I hate everything I’ve written

This is, by now, a common enough feeling. When I get to a certain point in a book that I’m writing, I feel that everything – every word, every paragraph, every sentence – is complete rubbish. I wish that my manuscript would grow wings and fly away – much like the books in this picture – then land on a beach somewhere to be picked apart by the gulls.

With If I Should Lose You, I remember I hit that point when I was about a third of the way into the first draft. Luckily for me, at just that time, I was offered a residency at Varuna on the strength of those 20,000 words of rubbish. The validation of the residency was a huge motivator at a crucial time – it made me think that there must have been something in the manuscript that was good enough to attract the attention of the people at Varuna, so perhaps it was worth forging ahead with. And it was. That book got me an agent, and, as I know I keep reminding you, is being published in September.

I’m now 40,000 words into book three. I should be celebrating. 40,000 words is a huge achievement. Instead, I’m unmotivated, struggling with every work that I type, all because I’m at that point. I absolutely hate everything that I have written. I can see no charm in my characters, no excitement in the plot and no spark in the writing. Given that it’s book three and I’ve had to wade through this feeling for books one and two, you’d think I’d be used to it, able to shrug it off and move on. But it’s really hard when you only have your own faith to get you through.

A very wise fellow author, Julienne van Loon, recently said to me something along the lines of, ‘You just have to get over yourself, get over that feeling of being a terrible writer. Because half of the battle is finishing something.’ And she’s absolutely right. I’ve seen it in students I’ve taught – they are brilliant writers but they are so crippled by the fear of writing rubbish that they never finish anything. And I don’t want to be like that – so scared of what might be that I will never able to reap the rewards of what could be.

So this week’s post is a bit like a motivational pep-talk to myself. To remind me that I do have to get over myself. To keep writing. To finish the bloody book. What do you think? Have you ever been struck by hatred for every word you’ve ever written? Did you get over yourself? How? Do share, I need some more pep-talks.

10 comments

  1. I totally empathise… I have to “chat to myself” quite a lot. I came across this recently and quite liked it. I thought you might also:

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

    Actually, who are you not to be?

    You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

    Excerpted from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles,
    by Marianne Williamson.

    Motivated? (ha!)

  2. You’re an amazing writer Tash! What’s Left Over, After was brilliant and I’m so looking forward to If I Should Lose You! Don’t lose faith, we haven’t! =D

  3. No, I’m a little wimp once that feeling smacks me across the face. I’ve got two very large fragments of manuscripts that are wasting away in my computer’s memory right now as proof.
    Kudos to you for pressing on and producing publishable work!

    • Thanks Kathy – I hope you can push through the feeling sometime soon. There’s nothing quite like writing The End on a piece of work. Even if you know you still have to go back and do some editing, it’s nice to know you’ve got a full framework to work with. Good luck.

  4. marlish glorie

    I’m sure that the current manuscript that your working on is brilliant Natasha. What you’re suffering from “my writing is terrible syndrome” is common to all writers. Certainly I feel that way with the manuscript I’m working on now – it’s crap, it’s bland etc but I just push on….as I say to my students,(when I have them) – ‘no book ever got finished by staying away from it.’ and remember what Jennifer Egan said, ‘Writers Block is the Fear of Writing Badly and that the Better Writing comes with subsequent Drafts.” So my girl – pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep writing. Your writing is beautiful. And I should know as I read What is Left Over , After, and I love your blogs where your gift for writing and putting together a story really shines.

  5. I haven’t read your books Natasha, but I have just published my first book and spent long months wondering if it was worth the effort or if anyone would buy, read or like it. Now that I can hold it in my hands, it has been worth every moment of angst and doubt…and the feedback I have been getting so far has been very positive, so keep on writing. Thanks for the site/blog too – a great way to share with fellow writers in what can seem like a very isolated occupation.

  6. Pingback: Writers Ask Writers: What do you do when the writing gets tough? | While the kids are sleeping

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