Thursday, September 6, 2012

Someone Give Me Permission...Please?

There's been a lot going on in my writing life lately. A lot of excitement. And a lot of doubt. And very, very little progress. On anything.

I find myself in one of those ruts where I can't settle to anything. One day I'm waiting out the submission windows of the agents / editors that have requested my manuscript. The next I'm giving up and self-publishing NOW. One day I'm a brilliant writer. The next I have zero talent.

This all adds up to a crisis of confidence, both in myself and my writing.

The thing is, I know this is totally normal. It isn't the first time I've been riding this roller coaster. Nor, I'm sure, will it be the last. And all my writing besties can totally relate. Despite the fact that they're way more talented than me, they all feel the same. So, clearly, this isn't the frame of mind to be making decisions. This is the time to just hunker down and write. Right?

Except... I hate everything. When I write a sentence it's nothing but clunk and amateurish attempts at simile. When I outline something it's YAWN-worthy. God forbid I actually finish a scene - there's clearly nothing worth keeping.

All I see are endless hours of writing that I'll flush down the toilet in a few months when I realize how useless I was during this time. And that means I write a few paragraphs here, and the odd scene there. I switch between manuscripts ("Maybe this one will inspire me more?") and shelve projects I was in love with... You get the picture.

It occured to me today that I need to take my own advice: I need to stop expecting myself to get the book right first time. I need to remember that I have amazingly talented writer-friends who will gently and efficiently help me find the flaws, as well as uncover the diamonds in the rough.

But that time isn't now. Now is first-draft time. It's the time for stilted dialogue, stupid plot turns, fluffy love scenes and TOO MANY WORDS.

In short, I need to give myself permission to suck.

But I'm having a hard time doing it. So maybe you can help? Maybe you can give me permission to bite the big one?


Your Turn: Do you enjoy writing first drafts, or do you get stuck? How do you get past the block?


  1. I give you permission!!

    But first, it sounds like you need to take a couple of days to sit back and really think about what it is about writing that you love. Take time to remind yourself why you started in the first place and before you know it, you won't need the permission of others. You'll have given YOURSELF permission=)

  2. Of course you have our permission. As you said, we've all been there.

    One thing I do when I feel that way is write a short story, maybe even flash fiction. Not that I intend to do anything with it, but I feel more 'allowed' to suck when I'm just going to shelve it anyway. Once I start writing it normally gets me in a better mood and I find something in there that I like and I'm ready to move on to a serious WIP.

    1. I envy you purveyors of the short form. I literally can't write short stories. Can't conceive of plotlines that I can resolve in a few pages.

      Fan fiction though... hmmm.... *Grins*

  3. I sure wouldn't give you permission to suck. However, I would give you permission to loose the creative spirit within you. It must be pounding at the door to get out. What pours out of your mind once you do will be a bit rough, but none of us are born fully formed and perfect. It takes a few laps around the track of life for any of us to pick up the polish that makes us eventually shine. You have my permission to begin the wonderful creation process.

  4. You absolutely have my permission to suck (even though I don't think you do). I have no words of wisdom to shake the funk, but I do have some fine chocolates. *pushes over a truffle*

    1. *Take truffle with relish... and steals two more*

      Fanks! (That's "thanks" with my mouth full)

  5. I have this problem too. When this happens I watch this video:

    Hang in there!

  6. Thinking about it, I had a similar feeling today. I'm currently writing a short story for a writing contest over at The Write Practice. But as I was working on the ending, I couldn't help but feel that maybe it won't be good enough.

    But it's only the first draft. I have an entire week to finish and revise it and maybe even get some critique via Google Drive, which I'm typing the story on.

    Would you be interested? ;)

    1. Sorry, Chihuahua, I don't have time for extra critiquing right now. But if you email me links to anything you put online, I could tweet it for you so others will come in and help!

      Good luck!

  7. I often get stuck on first drafts, but then I can get stuck on revisions too! It really is a case of squashing that internal editor while we churn out the first draft. I think we also need to give ourselves permission to take a break from writing when we feel this way. A few days doing something completely different can do wonders for out state of mind, which has a wonderful flow on effect when we get back to our work.

  8. I too am in the writerly bog of first-draft writing blues. Happy to share box of self-doubt tissues, crack open the peanut m&ms and join the hunt for the writing nuggets of joy. You don't suck. Ever. Keep writing!

  9. I hate writing first drafts--but they're a necessary evil. What's the saying? You gotta learn to walk before you run? Well, first drafts are more like crawling--on shards of glass. But the thing is, whitout them, there isn't any second, third, fourth, etc. draft and definitely no final publishable draft.

    Slog through it. Write crap if necessary, because you can alays revise it later. In fact, you WILL revise it later and you will make it better. Just rip the band-aid off and keep writing.

