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Monday, 23 November 2015

Facing the Monster



The number one enemy of the writer got me! Without warning, the monster known As 'self doubt' coshed me over the head and carried me off into it's cave. Some of you know this monster, and have suffered yourselves. Like me, you've lived to tell the tale.

Within hours, I wilted, became pessimistic about my writing, bereft, and unusually listless, I couldn't lift myself out of the mood.

How did it happen? Being honest, it was after a critique session at the Saturday writers group a week ago. I took along a short story to read out, which I thought had a strong premise. However, the feedback I received said otherwise, and I knew, with so many experienced writers saying the same thing, that there must be something badly wrong with the piece in question.

I'm no stranger to critique, hell I've been taking it, and dishing it out for years. Normally, I take it on the chin, go away, think about it, then make the necessary changes to improve the writing in question. However, the more I thought about this piece of writing, the more I doubted my ability. Perhaps it was a load of rubbish! Whatever. I let the monster win.

Why? Maybe because, it had knocked on my door before. I read a different story last month, and I got feedback that it didn't work. Folks said they felt cheated at the end, and that I hadn't foreshadowed the story properly. I was disappointed, but mostly agreed with the verdict. I knew what I'd done wrong, I'd tried to re-write my ending in a fantastical way, when the story was more a contemporary one, than an urban fantasy. I'd seen the flash of something then, an impression, a fleeting feeling of doom. But it vanished  as soon as it appeared. I was safe, and on that occasion, I escaped with my love for the craft intact.

That story is back in a file, I'm unsure what I'll do with it now. As for the one that caused the latest upset, that is out of sight. In fact, when this happened, just over a week ago, it made me feel so fed up with the whole thing, I quit! Yes really. Packed up my writing life, and let the monster chew a big bite out of my confidence. I felt completely robbed of all joy and passion.

Thank goodness for writing buddies! The good people that are there when the monster is lurking in the shadows. Ready to pounce and nip at your ankles. Wanting nothing more than to bring you down. A couple of my buddies know of my plight and have rallied round with good advice. Take a few days out, regroup, look at things with fresh eyes they said. Don't give up, they said.

I took their advice. Had a rest. licked my wounds clean. This writing game isn't for wimps is it? I'm not the first, I've seen the damage left in this monsters wake before. I've decided I'm not going to lie down and let it win the fight, heck I'm still growing as a writer. I'm going to hang out with my positive buddies, and get back to tapping those keys, starting with this post.

If you're not feeling the passion for your writing, suspect something is lurking in the shadows of your mind, ring a friend, have a chat, talk about it. Get on the email, share thoughts. Whatever you do, don't let the monster win!

28 comments:

  1. Well done on surviving the monster. Thanks for telling the tale too. It's so easy to feel you're the only one when the monster gets you. It's encouraging to hear the monster of self doubt visits other writers and that there is a way to survive.

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    1. Thank you Beatrice, I'm feeling a lot better.

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  2. oooo that wicked monster!! He pounces when you least expect it and that's when it hurts. Good for you for seeking friends to help conquer the beast. Just from reading your blog, I know you CAN write (and very well) so don't think of it as giving up but just recouping before you begin again. I know how it feels when one is proud of a story and then find it's not as well received as desired. It sucks!! I have abandoned such stories only to come back to them months later and turn it into a great story that others enjoy too. Stand tall Maria and don't allow the monster to win in the long run. You can do it!! Wishing you a great week filled with wonderful writing.

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    1. Kind words Nicola, thank you. I'm dusting myself down, and will look at the two stories in question at a later date. For now, I'm going to do morning pages, and some re-writing on my novel.

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  3. It's good that you have an honest group to give you feedback, and on the positive side you are no doubt learning all the time. I hope you find your confidence again soon, being without it is horrible, it's something I suffer from a lot.

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    1. Oh CJ, I hope you've got some good writing buddies who'll listen and pick you up when self doubt strikes?
      I'm very lucky to be in such a good critique group, and I do value their opinions.

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  4. I think even the well known writers suffer in the same way, as do actors and artists. If you are creative you can't possibly create brilliant stuff all the time. But you will do it again. Just think positively (monsters hate positivity) and you'll be fine.

