.

Heh. Aside. When I write, especially while composing something new, I nearly always keep a certain special music playing in a loop. I have it playing now. It's not really music, but a 58-minute stream of musical sounds and patterns and pads and sustained chord progressions. No percussion. A few samples of voice, but no singing, no talking. Except for the first minute and the last few seconds.

Makes a lovely one-hour time box timer. With a topical intro and outro that, when set to loop, makes an ouroboros, infinitely carrying my writing along.

The piece's intro vocal is a sample of "Okay? Okay... Tell me. Alright? Alright...Okay...Like this... When I'm up on the roof, it's like nothing can touch me... Oh, right..." that last bit sampled and replayed and looped until it becomes an insistent, "nothing can touch me, nothing can touch me..." dissolving into a sustained chord. And the piece's music begins, moves off, inward and outward.

Fifty-eight minutes later the piece's 15-second outro vocal is nearly a whisper, soothing, "Anything can happen, child; anything can be..."

When I finished writing the paragraph, up above, the one beginning with "It wants to influence...", I re-read it and added "I'll look, listen" to the last sentence.

At that very moment the music ended and went, "Anything can happen, child; anything can be..."

That. That is the grownup reminder to use on myself, to deal with the confidence-destroying voice.

"Anything can happen, child; anything can be..."
 

KatPC

Senior Member
I am deeply touched that so many have replied. Thank you. There are a lot of replies that I do not want to be too disrespectful, so hopefully merging all this to one piece is okay.

@RadicalDreamerPG, I'm sorry for your hardship and understand the predicament. I work 6 days, touching 60 hours a week, but I skip meals, stay up late, just to write. I don't really watch TV, there is so much rubbish out there, and I find myself drifting to my laptop and I write everyday, in the morning before work, at night before bed. @TheMightyAz, I have a lot of bad days and they seem to be building, so much so that my writing is reflecting a much darker side, it is why @Terry D and @JBF it's getting scary, writing.

The last 8 weeks I have created and finished 7 short stories, experimenting with different styles and techniques in its composition. Only one I have had the time to run through two drafts before sending it out to a few friends for feedback, but the other 6 are first drafts. I would say there is probably only 1 I'm not happy with, the others have legs, they need refinement, but the basis, the journey, I am very pleased with. Even now there are 3 stories tapping in the mind but I'm exhausted … I have many deficiencies in my first drafts. @Terry D personify? All my stories has the mind hidden inside. I have dulled down its impact, or let rip and overpower in others, but like you said, we are God and I should be in control but it doesn't feel like it.

@Tettsuo why does my writing confidences fade and has been draining away of late? Simply because my foundations are poor.

@vranger, I jumped into the forum to study, to learn, to secretly peek at how others operate, asking so many questions about editing and how people go about their work, to pick up on all of your skills. @TheMightAZ, I am always impressed at your red-lining of works, I don't always agree, but these are personal opinions that doesn't discard the ability. @JBF (My memory is not the best) but I remember reading a piece you put up, finding it so beautifully crafted, reading it slowly, with my mind (rudely) thinking I would have done this differently, but loving the style, but having no idea of the technique. It felt easy, the smooth flow, the pacing, the wordings and I don't know how.

I have no technique to writing and on the technical side I am a very poor. I have ideas of how I should construct a piece, not to follow any convention or advice I have learnt, I just write how I want a story to feel, a juddering flow, with pieces of a jigsaw for the reader to place.

@Lawless "Reading about writing is a great way to avoid doing any writing."

That is true if you have a sound basis to stand on, the person who wrote this seems well versed in the Art of Writing. Maybe I am wrong, or the memory is failing me, but to be a good writer you must have discipline, hard work and consistency. If I write stories that are consistently riddled with the same errors of past pieces, then it is hard to say I have improvement or am getting better. To write tripe and think its good only leads to hubris and ego.

I have so many voices in my head @KeganThompson. They aren't loud, they are subtle, they bide their time and pointing a mistake here and there, the constant ticks developed over many years. If one sleeps another takes its place until the mind is filled with 'You don't know what you are doing. You are winging it, People can see through you, it's all crap and you know it, people will read your stuff and think you are crazy. They can get really tough.

@robertn51 I don't like the voices, they are so strong. Even when writing I let them out, let the angst and pain onto the blank screen only shuts them up for the time I am writing. Characters mask over their silent grumblings, but in my creative world, they don't appear, they just wait knowing the have all the ammunition to fire at will.

Outside the four walls of this forum I have little to no support. Few words of encouragement, a happy read for some, a teacher like boy as another … Keep writing the wizards have said, study, it's a bad day, ignore, breaks, movie shows … I will have a good think of your words and when morning comes, see whether I should start editing, writing, researching or reading. I think reading but will see what the morning brings.

Thank you.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
What do you do when your writing confidences flag? They may not be to my low and fluctuating levels, but what do you do to combat it? To pick yourself up? Stop writing? Read a book? Watch a movie? Music? Chat to friends? What are your processes for not making this happen?

