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I am in no way a writer. It's something I've always wanted to do, but could never build up the courage to actually start. Every time I think about writing, I think about the end result and how I am not a good writer. This process circles through my head until I come to the conclusion that I shouldn't write at all if my final product is going to suck. I have no real experience writing seriously (outside of school projects/poetry classes). I have a lot of stories that I want to get out of my head and put down.

Could anyone give me any suggestions? Maybe something about your writing process or how you got over something similar?

  • In my opinion, if you have experience writing for school projects and poetry classes you're already a writer. If you think you suck that's something else. I'll see if I can find you starter books to read on how to become a writer. If you don't want to read a whole book about it you can try Creative writing for dummies cheat sheet. – user6035379 Dec 28 '16 at 14:24
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    If I might make a suggestion: find a writing community. Online, local, friends, strangers; it doesn't matter. I got into writing without really meaning to by joining an online fan fic writing community. I got free criticism, compared my work to others, read books on how to write better, read books that were written well, tested out theories and devices in my fan fiction, and seven years later I'm getting ready to publish. As Mark Baker said, take it in small steps. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 28 '16 at 19:31
  • This is actually something I was just looking into. Looking around for writing groups around me (Providence, RI area). Going to try and make it a monthly (maybe weekly?) thing. – Dylan Beck Dec 28 '16 at 20:29
  • This is my only and best piece of advice: read The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. I wish I had done this before my first NaNoWriMo because I wouldn't have deleted my novel at the end of the month. I would pay $500 for that book if I didn't already own it :) – sirdank Dec 28 '16 at 20:42
  • I'll look into it thanks. What is NaNoWriMo? – Dylan Beck Dec 28 '16 at 21:00
16

Let's say that you wanted to become a circus performer. You want your act to be juggling flaming batons blindfolded while riding a unicycle on a tightrope over a tiger cage.

You recognize that your first attempt to do any of these things, let alone do them all together, is going to suck. So what do you do? You go away and you practice each element separately. You watch other performers to learn their technique. Maybe you go to circus school. And you practice, practice, practice.

In each of the skills in your act you will hit a plateau where you will get discouraged. If you really want to be a circus performer, you will persevere and eventually start improving again. If not, you will quit and do something else. That's fine. We all have to test our resolve to know how much we really want something. Maybe you will decide to be an accountant but you will put on a clown suit and juggle rubber balls for children's parties on the weekends. That is fine too.

One day, if you work long enough and hard enough, you will ride your unicycle blindfold across a pit of tigers while juggling flaming batons and the crowd will go wild.

Learning to write it like that too. It looks easy, but then, the great circus performers make it look easy. But a writer had to build a world, create characters, paint a scene, tell a story, expound a theme, and charm the reader with beauty all in a single string of words. It is at least as complicated and difficult a task as riding a unicycle blindfold over a pit of tigers while juggling flaming batons. It takes as long to learn. There will be plateaus that test your resolve. Most who try never get good enough to wow the crowd.

So you have discovered that it's hard. It is not just hard for you. It is hard for everyone. The question is, how much do you want it? How hard are you willing to work to get it? How afraid are you of heights, or fire, or tigers?

Suggestions? Like any complex and difficult skill, start with something small and simple. Practice till you get good. Add something else. And study the masters. Study them all the time.

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    Wow this was such a great response. Thanks for this! I really enjoyed the circus analogy. Fits perfectly. I'm really enjoying this SE thus far. Everyone has been great. Thanks again for the pep-talk, it really does help. On break today I'm running to Target and getting myself a notebook. Time to start writing! – Dylan Beck Dec 28 '16 at 15:29
  • This answer inspired me to be a performer juggling flaming batons blindfolded while riding a unicycle on a tightrope over a tiger cage...I am giving up writing and am now off to join the circus...but seriously...great answer...I loved how you broke everything down... – user96551 Jan 19 at 19:40
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You're letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Let's be blunt: your initial efforts will suck. That's because every writer's initial efforts suck. Stephen King? Sucked. JK Rowling? Sucked. Octavia Butler? Sucked. Shakespeare? Suckethed.

Your goal is not to write something perfect. Your goal is to get it down on paper. Once it's on paper, then you can edit it, repeatedly, until it doesn't suck. But you cannot edit a blank page.

So go ahead and get your stories out of your head. You don't have to show them to anyone. The grammar can be terrible, you can have lots of "TK he gets from here to there," your characters can all be Mary Sues, it doesn't matter.

Write. Just write for the sheer joy of writing.

Later, you can go back and make it better. Later, you can go ask for help from beta readers and editors and learn how to make it better. You can learn how to make the end result great.

But there's no end result if there's no beginning. Go forth and write without worry or shame.

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    Thanks Lauren Ipsum (great name btw). I think a good pep-talk is just what I needed. I'm on the hunt for some good crime-drama books to read, to help me learn what good writing looks like in the genre that I'm aiming for. Just thinking about a story, even if I haven't figured out how it will end, gets me all excited. Do you feel like it's better to write on PC or in a physical notebook/journal? Thanks for the advise! – Dylan Beck Dec 28 '16 at 15:05
  • @DylanBeck Purely what works for you. Do both if you like. There's no right answer. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Dec 28 '16 at 16:58
3

What I learned is that the writing process is something very subjective and what can work for me could not work for you and viceversa.

However, the most important thing (especially if you are a beginner) is to shut down your inner critic.

You should write without questioning how good can be. Just let it flow. You have to discover your voice and your style.

You can't expect to have a gold bar if you are not ready to get your hands dirty collecting the nuggets.

There's a time to write and there's a time to judge ;) don't mix them up.

P.S. Good Luck!

  • If you are measuring success by volume rather than quality, sure. Otherwise, no. The key is to educate your inner critic. If you can't be self critical you can't improve. The key is to make your inner critic helpful rather than harmful. That means educating them, both about the process of learning to write, and about writing itself. Educating you inner critic is a big part of why a writer must read widely and with attention. – user16226 Dec 28 '16 at 17:14
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    I see where you are both coming from. Don't necessarily shut down my inner critic, but don't let it stop me from writing all together. Educate it as I go so I'll be a better writer for it in the future. Thanks! – Dylan Beck Dec 28 '16 at 18:46
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    @MarkBaker I humbly submit that the best way to teach your inner critic is to write a lot, even if it's terrible at first. – Kevin - Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '16 at 21:41
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This sounds like a classic case of Imposter Syndrome. At Thanet Creative Writers (a local community of writers I started where I live) I noticed that this seems to be a problem for many beginner writers.

The only consistent solution has been to actually start writing and not worry about the outcome. Without fail, anything you wrote will seem poor when compared with anything else you wrote more recently. That just seems to be a fact of life.

In terms of an indicator of raw skill, this self-doubt (sometimes named the Inner Critic) seems to be largely positive. It stems, as far as I can tell, from an awareness of what you do not know. That awareness stops you thinking that you are the best writer since Shakespeare and thus allows you to develop your skills.

It is not a universal rule by any stretch of the imagination, but there does seem to be something like an inverse correlation between ability and self-confidence when it comes to writing.

In general:

  • Don't compare yourself to other writers
  • Silence the Inner Critic
  • Don't try to produce perfection as perfection is a myth
  • Write first, edit later
  • You are a writer if you write

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