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    1. Hi Maggie, I saw a documentary with Ian Rankin a few years ago, I was amazed to learn he also has the monster on his heels from time to time.

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  5. Good for you - not letting that monster win! He always sneaks in and finds us at a low point. Glad you've found a way to scare him away xx

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    1. Well it worked this time Teresa! :-)

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  6. Your monster is cuter than mine, but, yes I know exactly how it feels. The advice to not give up is the most important advice a writer can get. Good luck :-)

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    1. I'm not going to give up, and you are correct, it's what you need to hear when you're feeling low. I'm getting back on track.

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  7. Pleased to hear you've tackled the monster and kicked him out the door.

    We all get these moments, and they are difficult to deal with, but they don't last. Putting the story aside and allow your subconscious to work on it, so when you eventually look at it again you'll know what is needed.

    Hope you have a happier writing week. :-)x

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    1. Thank you Carol, and yes, I'm going to work on something else and let my subconscious work on the others.

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  8. He is a vicious old monster but We Are Women and Men of Strength and can beat a nasty old monster! However he sometimes takes us by surprise and that's when we let him get the better of us. Like many other respondents he's come to my house on more than one occasion. Critiquing groups are hugely valuable but sometimes their comments can be difficult to hear because we can't always work out how to make the writing better. I must admit in one group I was in, one very vocal writer was usually very critical of my work. While she made some very insightful and useful comments I always felt she didn't really get my characters or my style and so some of her harshest criticism was not entirely valid. Yet her assessment of my work made that monster take up residence in my house for a good while. It may come as no surprise to learn that she was very defensive about any critiquing from myself and the rest of the group! As Stephen King said, not everyone is your ideal reader/critic! Keep writing - lots of us believe in you.

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    1. Hi Lindsay, I can identify with what you're saying about someone not 'getting' your characters or your style. There are a few in my group who hate the genre I write...
      It is sometimes difficult, but I always try to offer something, when giving critique, and I'm mindful that they have probably spent a lot of time working on their manuscript.
      Interesting that after laying it all out on the blog here, and seeing the responses. It seems like it's a widespread problem in the writing community.

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  9. Aaaargh! That's a scary monster. Glad you're not going to let him beat you.

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    1. Never Patsy - have picked myself up and dusted myself down. Just trying to catch up now.

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  10. That monster has been knocking on my door lately, too, Maria, so it was good to hear that you're not letting him get the better of you. It sounds as if you've had good advice and I hope that you'll soon be back enjoying your writing.

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  11. He visits us all, Maria, and I'm glad you're dealing with him positively. I still have several stories on file that will probably never see the light of day as they just don't work, but that's par for the course. Keep writing, reading other stories and enjoying what you do - next time it might be your story that blows them away!

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    1. Thank you Rosemary, I'm overwhelmed by the writerly support.

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  12. I think that monster visits all writers' houses sooner or later and in my cases has popped back several times to dispense a nip with his nasty claws. Well done you for beating him off! I heartily agree with your last paragraph in which you say that if we are not feeling the passion in our writing, then suspect something lurking in the shadows of our mind. Hope you are having a better week.

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    1. Hi Christine, I'm having a much better week.

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  13. What a fabulous post, and how brave of you to 'fess up like this. I'm glad your writing buddies have been on hand to help you weather the storm and that you've stomped all over the monster. Onwards!

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    1. Onwards indeed Julia, happier writing days are ahead.

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  14. Had a tough workout myself yesterday. Got some very good advice, but it is hard when you have to take a manuscript to pieces after a good deal of time and effort has been put in. I think self doubt goes with the Arts - actors, writers, performers, painters. Stick in there; your writing stands head up with everyone else's. Thank goodness for writing critique groups; as there's not much quarter given once it gets to an agent or comp judge. Sometimes the story just doesn't quite have the legs, however well it is written. On one of my favourites (still have the manuscript filed away), I was told to forget it, tear it up and throw it in the bin. I haven't. Its 'on ice.' You'll be back with a great rewrite Maria.

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    1. Thank you Keith, I hope you manage to sort out your manuscript too.

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