Four Things To Do When You Start Hating Your Writing

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Sh-Boom by the Chords, Twist and Shout by the Beatles, A Little Less Conversation by Elvis)

It disturbs me how much more my titles are sounding like Buzzfeed articles recently.

Okay, so if you’re anything like me, you might be writing something, going along at a great pace, really feeling into yourself, and then all of a sudden the momentum dries up. And then reverses.

You read back over the words you thought were totally genius while you were writing them, and they sound like shit. As a matter of fact, you now realize that the entire project is shit and should be tossed immediately.

God, what an absolutely terrible feeling. There’s no way to get rid of it, at least not entirely – but you already probably know that it’ll fade in time. Your main goal when this happens is to find a way to combat it in the moment, to keep yourself from clicking that DELETE key and losing something that might not just be salvageable, but also potentially great.

Here are four things I try to do when that feeling strikes me. Remember, it’s all about momentum – you don’t have to start the ball rolling forward again, you just have to stop it from moving back.

  1. Call in your Adorer. This is one of my four preferred types of alpha readers – the wonderful person who always seems to think your writing is better than you do, the one who always has something good to say about it. Your Adorer can keep you from the brink of nervous collapse with that oh-so-crucial validation that you’re doing something worthwhile. (Plus my Adorer is pretty cute, so that helps too.)
  2. Put your project down and do something else. Trust me, it will still be there tomorrow after the negativity has passed. This one is kind of a slippery slope; you may end up not coming back to the project once it’s down in the dust. But that’s on you; you have to find the energy somehow to get back to it. Mine is writing every day – since I have to write every single day, I may as well write the thing I’m currently working on, instead of trying to start something new.
  3. Find just one sentence you think is awesome in the scrap heap. No matter how bad I think my writing is when I’m in a slump, I can always seem to find one thing – a perfect bit of dialogue, an especially well-written description, even a bit of prose that just seems poetic – that I really like. Cling to that little flower sprouting from the manure. Remind yourself that this is why you slave over writing – for that single sentence that, in isolation, is a gem. If you continue writing, you’ll definitely find more of those gems hidden in there.
  4. Read back over some of your projects from years ago. I try to do this at least once a year, just because it’s healthy to laugh at yourself. When you read back over stuff you wrote three or four years ago, you will truly know shitty writing. And then by comparison, you can see how vastly your writing has improved. Seriously, sometimes it takes my breath away to see just how much better I’ve gotten at writing in the last two to three years – it’s an entire world of difference, and many of my readers have said so. Remind yourself that improvement isn’t a binary – you’re always going to be walking a slow uphill path, and sometimes you might roll back a step or two, but you’ll be continually moving forward on a macroscopic scale.

I’ve said before and I’ll continue to say that being an artist sucks when you’re so emotionally close to what you’re creating. When it’s going well, nothing can wipe the smirk off your face and the joy from your soul; when it’s terrible, you can’t help but wallow in self-pity and self-hatred. But you have to try to divorce yourself a little from your work; it’s the only way you’re going to be able to continue to move forward.

Hopefully these were helpful! And please, continue to keep your chin up. I think tomorrow I’m going to repost something I guest-posted on another blog a while back, a motivator to remind us to write. I hope these two posts in conjunction are enough to keep your head on your shoulders when things get tough.

Yours, moving and grooving on,

-R.R. Buck

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