Tuesday, January 3, 2012

IWSG - Where Did My Confidence Go?


It's the first Wednesday of the month, time for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support group.


In a normal workplace, you need to know how to do your job.  If you're an accountant, you need to know the rules of accounting; if you're a programmer, you should be able to write programs; if you're a police officer, hopefully you know some laws.  In all of these jobs, you have skills or you don't.  There's some art to the job, some talent that distinguishes the excellent employees from the mediocre, but usually success is a matter of how hard the employee is willing to work to gain competence at their job. 

Fiction writing is the same in some ways.  There's learnable skill involved.  We need to know where to put that period and when to use a semicolon.  There are endless books out there to tell us how to write well.  Determination and persistent hard work separate the excellent writers from the mediocre, just like in any other job.

The difference, as we all know, is this - the muse, the talent, the artistic factor.  My lingering question, besides Does my writing suck? is this:  Will I be able to write with the same quality today as I did three months ago? 

Yesterday morning, as far as fiction writing goes, I couldn't string three words together.  It may be in part from sleep deprivation, but I think it's really because I took too long of a break from writing over the last few weeks. 

I lost my writing mojo, and I really miss it.  I know no one can find it for me.  I'm worried it will be like that lost remote control that shows itself only after I declare it lost forever. 

I miss the confidence I had in October when I finished a novel I had been working on all year.  I miss that day my writing made a room full of people laugh out loud.  I have felt bursts of confidence over the last couple of months, but they have been very short-lived, gone in a second. 

Last night I met with my writing partner.  She shared her critique of the middle part of my novel.  I felt much more confident when I saw how few marks there were in the manuscript and how positive she was about it.  I remembered how much I loved it.  I found my confidence (for now) if only about that novel, and I hope to be back to writing something new today.  Even if it hurts, I'm going to keep writing until I feel like myself again.

No more breaks for me.  This inept feeling really sucks.

44 comments:

  1. When i feel like that, I will literally write something like this.
    "I think every sentence I write sucks today. I wish it didn't. I wish I could write something that connects with readers. I wish I could write anything! I wish I could write about chocolate, or Tasmanian Devils, or soda fountains in the 1950's, or people who are so fascinating no one could forget them if they tried. What would be fascinating about a person in the 1950's? . . . A girl working with Tasmanian devils in Australia . . a girl who works outdoors, and she works hard because she . . . can't go home? Doesn't want to go home? Has a family full of deception and secrets? . . ."
    And sometimes . . every once in a while, I get a story idea from all that jibberish!
    My best wishes to you as you work your way out of the confidence slump. I have no doubt your writing is awesome!

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  2. You'll get it back. And you have been writing and practicing because you blog. Once the groove returns, you'll discover you are better than ever.

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  3. Rachel - Chocolate eating Tasmanian Devils, maybe? Tasmanian Devils that try to take over the world with tainted chocolate. One person survives because chocolate gives her migraines. The crazy thing is I have lots of things in progress - I'm just stuck. I will write today anyway even if it's bad.

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  4. Alex - Thanks. :) Blogging doesn't seem the same to me as fiction writing. No need for a magic wand here.

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  5. OH WOW, I LOVE the second idea, "Tasmanian devils take over the world with tainted chocolate." Heheheheheh!

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  6. Don't be to hard on yourself. Sometimes we need a break. I don't think you are alone here. My muse has been on vacation as well, but I know she will return, she always does :)

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  7. someone just needs to write the story about the chocolate totting Tasmanian devil - just needs to

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  8. Rachel - :)

    Grumpy - I think I lost it again....

    Siv - I think if I write a little, I'll get my groove back.

    Alberta - You can do it! In my mind, the migraine sufferer eats the chocolate anyway because it's delicious and worth the mind-numbing headache. It's a very short story.

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  9. My confidence tends to go back and forth. There are a lot of ups and downs with writing. We have to be tough. Also the thing about writers, our stories always nag us to keep going, so it's unavoidable whether we feel confident or not..lol.

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  10. Sometimes, when my writing isn't as strong as I want it to be, I just change the font color, muddle through the crap knowing where I will need to come back and fix. I think the most important thing to remember is that crap can be fixed or erased, but nothing can't be fixed. Just keep writing - it will come back!

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  11. Cindy - I guess it is just part of the writing thing - not good when you feel paralyzed though.

    Tasha - I did write this morning - three pages of a new chapter - good enough for today. Yay!

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  12. "Even if it hurts, I'm going to keep writing until I feel like myself again." - I have to do the same thing, and it definitely hurts after Christmas break.

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  13. I've learned to forgive myself on those days the writing just isn't there. But even if I put down a few crappy words I find when I go back the next day there's SOMETHING in there that I can work with and rewrite.

    That confidence comes and goes, but when you're feeling it run with it!!

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  14. Ditto! No more writing breaks for me either! I took a three week break at the end of the year but now it's time to get back in the game. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. Tyrean - I hope you get back in the groove too.

    LG - I think I've been cutting myself a little too much slack lately. It's time to get busy.

    Sherri - I only wrote for a little while today, less than an hour. It felt really good.

