When Writing: What Is That?!

writers doubt good bad thinkyness

…WHAT THE HELL is that? Why do we read our writing over and think it is the latest bestseller in waiting and then upon re-reading it the next day, the text inspires nothing but disgust or at least disappointment? How can us writer’s have such conflicting views over the exact same piece of text? How can time do that when nothing has changed but our perspective?

Some explanations I can think of that are entirely unscientific:

  • Familiarity breeds contempt.
  • The feeling of finishing a piece of writing can overwhelm to such a degree that it dulls our critical edge, meaning when we re-read a story, we are judging it with clarity and a critical mind.
  • Our mood. Being highly volatile entities our day to day biology can affect how we feel and think, perhaps skewing our perceptions. Feeling confident or down can also affect our outlook, meaning we can be biased in a positive or negative way.
  • Creativity is itself prone to fits and bursts and in my experience more volatile than radioactive material.
  • In my experience writing is the doubting disease. Until someone else reads what we have written and praises it, it holds no value beyond that which we attach to it. Whether supremely confident or self-doubting we all need positive feedback on our output, so if we are the only one appraising our work I think it becomes increasingly tough to measure how good or bad our writing is in real terms.

The most famous example of doubt I can think of is when Stephen King binned Carrie and if it wasn’t for his wife fishing it out, he wouldn’t have got his first publishing contract worth $400,000 (yep, back in the days that was actually possible for a first time novelist). Also check out Chuck Wendig’s incredible post on self-doubt.

What are your thoughts? Do experience the doubting disease?

 

lion around 2

28 Comments

  1. I have to go one of my go-to quotes — from the film “Ulysses’ Gaze”: In the beginning God created the journey, then came doubt, then nostalgia.” I think that about sums up the writing process (from one view through the prism).

  2. You hit it on the nail. We become so self absorbed with what we write and I agree that leaving all work for final editing until the next day puts things into perspective. However, then I add and change a million things and then have to wait another day to do the final editing but the next day the cycle just starts all over again. Like Sisyphus. its takes me 10 days to be sort of ok with just a simple blog post before I upload it and then the next day, I regret my impulsive action because I see all the flaws.

  3. I can surely relate to those ‘negatives’. I’ve just submitted a section of a novel for crit. by my writers’ group. I’ve had only one response so far but already know I hate some of what I’ve written.

  4. I believe all writers suffer from self doubts – goes with the program. Blogging has served a real purpose. I have posted things that I spent twenty minutes agonizing over the publish button uncertain if it was worth posting. Then, the positive response from followers stuns me. Other times I have posted things I swore would win a Nobel or an Oscar nomination, and the response is luke warm at best. We are our own worse critic.

  5. I don’t think anything that I do is any good…but I enjoy the process of writing and uncluttering my brain…so I write, hide it and never read it back…thats why I’ve just started my blog because no one really needs to know the weird stuff that I hide in my brain. And other people’s writingon WordPress is so very good.

  6. I think I have a fairly balanced, laid-back approach to what I write. I know that it’s not utter crap, and I hope that it’s at least readable and engaging. Whether it’s considered ‘good’ is in some ways out of my hands – it depends on who’s reading it and their subjective views.
    I tend to worry more about rough edges, splinters of text that accidentally jab the reader, or the double-headed beast of missing information and overly elaborate exposition, stupid mixed metaphors on carpentry and mythological animals… the usual stuff. 😉
    Getting validation from even just one person on WordPress keeps the flame alive. Your stuff is good; keep doing it.

    1. True enough, once a story is read our opinion on it doesnt influence the reader at all.
      The nigggly things you mention are my main worries also.
      Usually I can spot them in my writing, but not always so WP is great for insta feedback, and if there isnt much I know my story wasnt that engaging.

  7. Quite extreme self-doubt happens to me all the time, but I don’t think any amount of feedback in either direction will ever change anything, really, at least not permanently. Of course positive feedback always helps: but only until you turn the page. Even if you’re a renowned, highly successful author, I’m sure you keep fretting about each and every new chapter. Well, unless you’re stupid and/or a delusional ego-maniac, those might very well be immune to the disease 🙂

    Fortunately, self-doubt is a good foundation for self-improvement.

    1. That’s interesting you feel feedback won’t change anything. I guess I get that too sometimes. If I dont like something I wrote, not much can sway my opinion either.
      There’s a transience to feedback for sure, good or bad it is very fleeting because ultimately we dont rest on one story and keep writing.
      And if we didnt self doubt it would be impossible to improve for sure.

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