Let’s face it. Every writer, even the greatest ones, go through days where nothing feels right, nothing is working, everything sucks, and feel like they should give up.
Real writers keep writing despite these feelings. They can’t live without writing. It doesn’t matter how much they suck (even if they don’t ‘suck’), they write anyway. And in doing this, they grow and become even more awesome (and still think they suck).
Some writing excuses are real. “Too little time because I’m married and have kids.” “Spent the week in the hospital.” “Computer is fried” (which is not a real excuse, by the way), or “Work was crazy.”
But those excuses I listed just now? That’s stuff that’s eating up your time. I’m not talking about ‘time’ today — I’m talking about why you hate your work and therefore are not working on it.
Sometimes there are obvious reasons why we hate our work — hating our work is part of the natural creative cycle. However, there are some reasons we hate our work that can be avoided. But no one ever wants to talk about them because ‘they’re mean’, or ‘if I tell you this I’ll hurt your feelings’.
Well, here’s the thing. If you’re going to get any better, you need to know the reasons that your so-called ‘friends’ aren’t telling you.
I cannot stress enough this is not directed at everybody.
These 5 Reasons cannot be attributed to every writer. Some — nay, most — writers do not have any of these problems. Most people hate their writing for a variety of other reasons. The ones who might have these reasons attributed to them? You’ll know who you are.
This article is also for writers who hate their work and want to improve. Many writers don’t care about ‘quality’ because they are happy enough to be writing. There is nothing wrong with that at all.
Here’s a list of reasons you hate your writing that your friends won’t tell you.
1. You do not read enough, or at all.
You know how disturbing it is when a writer says something like “I’m going to be the most original writer ever because I haven’t been influenced by anyone”, or “I don’t read because I don’t have the time for it”, or “I don’t want to accidentally steal someone else’s ideas.”
Are you KIDDING me?
If you EVER think this, NEVER tell your writing friends because they will NEVER take you seriously. You have got to read! Good, peer-reviewed material. You are missing the dick-and-balls of the craft, my friend!
Steal??? Influence??? PFFFT. Don’t worry about it because if you have a good idea then it ain’t gonna happen, friend!
If you think this, and also think your writing is bad — congratulations, it’s the easiest fix in the world. GO READ.
2. You do not read enough and Audiobooks don’t count.
Cue the screaming mad crowd — cue every offended person who drives to work listening to the latest and greatest Stephen King novel. Cue you, the writer who only reads Audiobooks.
Don’t get me wrong, Audiobooks DO count as reading. But you are a CRAFTSMAN. You aren’t some everybody who just wants the latest spooky tingle from the master of horror. You are a writer, and you want your writing to sound as good as Stephen King’s.
But I don’t have TIME to read a real book. I have a DAY job. Wrong. If you hate your writing I guarantee you’re spending AT LEAST 2-3 hours a week basking in your woes after you get home from work. Put that energy into reading, you’ll spend that much less time crying next time. Speaking of Stephen King — pick up his book “On Writing”. Best book on the craft you’ll ever read, and he discusses just how possible it is to read, and work, and be a great writer, all at the same time.
I guarantee you will learn more about Stephen King’s craft by sitting down and reading text than you will having the words dictated to you. Yes, it’s slow. Yes, it takes time. But if you want to learn how to make your book sing and dance and strap the reader in, you have to sit down and read text. There’s an art to it that Audiobooks can’t teach you. I’m not saying don’t listen to Audiobooks at all, what I’m saying is don’t fool yourself into thinking it can supplement sitting down and dissecting text.
3. You are spending too much time trying to get 1000 followers on “The Twitter”.
Um, sorry to say this, but what the fuck does Twitter have to do with you finishing a book? Nothing. 1000 followers isn’t going to save your ass if your book is never written because you constantly feel like garbage.
Be a part of the writing community, sure, but stop worrying about how many mostly-robot-anyway followers you have. Good Golly.
Did you know that by looking at Twitter and following thousands of people can seriously hurt your self esteem? If you spend hours scrolling through people crying, people finding agents, people congratulating themselves on publishing a book — you’re only going to feel worse about yourself. Instead of writing being a craft, it becomes a race — one you definitely won’t win if you keep crying about how your pixel-friends are publishing books and you aren’t.
Writing isn’t a race. You are NOT behind just because you lack a fanbase. Finish the book first. Stop hating yourself first. Then worry about the marketing.
4. You believe in Writer’s Block.
Newsflash, it doesn’t exist. Most successful writers agree with me.
There is nothing physically stopping you from writing. ‘Writer’s Block’ is the excuse people use when they need more time to play video games and watch television. And then you end up having like 2 months of Writer’s Block, which just so happens to be the exact amount of time you needed to get through all the content in Guild Wars 2. And then you have 2 years of Writer’s Block which lead you to become #2 Raid-ready Mage in the United States on World of Warcraft. Yes, I’m speaking from experience. This is what happened to me.
Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. But laziness does.
But what about BURNOUT?
Here’s the thing — Burnout is completely different than Writer’s Block and generally happens to creatives that OVERwork not UNDERwork. And BURNOUT is different because the people who suffer from it often keep working themselves into the ground anyway because they literally hate not working.
For most of us, there is nothing mentally stopping us from writing. I, myself, suffer from a number of mental disabilities that would probably blow your face off if I listed them all — but I still force myself to sit down, even on my worst days, and hone my practice.
I have cried over the keyboard, and so should you, if you want your writing to be better.
Write at least once a day. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Even if you have to write garbage for a while and come back to edit it later, do it. (9 times out of 10 you’ll come back and the writing isn’t bad, anyway.)
And finally… the fifth reason you might hate your writing:
5. Your writing is actually not very good.
Now before you get angry at me for this — wait a minute.
Calm down. Breathe.
We all know that good and bad are subjective, especially in the creative world. Some people love Faulkner’s work, some people hate it. Whatever.
Here’s a little story. Nine years ago, I wrote a book and handed it out to people for reading. Out of those people, only one told me that the writing was horrible, and the rest gave me a nod and told me to publish it. But me? I didn’t like it. I hated my work. So you know what I did? I listened to the one person who hated it. Who literally said to me:
“Your story has potential, but you didn’t do any research, I can hardly read this. You need to stop writing for a while and read, go study these a, b, c, and d, things. Your grammar isn’t right, the character motives don’t make sense. It’s bad. Go back, try again, and bring it to me when you’ve rewritten it.”
I listened to her. I studied my ass off. I read the book she suggested until the cover fell off (It was ‘Outlander’, by the way — whether or not you’re into romance, Gabaldon’s first person writing skills are amazing). I honed the craft. I cried over hours and hours of drafting. I searched every nook and cranny for people who knew the craft and bled knowledge from them.
Eventually, I drafted the manuscript three more times and gave it back to the woman who hated it. Now, she edits for me and loves the book. She compliments me. Every so often, we laugh when my old errors sneak back up to the surface.
I admitted to myself that my writing needed work, and I worked blood and cinder to make my writing sing. Now, it does.
You have GOT to listen to people when they tell you that things aren’t working. They aren’t doing it to be mean. If someone has the balls to tell you “Your story has potential, but your writing is chunky and hard to follow,” do not hug your pride and ignore it.
Listen to them. Study your ass off and make them wrong.
Your story deserves it.