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  16. Sorry to hear you're in a rut, but I'm actually glad to hear others having the same problem. And it seems to be a theme today! Your confidence will come back, and if it doesn't, write anyway. :)

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  17. I think a lot of writers suffer from this. I know I do. I think the key is to be willing to pull yourself out of it, even if it hurts. It is a matter of finding your groove again, and I have confidence that you will=)
    And, yeah. The Tasmanian Devil story MUST happen. What better than a bit of flash fiction to get you started in the day? ;)

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  18. I'm like this too. The longer I get off track, the harder it is... And my confidence levels change by the hour.

    Good luck getting your mojo back!

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  19. lost confidence is a hard thing. glad you got yours back for now. sometimes "for now" is the best we can do.

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  20. Sorry you're having trouble getting your momentum back. I'm sure it will come back when you least expect it. You've worked too hard not to give it a fighting chance! Julie

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  21. I a glad the critique when well. I do agree when one takes a break it is hard to get started again. Thank goodness for the insecure writer's group! Now I know I am not alone!

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  22. Writing can be so hard sometimes. I've blogged every day since last Jan. And those first posts seem a million times funnier than my new ones. I kind of feel like I've used all my jokes lol This writing gig can be tough sometimes ;)

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  23. I daren't stop writing in case I don't get the confidence to start again so can understand you having doubts after a break.

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  24. I'm in your inept club. :) Glad you found your mojo again.

    Three months from now your writing will be better. Because we keep growing and improving as we write. It's a good thing, and something to keep in mind on the days when we feel inept. I wonder if I'm listening to myself. Probably not. lol

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  25. Cate - Yes, it sounds like lots of people took an extended break in December. At least I'm not alone.

    Kathleen - OK, you convinced me to write the Tasmanian Devil story. :)

    Carrie - I don't like the feeling of feeling confident one minute and completely inept the next. I'd prefer a general dull state of dissatisfaction to the roller coaster thing.

    Michelle - I agree. And for now it's all good.

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  26. Julie - Thanks, you are always so supportive! No way I'm giving up. It really did help to set a very small goal today.

    MSBjaneB - No, we are never alone here. :)

    Elisabeth - Your blog is still awesome. And you can't run out of funny things to say with so many kids.

    Patsy - The momentum really is necessary. I'm happy for you that you didn't stop.

    MPax - LOL. Welcome to the club.

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  27. Did you know I did not follow you until today? Geez, sorry about that. It wasn't on purpose. Anyway, I know what it's like to think you've lost your mojo. I read some stuff I wrote a couple of years ago and freak out because I love it. Then I read stuff I wrote a few months ago and am like, ugh, who's that hack?

    I suppose all we can do is plug on and hope other people think we're improving.

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  28. Rusty - No, I honestly didn't. That's funny. I want to believe we're improving even if what we wrote today was terrible. Maybe our editing skills are improving? That's something.

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  29. I can totally relate to this. It's horrible thinking you've lost your mojo. But believe me, it's not lost. It's just been hidden under a layer of anxiety. Being a writer is part of who you are and you'll never lose that gift. All you can do is keep on writing despite your insecurities and enjoy writing for the sake of it rather than judging what you write. Pretty soon when you've stopped worrying about it you'll realise that your creativity will have come back by itself.

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  30. I totally understand those feelings, and I hate it when I'm there! Rereading your ms helps. That, and just plowing through the writing until it feels good again. At least that's what has worked for me!

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  31. The best advise you will get is one you already gave yourself: write even if it sucks, write until it comes back. And it will come back to find a better, stronger you. Good luck!

    Hopping from Diary of a Writer in Progress

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  32. Tizzy - Well put. Thanks for the support!

    Peggy - Rereading my ms is a great idea.

    Gina - My goal is three pages today, but it must wait until my little guy is in bed tonight. Thanks for stopping by!

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  33. Hang in there. It will all come back to you. It's just a little spell you are going through. Good luck and I look forward to reading more by you.

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  34. The breaks can be rough on the output; I try to fill those times with reading. It helps sometimes.

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  35. KD - Thanks, you too. :)

    Man - I did read a novel. Mostly I spent time with my kids and the unending pile of laundry.

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  36. I love what Alex does for the blogosphere! I'm going to remember to join next month so I can put this insecure nonsense to bed!

    That being said I saw that you are also going to be a co-host in the A to Z blogging challenge! Best of luck! I loved hosting last year. It's rewarding and so much fun!

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  37. Jen - Huh? No, just participating.

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  38. just like other jobs, we need feedback to let us know how we are doing =)
    so glad you got some from your cp! and as long as you have the drive, the words will come.

    i envy the group reading response, that would be so awesome!

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  39. I remember from when I was a diver, many, many years ago...I'd take a break after competition ended for the year and would get out of shape. I'd have to work hard to get back to doing each dive as well as I could. Writing is the same thing. It takes continued practice or else skills may slip. It just takes more writing to get them back. Good luck!

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  40. Tara - My CP is amazing. She is kind but gives helpful and honest feedback. I am very uncomfortable reading in front of a crowd. Humor is much easier to read for me.

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  41. Liza - Great analogy. I do feel out of practice.

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  42. I read after Stephen King was struck down by a motorist and was well enough to return to the computer, he stared at the blank screen and wondered if he could still write.

    That suggest to me our insecurities are universal and what makes us want to be the best we can be. Happy writing!

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  43. Anne - Great story. Thanks for visiting. :)

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