Advice for a Struggling Writer (Please)

The written word is something I’ve felt passionate about for a long time. I fell in love with literature at a young age, even taught myself how to read because I wanted to be able to read things other than the small chapter books they provided us at school. I wrote my first short story when I was eight years old. A total load of tripe it was, but I was immensely proud of it.

I wrote voraciously as a teenager. Short stories, poetry, fic….I even attempted my hand at novel-writing, though I never got very far with any of my ideas.

Back then, I never really stopped to consider the quality of my writing. Indeed, as far as I was concerned, I was good at my craft. And I enjoyed writing. The whole process of coming up with an idea then building on it to create a final, finished product was exciting.

Today, it seems the only thing I feel concerning my writing is how terrible it all sounds. I don’t feel very proud of anything I’ve written in the last handful of years. And the joy I used to feel as I wrote has disappeared to be replaced by disappointment and crushing depression.

I want to hone my craft and maybe make something of it but how? How do I bring those old feelings back? The obvious answer is to write, but that’s easier said than done. Most days I can’t even force myself to touch fingers to keyboard, or paper to pen. Writing anything has become akin to pulling teeth and I get down on myself for struggling so hard at something I once thought I excelled at.

So. My question to you guys is: how do you do it? How do you bring yourself to feel good about the work you’ve done. And how do you motivate and inspire yourself to keep going on those days when it’s hard.

Also, if you could give a poor writer a prompt or two to get the creative juices flowing, I would feel much appreciated.

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6 thoughts on “Advice for a Struggling Writer (Please)

  1. I motivate myself sometimes, honestly, by reading terrible poetry that’s been published and saying, “If this can be successful, so can I.” Petty, but it helps. Then I read tons of really good poetry, and I think really hard about what it is about that poetry that does things to me–whether it’s the imagery, the use of line breaks, the use of space, vocabulary, the way language is manipulated, whatever–and sometimes I’ll use that as a prompt. Like, I’ll try writing a poem that utilizes parallelism in the same way the poem I like does, or I try to come up with interesting phrases that please me the way the poem I like does. Above all, read all the poetry you can. Go to PoetryFoundation.org; you can sign up for a daily poem email from them, and you can just flip through random poems there. It ranges from classics to brand-spanking-new, and it’s been a huge source of inspiration to me, and a great place to go to learn.

    Of course, you can study poetry too. Not just by reading it, but actual textbook style studying and analysis. That helped me a lot.

    Another thing I find helps is to find a place or mindset that works for you. Does sipping tea, sitting under a warm blanket, surrounding yourself with books you’re not reading, and holding a diary with a really colorful pen motivate you and make you *feel* like a writer? Do that. Sometimes playing with fonts helps me, if you prefer using the computer. Surround yourself with an atmosphere that makes you feel like a writer, and then…be a writer.

    If I have a chance to, I’ll see if I can dig up some prompts for you later! Hopefully something I’ve said here was at least mildly helpful.

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    • Cassandra says:

      I have been thinking about starting to keep a poetry “journal.” As in, I read poetry and jot down in a book what I liked about the poem or what I didn’t like, maybe quote some of my favorite lines. I thought it might help me get back into the swing of things. Also, I have so many extra journals lying around. Why not start filling them?

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  2. inkbiotic says:

    I’m really sorry you’re struggling, it’s tough to lose the joy from something important to you. You clearly are still able to use words with skill and artistry, so it’s the feeling that’s a problem rather than your ability. Are you maybe overthinking it too much? Putting such pressure on yourself to achieve that there’s no room for pleasure? I think the fact that you have agonized about it so much has probably made you a better writer, but of course you still miss the joy.

    Some ways I’ve found of enjoying writing:
    Automatic writing – don’t think about anything, just let the words spill out. Don’t censor, don’t think about showing anyone else, just make a word mess.
    Self-indulgent writing – again, don’t plan on showing this to anyone, but write about a situation (real or imagined) in which you are the hero. A time when you were ace and everyone was impressed. Really indulge yourself with it.
    Part of writing – it might be that you still enjoy some aspect of writing, but not others (eg plotting, playing with words). Just do that thing you enjoy, don’t make any plans to make it into something bigger.
    Look for words, or word games – when ever I’m stuck I just play around with a thesaurus, looking for exciting words I’ve never found before. I’ve made a few collections when the writing itself has dried up. (note: I am a nerd) Sometimes I’ve put puzzles or hidden messages into things I’ve written. When actual inspiration is dry, doing this turns writing into a game, so it’s more fun.
    If all else fails it may help to just give yourself a break, find something fun to do and see if the desire to write comes looking for you.

    I hope something there helps. Good luck with it…

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