Sunday, January 22, 2012

Writing is an Emotional Roller Coaster

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit." - RICHARD BACH

Writing is an emotional roller coaster. Name an emotion and I've probably felt it, not once but multiple times on my road to writing the first draft of my book. I'm expecting equally as many emotional responses with every step I take along the way. I've talked a little bit in the past about "Crap" syndrome and its true that nearly every writer at some point or another has felt like they weren't good enough and needed a little pat on the back. But when writers want to give up, there is often a lot more emotion involved than simply not feeling good enough.

Learning to write is a journey and we all have to start somewhere - rock bottom. The funny thing about rock bottom though, is for a writer they don't usually start there. Writers usually start with a false high. They get a great idea (or something they think is great) and they run with it. They keep writing until they A.) lose interest B.) lose their way, or the rare C.) actually finish the story. Finishing a book is rare for a lot of people. You'd think it wouldn't be but, between time management, writers block, other great ideas, or a various slew of other distractions people lose site of their stories and their goals. Those things alone can cause a slew of emotions; everything from an exciting rush to frustration, sadness and anger.

At some point in the process, writers tend to seek out some kind of feedback from friends, family, online critique groups, beta readers etc. Friends and family are great to help build you up but "buyer be ware" sometimes your friends and family don't have the heart to tell you something isn't good or they can't put their finger on what is exactly wrong with a piece. Critique groups and beta readers are great because they can usually point you to where you went wrong and all your weaknesses. This is also where the nightmare begins for new writers. It's hard to hear that the idea you created has so many things that need work. Not that the idea was bad persay or that what you did was wrong but that your execution needs work.

This is where I hit my true rock bottom.

Two things happened simultaneously.
1.) I hit my overwhelm threshold. I could not write, critique, read feedback and edit, all at the same time and the thought of doing so stressed me to no end.

2.) The realization that I had a great idea but I knew nothing about writing. Among my greatest offenses, POV jumping, passive voice, wordiness, ineffective use of dialogue... the list goes on and on. Not to mention I had an insane number of people land blast me for the use of a prologue, something to this day I refuse to give up.

Stress + feeling like a failure = my emotional breaking point.

This was a very pivotal time in my writing. If I had let everything that was happening get to me and completely consume me, I would have run screaming from the room and never looked back. It would have ended my writing career. But instead I chose to take the feedback and use it as a learning experience. I took a step back and started from the beginning, with the basics. I learned about writing. I read blogs and books, went to seminars, and took online classes. I kept pushing myself to the brink of my comfort zone and persevered through the emotional train wreck. The negative responses, and advice along the way became the fuel I needed to grow and start to climb that big scary hill. I was determined not to let this bring me down.

In all of this, I always followed my gut the whole way. I stopped when I got overwhelmed. I didn't cut things because people said I had to. I refused to give in on the prologue even though people told me prologues were a bad idea. I knew it was important to my story even if people couldn't see it. So I decided I needed to prove myself by improving my writing.

I worked and worked and worked until things started falling into place. So far I've had at least 10 revisions on my prologue alone, and finally I'm down to mostly minor revisions and suggestions. It's been a long road, and there were definitely points where I wondered why in the heck I was doing this. But I've been lucky to have a lot of cheerleaders and help along the way. If you keep at it and look for help, people are usually willing to offer you valuable advice. There are certainly people out there that are more than willing to tear you down, but you can't let them. In most cases, people just want to help show you how to transform your story into something wonderful.

With every new group I find and get involved in I learn new things and find more people willing to help me and join my every growing network of cheerleaders. Most recently its been the St. Louis Writers Guild. In the few short weeks I've been a member, they have proved to be an invaluable resource. They have welcomed me with open arms and not only offered seminars and discussions but endless support.

After a long bumpy ride, all the work is starting to pay off. The feedback has become far more positive and every new thing I write has less mistakes than the previous. In the end you have to ask yourself: are you going to let the emotional roller coaster run you over, or are you going to grab on and let it take you to new heights? Go out there and turn the negatives into positives. Never give up and never quit. We all have to start somewhere, but thankfully the roller coaster never goes backwards!


  1. Writing can be a very emotional roller coaster. Sometimes you have to reopen old scars and reface events that you had already moved past the event. That's just the writing of the story. Then there is the whole "get it published and marketed" process. When I feel like I am not making a lot of progress or feel like giving up, I remind myself of a saying: "Don't worry if you work hard and your rewards are few. Remember! The mighty oak was once a nut like you."

    I am glad you joined SLWG and have found it such a great resource already.

  2. Sometimes when I get too emotionally wrapped up in a story, it would cloud my judgement and ruin my creativity. So, I set that story aside and work on a different story. It helps!
    I'm so glad you're surrounding yourself with wonderful supportive cheerleaders for your writing!
    ~ Julie

  3. yes walking away usually clears my head. Sometimes within a half hour or hour I have fresh ideas and can start again. Never fails, I usually just need a break! And cheerleaders are essential. You need to keep it real and honest but you also need people to say hey you can do this!