Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ROW80 Update - And Getting Past Discouragement

I'm putting my ROW80 Update at the end of this post, because this is more important:

Getting Past Discouragement

I haven't had the chance to read many of the update posts of the other ROW80 participants, but I try to at least browse a few each time I get the chance. I noticed the word "discouragement" came up in a few places. Not a lot, but just enough that I am reminded of my own first efforts at a dare, and the discouragement that comes on young writers generally.

There are two kinds of discouragement.

One is when people get discouraged about not meeting their goals. You sit down and do the math, and you realize you can't reach your ambitions if you don't write 20,000 words a day, and you managed 16. Everybody suffers that one, and there are a million techniques to get past it, so I don't worry about people so much when I hear it. (Joining a group or a challenge like ROW80 is a help on that, btw. You get to hear how everybody else is struggling, and realize it's normal.)

The discouragement that worries me is the one where the writer say:

"I'm discouraged about my writing."
"I don't know if my writing is any good."
"I don't know if I'm any good."

You've got to fight this kind of thinking. This kind of thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, as doubts cause you to betray your muse and write "safe" and mediocre stuff that others tell you to write.

I have three suggestions for people who feel this way:

Revel in your flaws, because they may be your strengths.

Dean Wesley Smith and Nina Kiriki Hoffman used the motto "Dare to be BAD!" as the rallying cry for getting over this kind of discouragement and taking your writing to another level.

Here's the thing: you may be right, you may be doing something wrong. But if you just hide it, you won't get better. So bring whatever it is that you're doing out into the light and indulge in it. Go after it like it's gold, rather than hiding it away. When you're done, one of two things will have happened:

1.) You will have mastered the skills surrounding that flaw when you're done, so you can eliminate it. OR...

2.) You'll find out that what felt embarrassing and discouraging was really something unique and precious, and close to your heart, and by bringing it out and developing it, you will have something more precious than diamonds and chocolate. More precious than diamonds, chocolate AND bacon.

Remember why you're a writer.

Right now, the desire to write the page in front of you might be driven by a need to please someone, or a need to be published, or some external motivation. But once upon a time, something internal drove you to want to make up stories and write them down, and it had nothing to do with what anybody else thought.

You may have read something or seen something or heard something which sparked a story in you. It created a strong emotion -- a thrill, excitement, perhaps even anger -- and an event happened in your head that you wanted to bring to the world.

That's what you're writing for.

You aren't writing to get an A in your class, or to get good reviews, or to make a lot of money. Those things would be nice, but those are negatives in terms of your writing quality. Every single one of those drive you to play it safe and be mediocre and to do as the sports people say "Play not to lose." Ironically, doing what you're supposed to do gets you B grades, moderately positive reviews and maybe a little income.

That's all mediocrity. It's all middle-of-the-road, a million-people-did-it-before.

Some of you who are discouraged may be thinking "But that's exactly it, I worry that I'm mediocre."

Here's the secret: You can't break out of mediocrity by doing things right. You certainly don't get there by listening to doubts. Doubts lead only to mediocrity. That's what mediocrity IS.

You want to break out of mediocrity? Go after the joy, and be arrogant about it. Don't let any criticism get in the way of enthusiasm -- even the criticism that comes from within.

You don't just have to risk failure, you must revel in failure. You must SEEK failure. Because only through failure do you learn and develop -- and ultimately find something unique and new and worth it.

Failure is not optional.

Recruit Cher as your Muse

And if you find yourself getting discouraged anyway, play this very short video:

You might also check out this post from May, "On Hatchlings and Neo-Pros - When is a Writer 'Good Enough?'"

And now for my update: A Round Of Words In Eighty Days -- Second Week - Check in 1.

Sunday Day 7 - 104 Minutes. I sorta took the day off. Went to lunch and a movie, and then did a bunch of editing. Actually, I started a read-thru. I didn't count reading the first 6 or 7 chapters, because I've edited them pretty extensively. I also didn't do any heavy editing once I hit the more raw chapters, because I'm trying to get a sense of pace. The most important thing is that I enjoyed reading it so far. I'm going to continue the read-thru tomorrow until I get bogged down or finish.

