Self-doubt is pretty common among writers. We may think our books aren’t good enough. We may get frustrated because they’re not what we want them to be. Or we may just feel like our writing is bad. But no matter how bad you might be feeling, I would encourage you not to talk bad about your writing or your WIP.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should keep everything bottled up. It’s okay to question your story and acknowledge or discuss its problems. That’s how stories get better. The issue comes when we wallow in our books’ problems. If we stay in this negative place for too long, we start to perpetuate the idea that these problems make us bad writers. If you say these negative thoughts out loud enough, you may actually start to believe they’re true. It creates a negative headspace that is unhelpful and unproductive. And it certainly doesn’t help you enjoy the process or build a happy writing life.
Something else to consider: you are the biggest advocate for your story. If you want other people to be excited about your work, you need to talk about it positively. And to talk about it positively, you need to see your work positively. I’ve found it helpful to practice this outlook at all stages of the writing process, so I try to think of my work as positively as possible.
Here are some tips that help me see my work in a positive light day in and day out:
1) Don’t focus on the end result while you’re writing
Be patient with your process and progress. Celebrate the victory of simply moving forward on a regular basis. Remember, it’s okay if your book is not good while you’re working on it. It actually isn’t supposed to be good until you’re finished. Try not to think about someone else reading your work and embrace the experience of writing. As long as you are making progress, things are going well.
Now, like I said earlier, I’m not saying you can’t acknowledge that your WIP is bad while it’s in progress. I do this all the time. But I don’t let the fact that my book isn’t good yet be a bad thing. It’s simply a fact. I trust that my book is where it needs to be and that if I keep putting the time in and moving forward, I will end up with a story I’m happy with and that I enjoyed creating. Focusing on creation and not the result makes it easier to stay in a good mind set.
2) Don’t get caught up in “my book sucks” or “I hate my book”
Living in negativity is a waste of time, and it doesn’t help your book improve. Instead, take the time to understand exactly what you don’t like so you can fix it. Similarly to the point above, it’s okay to say you don’t like your book, but it’s not okay to wallow in this feeling. If you can’t get past “this sucks” you might find that the idea working on your project becomes torturous. So instead, try to figure out what the problem is. Give brainstorming or freewriting a shot. They may help you get to the bottom of your book’s issues. If you need help figuring out what isn’t working, consider these areas.
Also, if you haven’t finished a complete draft yet, try to keep writing until you do–even if you hate your book. For tips on how, check out 6 Tips for Finishing Your First Draft and Stop Editing While You Write. You also might want to take a look at Why Writers Should Embrace Imperfection in Their Writing.
3) Focus on what IS working
Maybe it’s a character, maybe it’s the concept, maybe it’s one scene. These are places to pull from. These are places to celebrate. Let these areas remind you why you started writing this in the first place. Let these elements inspire the parts of the book that aren’t working yet. And once you know what areas you like, take the time to figure out why. Just like understanding what you don’t like can help you fix problems, understanding what you do like can help you appreciate your book and move it in a direction that makes you happy.
4) When someone compliments your work, say thank you
Don’t blow it off or down play their compliment. Your work mattered to someone. Even if you don’t think it’s your best, that’s something to appreciate. This doesn’t make you egotistical. It makes you grateful. I would encourage you to use compliments as a source of inspiration. If your work mattered to someone once, there’s no reason to think it won’t again. I also think allowing yourself to take a compliment will make you feel better about what you’ve written and see your work more positively going forward.
This tip is for the sake of your reader as much as it is for you. As writers, I think most of us found our way to writing because a story mattered to us at some point. Personally, I connect with the stories I love deeply. It would gut me if a creator of something I love replied to a compliment by saying, “it was nothing,” or “it could have been a lot better,” or “I’m glad you liked it but I wish some things were different.” People like things because they connect with them. Don’t dismiss their connection to your work. Say thank you.
As always, I hope this helps!
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Now it’s your turn: Have you ever caught yourself talking bad about your work? How has it influenced your writing, if at all? Tell me about it in the comments!