I am eavesdropping. I am resorting to recording people's conversations, past histories I know so far, and so on. This will help me with short story writing. When I don't feel inspired I plan to do this in particular. I grabbed some parts of a conversation of someone who is always has a loud voice when talking on the phone. I wrote some unusual phrases out of context and might use the what-if question to brainstorm the dramatic circumstances surrounding the overheard part of the conversation. I think I am not strictly journaling but doing some life writing. I write the event the minute it happens. Also, any feelings associated with the events that happen I will eventually write. Eventually by using what I know (write what you know). I plan to exaggerate and lie concerning the real-life aspects of this. I have 500 words so far on one person. I decided to start today.

I hope to imagine by using facts of people I know, Life writing includes supposedly: journaling, diaries, biography, autobiography. So in short I am using my memory to write some facts on my family and anyone else I meet.

Our memory is poor for most of us people. Writing in a notebook would help me start the subconscious mind to start working. That is what I am now doing and I think it will work.
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
I have a lot of bad days and they seem to be building, so much so that my writing is reflecting a much darker side, it is why it's getting scary, writing.

I get this a lot, being naturally sort of cynical. I'm probably dug in too deep to ever remove it entirely, which is probably why everything I write (even the happy stuff) is always going to have some broken glass somewhere. Just how it goes.

There is considerable value in facing the difficult things. Especially the stuff nobody else ever sees.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
There is a big difference between a) someone who is trying to sell his novel and b) someone who is struggling to complete his first novel. They need very different strategies. The latter will be better off writing a few stories and giving them to people to read, in order to find out what his mistakes are, rather than reading yet another advice book that makes him worried about a few more things he might not get right, as well as keeps him away from thinking about his WIP.

If you have completed a novel and written a few stories, then I dare to suggest your highest priority ought to be finding people who are capable of and willing to give you helpful critique, so you could learn how you could improve.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
@Theglasshouse - when I was in my school days I didn't have the best of times. I went into secondary school late, a year later than everyone else, made to redo my final year of primary school because this is what my parents thought best and joining late to the 'party' it was very hard to fit in. Everyone had already formed their groups, the friends and I became that person sitting in the corner of the class, by myself watching your 'friends' chat, discuss, help each other through their studies. To catch up a years work of studies in every subject by yourself was impossible so i became the fly on the wall, that annoying pest no one likes, everyone sees, but chooses to avoid. It's not because I was ugly or dumb, it was just because I was late to the party. Carry on spying, it has certainly influenced what I create but the confidences, is a constant struggle and one @JBF I left very clear to the reader in my last story.

@Lawless you are right, it is why I joined the forum. I will have to post a story up soon, to gauge suggestions, to get comments on the style, pace, the structure to see how it engaged, or not, to a reader. It is the only way to learn/study. @JBF I don't think the dark ever will go and in my last few creations, I have tried to mask them to keep the dark elements but not make it into a dark story.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
[...]

Trouble is, after months of trying, it feels like I'm starting from scratch. At times it feels like all the knowledge I worked for years to obtain is just gone. My vocabulary, syntax, story structure, etc. It's all gone. Yesterday I spent four hours just stuck on the damn opening.

Ugh, sorry. Guess I answered your question with a little venting session. Hopefully someone will have some good advice for both of us.

We've all been there.
I've told this story elsewhere on WF, but I feel it's a valuable lesson, so I'll repeat it again - with apologies to the mods.

I began my martial arts training when I was 5 years old. As an only child living in the wilderness with the nearest kids to play with miles away, I taught myself to read - and my father thought I was turning into a book worm and needed to toughen up. So he found a Savate instructor (French martial art that specializes in kicking techniques and knife work) that lived about a mile from our house, and convinced the old man to teach me. To my great fortune, my teacher was also a painter - an artist with a profitable studio in Palo Alto (on the SF bay peninsula). What he taught me was the ART of fighting.

After training for some months, I grew frustrated and felt that my abilities weren't improving, it seemed as if I was going no where and training was useless. This is what he told me:

All art involves two aspects of ourselves, these are the EYE and the HAND. As we train they do not progress at the same rate. When we start training (or writing in our case) our EYE is better than our HAND (prose) and everything we create seems terrible. Then our hand improves, and for a while we're ecstatic with our perceived abilities... but then our EYE improves and again everything we do seems awful - but in truth, it isn't, our EYE has simply stepped ahead of us. An artist is engaged in a constant process of improvement, with the EYE leading the HAND in a process that's similar to climbing a ladder.

So, my advice is to keep working. If you're depressed and can't make yourself write, then read. However, (as someone already mentioned) it's best to just keep at it. Write every day, even if it's just a journal entry or a paragraph description of what you see out of your window.

Don't be discouraged. You ARE improving, you just aren't able to see it at present.
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
My method:
Go do something else, preferably something you enjoy. Then write something easy and fun. I like to give myself little writing prompts just to get the juices flowing. Try to remember why you like writing in the first place. The worst thing (for me) is to read books, especially good ones. That's an easy way to feel daunted. I mean, obviously read books, just not specifically when you're feeling like an imposter.
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
Sometimes context and perspective can help when the grumpy muppet critics start their arguments in our heads. In the great everything that is the real world, I know I am an inconvenience. Writing is also one of the very few things I can do with any claim to competency. Critiquing helps me to hone those abilities and expand that skill set. As loud as those crabby muppets bicker and ridicule, this one thing matters enough to keep trying.
 
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