Monday Day 8 - 113 Minutes. A ha. Chapter 16 is where the real rough patch begins. I don't want to look at it until I can dig in up to my elbows, so I'm going to skip ahead in the read through tomorrow, and read what I have that's AFTER the mess. In the meantime, I might have got a little more done, but I found myself watching the livestream of "OccupyAtlanta" where the police were getting ready to clear the park. (But at the last minute, the mayor decided not to do it.)

Tuesday Day 9 - 60 minutes. Well, I knew this was going to be a tough beginning to the week. I've also discovered that I have further to go with some of this than I thought... but that's okay. It's just that there is a lot of twisting and turning that I forgot about.

As for the rest of the week.... Wednesday is my day from hell (always) and I don't know what I'll get done. The big issue will be whether I'm needed for extra testing work at the Day Job on Thursday, if not, I hope to do some catching up then.

See you in the funny papers.


The Brazen Broads said...

What a great post! Sounds like you've studied up a bit on the subject. I just love a positive attitude.
We cannot forget that failure is a part of'll never get to be great if you don't figure out 'what-not-to-do'.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell said...

Camille, this is a wonderful post. I'm filing it away to tell other discouraged people as well as to re-read myself.

As it happens, my check-in includes some insidious self-talk about "who cares about what I write?" so this post was incredibly timely.

I'm really glad you're with us on this Round, as we can all use your brand of encouragement.

I hope the rest of your week goes well, :)

Tracy McCusker said...

This is a fabulous post. I've been trying to get at the heart of discouragement and motivation (and have taken far more words than you have here!) to say something as true as you have said here.

I've passed through rounds of "who cares what I write" like Elizabeth, and discovered that probably no one cares what I write (the curse of poetry). And that's fine. I'm good with that. I care what I write.

And that's the crux of being a bit arrogant about your work.

Thank you for this post! And good luck with your ROW80 goals this week.

The Daring Novelist said...

Moira and Mina: Yes, although to clarify: "What not to do" is actually the booby prize for if you don't learn anything else. The fact is, that's the losing game. Don't play not to lose -- play to win.

Elizabeth and Tracy: Glad you found it helpful. There is so much distraction in the world, I think every writer needs a reminder to keep their eyes on the prize.

KH LeMoyne said...

Camille, so true and great post. Unfortunately, the self judging thing is sort of a unilateral writer thing, but I think knowing and having support certainly help. Not being afraid to go back and rework and try new approaches helps as well. I find analyzing the work of authors you enjoy reading helps as well. And congrats on getting over 'hump day'!

Robin M said...

Great post. I'm the glass half full type of person so look at what I've accomplished instead of what I haven't. Hope you day went better than expected.

The Daring Novelist said...

KH: analyzing the work of authors you love is Da Bomb! It is SO useful. It is a straight path to finding that core thing that is _you_, because we each respond to those works in our own way.

Robin: Thanks! The day did go well - the testing accomplished and I don't have to go in to work on Thursday!

Ruth Nestvold said...

Great post, Camille, thanks. We all need regular reminders that no matter what we do, we can't be the next guy (or gal). Coming out of a period of writing frustration myself, it's taking me a while to learn to embrace failure, but I'm getting there!

Congrats on the consistent hours and have a great rest of the week!

Hunter F. Goss said...

Dean Wesley Smith’s ‘Dare to be bad’ concept helped me get my first novel finished and published on Amazon.

It’s a valid concept, but let me take it just a bit further: years ago one of my martial arts teachers told me that in order to make a transition from ‘technique’ to ‘art’, I had to give myself permission to suck - - to stink - - to make mistakes, and that at some point, even the masters we looked up to stunk. I didn’t really believe him at the time, but now I do. I think that giving oneself permission to put things down on paper that stink helps to set off that flow we’re all looking for.

The Daring Novelist said...

Yes, great example. That's why I always say "Failure is not optional." Failure is something you have to do. You have to go through it. So embrace it.