I usually start writing and just let it spill out. But a couple sentences later I just cannot write. I then begin thinking of what to write next. During thinking I just kind of regret everything I just wrote. So then I start another one, and then it happens again.

I'm wondering if anybody else has felt this and has found out how to get over it. Thanks!

  • 3
    This question has already been asked [here][1]. I've also provided an answer to it there. [1]: writers.stackexchange.com/q/28554/10394 – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Aug 20 '17 at 1:41
  • Thomas, they sound the same but to me they are different. – A.N.M Aug 20 '17 at 15:55
  • Okay. Can you edit your question to explain the differences? Because at the moment, if I were to answer this question, my answer would be identical to the answer I linked above. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Aug 20 '17 at 17:17
  • Yes please edit the question to clarify what makes yours different from the above. This question has been asked a few times with different wording already on our site :) – ggiaquin16 Aug 21 '17 at 21:25

Try this to break the cycle: Go Analytic!

When you begin to doubt, or don't know what to write next, Start a new paragraph with some knots (&&&) and explain why what you wrote doesn't work. It is true dialogue should generally be concise, but your note does not have to be: write in as confused and rambling a screed as needed what you were trying to tell the reader that the previous crap fails to convey.

Or perhaps you are stuck on the plot, and what comes next. If so write about that. Then, instead of erasing it, leave your note there, and


I use knots for inline notes in a story, so I can search later and delete the notes. I can type these 3 characters without my fingers ever leaving the keyboard to find a button or use a mouse. But you could do the same on a new page, in different color ink, in a new document, etc.

Whenever you get into the cycle of delete and rewrite, stop deleting: Write out what is bothering you. The only time to delete is when you have arrived at a final iteration of what you want: And even then, I'd give it a week, and reread, and see if you want to analyze further.

In my view, delete and rewrite is like taking blindfold shots at a target; it means I am just guessing at what might work and my subconscious story editor is never satisfied that what I wrote is going to work in the story.

So why doesn't something "work" in a story? Is it dialogue contrary to what I want the character to be? Is it going to move the characters in the wrong direction, or into a dead end I can't get them out of? Is there a more pressing conflict that this fails to resolve?

There is a problem, a knot to untie, and the only way to do it is to understand precisely why my subconscious is reacting with dislike to the words on the page. So I need to stop taking potshots at it, and start a stream of consciousness critique of why, exactly why, this bit of writing sucks.

By not deleting these notes, you keep a record of every iteration and alternative; every attempt to get better, and remember your own previous critiques, like Theseus using his ball of thread to escape the Minotaur's labyrinth.

When you can come back to some iteration days later, and still like what you wrote: Copy your notes and previous iterations (and final draft) to another Notes document and delete all but the final draft from your main document; hopefully never to be consulted again. If you ever do doubt it again: Go to your writing notes and search for the final draft; you can retrieve all that analysis then, and if necessary, add to it.

Never delete anything; you will inevitably forget what you have already tried and try it again, perpetuating a cycle: X didn't work, how about Y? No, Y doesn't work, how about Z? No Z doesn't work ... ... how about X?

To answer the question: This helps you stay confident because you will personally know, after this analysis and by your notes and knots, that what you have is what the story really needs. Lack of confidence is doubt; analysis will remove the doubt, and keeping a record of it will help you to dispel the doubt if it creeps back.

| improve this answer | |

I know that this won't be helpful, but looking back at my own development as a writer and considering what I have seen of others, this is how it will go:

If writing is something you feel a need to do, then you will keep at it, and if you don't feel that need, you will eventually give up. Nothing, except maybe threats on your life, can make you keep doing something that you don't feel compelled to do. If you want to become a writer, writing must be your nature.

If you keep at it, because writing is part of who you are, just keeping at it will make your abilities grow. There is no secret to writing except doing it. The secret to all success is practice.

So there is nothing at this moment that you can do. Write, if you feel like it, or let it be, if that feels better to you. Your life will sort itself out. You cannot turn yourself into someone you are not.

What I can say is that your current inability to produce a finished work is not evidence that you will not learn to write. Everyone begins where you are. The difference, maybe, between those that proceed to become writers and those that eventually turn to something else is that the latter focus on their inability while the former see what they are doing as some kind of search.

Someone who will become a writer does not, when they begin writing for the first time, think that they have failed. Of course they are aware of the final form they are somehow aiming for, but they do not much care whether or not they accomplish that form. What they feel is the pleasure to engage in the process. And what they seek is the pleasure of that process. It can come from working with language, from expressing yourself, from ordering your thoughts, or many other aspects of writing. But it is not the finished novel or essay that drives the writer. It is the writing itself.

To enjoy the process of writing, it doesn't matter (much) whether you break off or manage to finish a piece. All that matters is that you are engaging in the activity that allows you to be yourself.

For that to happen it is best if you can start out on your journey as a writer without the idea that you want to be a writer. If you don't feel the pressure to make money off your writing, but rather begin to do it as a hobby, you are free to develop. If you set yourself the goal to earn a living with writing in a certain number of years, you will likely smother your talent. If you want to learn to swim, don't set yourself to win the olympics. The discrepancy between your first strokes and the gold medal will just discourage you.

So if you can, don't think about it too much and just enjoy what you do.

| improve this answer | |

Only everyone ever, to the point where it is a classic cliche of the writer: the writer sitting in front of a typewriter beside a large wastepaper basket overflowing with bits of crumpled paper, and tossing yet another ball of paper over their shoulder. (By the way, after earning my living as a writer for 30 years I still throw away more than I keep.)

This is not unique to writing, of course. If you want to learn to cook you will burn a lot of food and probably a pan or two. You will drop a lot of balls before you learn to catch. You will take a lot of skin off your knees before you learn to ride a bike.

Writing is hard and it begins well before you sit down to put words on paper. Among many other things, you have to learn how to think through a piece of writing in your head before you start writing. You also have to learn how to string words and sentences and images and ideas together into a coherent linear narrative, which is a very different thing from having a conversation. Indeed, if you put 500 consecutive words together on paper that is probably more consecutive words than you have ever spoken in your life unless you have given a lecture or a speech.

People often expect writing to come easily. It doesn't. It take an awful lot of time and practice and study to become even remotely good at it. (Like gymnasts, dancers, and other athletes, most of those who get to be any good started in childhood.)

I don't know about confident. This is hard and most people suck for a very long time before they start getting even remotely good. The real question to ask is how motivated are you? If you are motivated enough you will persevere through your lack of confidence (which is entirely justified at first, since you just have not learned enough to produce anything worthwhile yet). If you are motivated enough you will persevere, and if you are not motivated enough you should not persevere because this is a lousy way to make a living and a lonely isolating hobby.

| improve this answer | |

I write in a notebook with a pen.

This way, I can't go back and edit anything until I've finished. This forces me to accept what I've written--it's only a first draft anyway. I'll fix it later, on my second/third/nth draft. If I fix it immediately, I'll regret it again immediately. If I wait until I've written the rest of the story, it becomes easier to write it better. I'll know what that part needs because 1) I'll know the rest of the story and 2) I'll have more mental distance from it.

If you don't want to handwrite your stories, I'm sure there's specialized software out there that doesn't let you edit what you've already written.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.