    And, if you're inclined, drink a glass of wine.

  10. I give you permission to take a break! Chillax. Turn to something totally new. It's okay to step away from writing for a week, a fortnight, a month. You won't lose your ability to write. I know, I know, if someone had told me this a year ago, I would have died! Writing is like breathing!

    But if you concentrate your creative juices on something else (painting helps me, or even renovating old furniture), I can assure you, you'll feel that moment where everything just clicks again, and you NEED to write.

    All that time spent concentrating on something else will let your subconscious work out the kinks in your story-telling, as well as your confidence.


    (Also, chocolate helps. Lots and lots of chocolate)

    Good luck!

    1. So sweet, thank you. Actually, blogging is turning out to be a bit of a joy at the moment (I can't paint anymore due to carpel tunnel, but fun to know we share that outlet at heart!)

      Also, strangely, housework. Not my favorite passtime, but the head definitely gets to working when I'm doing something that engages just my hands.

      Thanks for the permission - and the reminder!

  11. Yes, I give you permission. But only if you give me permission too. It's hard when you have a highly polished novel and then you start over with a new one. I want the new one to be just like the highly polished one from the get-go. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. So true! That's where I'm at too. Hard. But a process we must get used to, I think :)

  12. I'm first draft of first novel! I was very stuck for three months. I eventually realised I was still writing every day it's just that I wasn't 'progressing' the plot.

    I was having conversations with my characters, "What do you think should happen next?" And in their answers I got to understand a bit more of their motivation. I also wrote about writing the book while I tried working out a plot rather than just write by the seat of my pants. Where was the story going and why? What is the THEME. (still don't know!)

    When I felt stuck I wrote about it and I'd let my critic (she's a real bitch) tell me that I suck but then she'd relent, having been given some space, and remind me I am supposed to write a shitty first draft.

    My writing still sucks, I am learning enough abut what to do to know I'm mostly painfully short of doing it. When I first started I thought I was OK. Ha. So - my recipe for recovery is writing about it to your self.

    You'll fly soon one way or another.


  13. Permission granted! :) And here's an inspirational quote that Peggy Eddleman put up the other day: “When writing a first draft I remind myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” ~Shannon Hale

  14. Don't give up. I am struggling with my MS too. Have re-drafted over and over. It is driving me crazy and getting me to that same hopeless place. Don't think that it means you suck. I found a few things helped. Try starting something else for a while, just for the pleasure of it. I found that some negative criticism majorly stunted my creativity, it's a hard spot to get out of but I think it's all a state of mind. Once the pain has subsided look at it with fresh eyes. :)
    By the way thanks for following me on twitter, your blog looks awesome I'm going to check out your earlier posts. I just started blogging today so it is all new to me.
    Amber A Bardan

  15. *hugs* It sounds like you actually need a writing vacation. Take a week off and do other things. Don't think about writing or check your email for those replies. Go hiking or roller skating. Sit on the beach and just read some of your childhood favorite books. When you come back you'll be refreshed and ready to tackle writing again.

    I used to love first drafts more than editing/revising, but now that I've learned to enjoy the latter my first drafts are harder as well. It's harder to turn off that inner editor and remind yourself that it's okay to write a passive sentence if that's all that's coming to mind.

    But it IS okay to write a sucky first draft. If we didn't, we wouldn't have anything to polish into a beautiful novel.

    Good luck and hang in there!

  16. I agree with Charity. When you're not writing your novel (whether it sucks or not) you're blogging, or thinking about writing. Aren't you, come on, confess!! No? Oh, it IS just me, then :O

    I just finished Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time. I wrote every day but three for a whole month even when I was wading in mud, just getting words on paper that I thought were probably rubbish, to get to my 50,000 word target. But I learnt that that is the name of the game. And it all came to a satisfactory ending. It'll be a lot shorter when it's edited, but that's for the future.

    This week is my week's vacation. Can't stay away from interesting blogs though ;)

  17. (Followed you here from a tweet of yours in #litchat)

    I was having this very same crisis this week, ready to give up on everything. Feeling like a failure before I've even gotten started. Feeling hackneyed and obtuse and just plain awful.

    What I have been doing for the past five months is focusing on a super small weekly project - One Hundred Word Wednesdays. I write a hundred words of whatever, as long as it's NOT about my major WIP. Some weeks these hundred words are all I write. But at least I keep going.

    This week's hundred words were all about this conflict of self confidence. I was wishing that I had a mentor, or at least someone who could help me with this confidence issue. And so I wrote an ad for one. ;) Oh, if only it was that easy thought, right?

    Also, love your site. Keep at it, lady. Keep on going because you're getting it right.