What to Do When You Hate Your Writing

productivity writer's block
What to Do When You Hate Your Writing

Have you ever hit a point when it feels like every word you’ve put on the page is terrible? Your characters feel thin, your plot feels pointless, or the scene you’re on just isn’t working?

Don’t worry! You’re not alone— these negative feelings are a normal part of the writing journey, and every author has days like this. The good news? You can overcome them! Keep reading to learn what to do when you can’t stand your own writing.

Identify which stage of writing you are in

There are two distinct stages of writing: drafting and revising. Drafting and revising are two very different processes. Trying to accomplish both at once will leave you feeling frustrated and stuck. Let’s look at each one.

Drafting

The goal of drafting is to get all your ideas onto the page, no matter how bad the writing feels. When you get hung up on the idea of perfection during the drafting phase and obsess over the perfect word choice or sentence structure, you’ll lose motivation. The drafting phase isn’t meant to be perfect: it’s meant to get all of your ideas onto the page, no matter how bad the writing feels.

Let go of the goal of perfection while drafting and shift your mind to the goal of completion. Keep the jobs of drafting and revising separated in your mind, and keep moving forward through that first rough draft until you reach the end. Don’t agonize over how bad you think the writing is. Just cross the finish line and save editing for the revision phase.

Revising

Once the rough draft is finished, it’s time to revise and turn that first rough draft into a polished final draft.

In this phase, the project should make more sense. You can see now where you are going and what you need to fix to get there. You might even throw out most of the words you put on the page in the drafting phase, and that’s fine! That’s what the revision phase is for. Remember, the drafting phase is for building all the big pieces of a house. The revision phase is for organizing all those pieces into a floor plan that makes sense, putting on the finishing touches, and decorating it.

Create a daily writing routine

The most important thing you can do when you hate your writing is to create a daily writing routine and keep writing no matter what. Don’t wait for inspiration to show up: inspiration is fickle and will only leave you feeling frustrated when it doesn’t arrive waving a magic wand that gives you the perfect words to put on the page.

By creating a writing routine, you also create the habit of discipline, and by developing discipline, you will learn to write through the bad writing days. When you feel lost in the weeds of writing, and nothing is coming together on the page the way you want, discipline will get you to the finish line.

To establish a writing routine, create rituals that prepare your brain to write. Make a cup of tea in a mug you only use when writing. Set out a notebook and pen used only for taking notes while writing. Light a scented candle that you only use while writing. Rituals such as this will help you prepare your mind to focus on writing.

Whatever routine you decide upon, stick to it and write every day, if possible.

Take a break from your current writing project

Even though it is important to create a daily writing routine, there might come a time when you need to give your brain a short break from your current project for a day or two. This doesn’t mean you get a break from writing, but only a break from the current work in progress. By giving your mind space to unwind, you give it space to come up with amazing things. Just like your body needs sleep every night to process the day's events, your brain might occasionally need a break as well. Here are some ways to take a break without losing momentum.

Write something else

When you skip days of writing, you lose momentum, making it harder to pick up writing again. When taking a break from your current project, stick to your daily writing routine so that you don’t lose momentum, but try writing something else. This might be all it takes to get the juices flowing, allowing your thoughts to settle and your mind to let ideas form in the background.

When taking a short break, don’t start a new project or try to complete a half-finished project. This sets you up to fall for that shiny object syndrome in which every idea other than the one you were working on sounds like a better idea. It just leads to more frustration and more unfinished projects.

Instead, try a brief writing prompt that you can complete in one writing session. After one or two days of giving your brain a break with a writing prompt or journal writing, go back to your work in progress. You’ll be able to approach it now with a fresh perspective and new ideas.

Engage your brain in relaxing activities

Engage your brain and body in quiet, relaxed activities. Slice and dice vegetables for dinner, fold laundry, or work on that knitting project you abandoned. Go for a walk or take a bubble bath. While doing these activities, you might find that magic happens when you give your brain space to regroup, allowing it to work quietly in the background. You might be folding a stack of towels when suddenly, that plot problem that has been plaguing you comes together in your mind.

Calm your mind

To further calm your mind and remove those negative thoughts, try meditation or yoga. Meditation brings clarity, increases productivity, calms your thoughts, and improves your quality of writing. Set a timer for five minutes and focus your attention on your breathing. Count each breath until you reach 10, then start over at 1. Repeat until your time is up. If your mind wanders, simply return your attention to your breath and keep counting where you left off. There are also plenty of free apps you can use to guide you in meditation if you are new to the practice.

Get a change of scenery

A lot of the writing we do happens in our heads as we go about our everyday tasks and not at the computer. If you have negative thoughts about your writing and struggle to get words on paper, try stepping away from the computer. Changing your environment might be all the inspiration you need to get past that scene or chapter you’ve been struggling with. Put your brain in a new space physically so it can get into a new space mentally.

Try taking a notebook to the park and writing by hand. Pack your laptop in your messenger bag, grab a latte, and complete a writing session at the local coffee shop. Even moving to your back porch for a writing session can get the creative juices flowing and move you past those negative thoughts that have you convinced your writing is terrible.

Learn from other writers

Another way to get past negative feelings is to learn from other writers. This can be as simple as rereading those favorite books that inspire you to create your own masterpiece. Take notes on what aspects of your favorite books make them stand out in your mind, whether it be compelling dialogue, strong character development, or engaging plot twists, so that you implement the same techniques in your own writing.

Try listening to podcasts for writers. Many podcasts interview authors, editors, and agents. In these episodes, you’ll see that all authors face the same troubles of having times of struggling with their writing. You’ll learn tricks and tips from authors who have been in your shoes and pushed through those difficult writing sessions. Take a writing class, listen to a webinar online, or even visit the local bookstore when authors come to do book signings.

Are you ready to conquer those negative feelings?

It’s time to put these techniques to work and break free of those negative thoughts about your writing. Begin by identifying whether you are still in the drafting phase or the revision phase. If you were forcing yourself to revise while drafting, step back and tackle that ugly drafting phase. Create a writing routine that you can stick to in order to gain momentum and get you through the writing slumps. Take short breaks from your current writing project when needed. Calm your mind with yoga or meditation. Change your scenery occasionally and take time to learn from other writers and professionals by reading books that inspire you, listening to podcasts, or taking a class.

By implementing any or all of these techniques, you’ll find yourself out of a writing slump and learning to love the process and the words you put on the page.


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