A Writer in Anguish

By K. TrianpenEverything you put on paper turns to crap.
You fail to convey what you meant to convey.
You can’t plot to save your life.
Your characters feel unrealistic and clumsy.

Sound familiar? If not, consider yourself lucky! I knew this day couldn’t be avoided, that I would find myself in front of the computer and end up deleting everything I write. It’s not like anything actually triggered this feeling, I just felt it looming somewhere behind me, like it’s been there for several weeks now. It’s not a writer’s block, or maybe it is, it’s not like I’ve run out of ideas, but the ideas get garbled on their way to the paper. They look wrong. Like seeing a painting in your head, but when you try to transfer it on canvas, you realize you can’t paint. You can’t even mix the colors, and the brush you picked is of the wrong size and shape.

It’s actually quite scary. What should I do with this block? What’s the proverbial crate of dynamite I can use to blow it to smithereens? Should I get drunk? Let the stories sit a while (but I don’t wanna!), wait for it to pass? Throw up all the ideas and see if I could arrange them into a bearable form later?

But it feels like back when I tore a ligament in my foot and couldn’t run for weeks. That’s when staying in place is out of the question, but at the same time, if I try to run, it seems to only make things worse and I get more and more frustrated.

The annoying thing is that, I, myself, am the block. It’s my own standards I fail to meet, yet at times I wonder if those standards are as realistic as me trying to force myself to sprint 100m in 10 seconds. But something keeps me from lowering them; it feels like settling with the realistic 14 seconds means I’ve given up.

Anyone else been in this situation before? How did you get rid of the block?

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9 thoughts on “A Writer in Anguish

  1. Wish I could hep you there. I’ve suffered writer’s block a lot of times, but I haven’t actually done anything to get rid of it. One day, I’d just wake up, and it’s gone. Really hope your writer’s block goes away soon, though.

    • Thanks, Jian! It’s annoying cos I have lots of ideas and stuff I want to write, but whatever I write down feels sub-standard, you know? I guess this is pretty typical though, that a writer can’t always be happy with what they produce and writing isn’t always a breeze; a trip to the fun park (or it’s the kind of trip when the lines are super-long and it starts to rain heavily just when it’s your turn to go to the rollercoaster).

      P.s. btw, we voted your story in JukePop^^

      • Thanks a bunch! It’s #2 in the entire horror genre on Jukepop Serials right now.
        : ) One thing that I do suggest you try is to just keep writing. Short, hundred word paragraphs. It’s something, at least, and may be it’ll speed up the whole process. I just stood around and waited for it to come back. In retrospect, that probably prolonged the whole ordeal.

      • That’s awesome! =)

        Maybe I’ll try to ramble something here for a while, post random stuff x) Plus Toni and I got a ton of feedback to wade through for Solus, so I’ll probably be able to fix stuff as long as it doesn’t require heaps of rewriting xP

  2. Bear in mind that your own perspective on what you write can be incredibly skewed, especially if your head isn’t in the right place at the time (if you get what I mean). If you can’t ignore what you write for a while then I can only suggest getting a second (and third, and fourth) opinion from someone you trust.
    Of course, that could go either way…

    • This one’s from Toni (the original blog post was by Katri). I agree that in cases like this, a second opinion can be a big help. I believe people improve in cycles, kinda like in video games: your character gathers experience points (aka you hone your craft by writing/reading etc), you’re almost at the next level, only need a few points more (you’ve almost learned some cool new thing/skill and feel like you’re really progressing), you gain a new exp.level and your skills/endurance/life etc. go up (you have an epiphany/master that new skill/thing etc), but your exp.points go to zero and you have to start gathering more points to reach the next level which requires more points (because your points went to zero, you feel like all you produce is crap and you’re daunted by the work you have ahead of you to reach the next level), and so the cycle repeats itself.
      Oh, and Katri, your 100m dash is closer to 13 seconds, not 14 😛

    • Thanks for your comments, Erica! 🙂
      It’s not that I’m all that insecure about the stuff we write (except it can always be better), but I seem to be having a phase when I just look at whatever I wirte over-critically, plus it feels like I can’t transfer the stuff from my head onto the paper >: ( Oh well, I’m sure this will pass, it’s just a bit frustrating, especially now that Toni and I should be doing some revisions to Solus based on our beta-readers’ opinions, and I want to do them well.
      -K

  3. I think I’d call it Writer’s Angst rather than Writer’s Block. I don’t get blocked, but I get angsted all the damn time.

    I think the solution to angsting over the work is to say ‘F it’ and just puke some writing out. Tell yourself ‘quality doesn’t matter because I can edit it later’ and throw everything onto the page. Make progress, get the pieces in there, because you can rearrange them as you choose when you redraft/edit. You’re going to do that anyway.

    I wrote a big long response on Fantasy Faction, probably in the wrong thread (heh), about how I write and rewrite, and since I’m slogging through the rough draft of book 3 now, I’m doing a lot of it. First: WRITE. Don’t agonize about quality, it’s placeholder material, you just need to get it out there. Second: read through, rearrange, streamline, replace as much of the placeholder material as you can. Third — or whenever you’ve gotten to the point that editing is really difficult because you’ve Frankenstein’s Monster’ed the crud out of the text — rewrite it in parallel. Fresh document, no cut/paste, just rewriting it line by line. This smooths out a ton of the roughness of edits, allows you to more fully see/conceptulaize the path the story is taking, and allows you to make the paragraphs flow more naturally and jettison parts/ideas that no longer seem important as you add and subtract material from the stream.

    Basically, the parallel is a fresh start to the writing process, yet does not involve deleting all that has gone before. For me it was a great help in unburdening from the unbearable stress of endless edits which never seemed to fix things to my satisfaction. And the fact that the parallel rewrite exists in the future makes my rough drafts that much easier to write, because I don’t have to tear my hair out over every line — I can say ‘I know this is a problem but I’ll make a note of it and come back and fix it when I figure out HOW’.

    Er…not sure this is on topic now. I tend to write posts like I’m writing research papers. v_v

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