Tag Archives: Creative Writing

(A Lack of) Self-Esteem Sucks

When you first begin to write you learn a lot about yourself. Certain themes and plotlines seem to appear and I know it points to something within my subconscious. Sure you can purposefully have a theme to a story, but sometimes things just appear that makes you think “Why do I keep writing about that topic?” Another thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that I have little to no self-esteem and lack confidence in my writings. It is so damn clear to me now that I’ve wondered how I was in denial about it for so long. No matter what sort of feedback I get on my writing the truth is clear: In my mind I still suck at writing. And to me I’m horrible at it.

My grand plan (if you could call it that) was to post short stories and chapters on my old blog, which was repurposed for its new mission. The idea was to get some feedback on what I was writing and to snowball that into self-confidence going forward. If I had enough people — ya know like five or ten — tell me my stuff wasn’t total trash I would have enough validation to continue writing. Just a handful of support and I could channel that into pure confidence going forward. I could hold onto it as a cherished gift and always have this initial support to fall back on in times of need. I imagine the established author who has sold over a million books: this person will never run out of confidence because they have that shining badge that they can always look towards as proof that they’re actually good at what they do. A little feedback would serve to be my shining badge in a way. Or so I thought.

Naturally, I started thinking I would fail from the start, which is a big red flag in terms of self-confidence that also should’ve been apparent. Surprisingly, after posting the first few chapters I had tons of positive feedback. I was shocked. Some people would ask me if they could be in my stories. Others gave feedback in the form of blog/Facebook post likes and comments. I mean why would people like and comment if they didn’t like the work? Would people really do that to feign support? And one of the best signs of not sucking was when one of my “fans” (she called herself that. I’d never call people who read my stuff “fans”) mentioned to someone else that I was a good writer. You don’t recommend stuff you hate to other people. Overwhelmed with actual positive feedback, I was set right? Free to write with all the confidence I needed to push through chapter after chapter and finish a book. It sounded like my plan was a soaring success.

OF FUCKING COURSE NOT! The plan was a miserable failure. What would happen was a wildly successful post would be followed by a not-as-successful post and instantly my brain would conjure up reasons for everything successful to be a fluke. Just me getting lucky for some reason or another. No, success was never from actual skill. Failure is my natural state, and anything other than that is an accident. Maybe I just got lucky on the popular posts? Maybe people wised up to the fact that I’m not really good at writing and all my chapters are kinda samey? Maybe everyone dropped the facade of liking my stuff because it was exhausting to do so.

I try to be humble, but I feel walking the fine line between ego and being humble is difficult to do. I find myself erring on the side of caution by being humble and have always taken solace in that. Maybe I’ve gone too far? Maybe in trying to not be too cocky or egotistical, I’ve went to far in the opposite direction? Either way, being cocky and being confident two wildly different things. Is it that hard to be confident and humble? This doesn’t seem like a slippery slope to cockiness.

Just as an experiment, let me try to actually be confident for a moment, to try to weigh the positives and the negatives together. Once again, this isn’t meant to be a cocky “Haha, look at how good of a writer I am!” ego stroker. I just want to see if I can hype myself up for a few sentences. Maybe make a case for myself not being shit.

  • This blog has about 600 views per month. These views are growing. When I first started blogging I was happy to get 5 views in a month. This means I’m doing something right.
  • One of my college English instructors loved my papers, even using me as an example to the class a few times. She pointed out that I always asked questions as I wrote, kinda prompting the reader to think about things as well.
  • Another English instructor suggested I go into technical writing because my research paper was so goddamn awesome apparently.
  • I won two seperate writing awards in college. Not being a writer I decided to YOLO a few submissions and took third and second place. I won $50 from writing an essay about what college meant to me. I hammed that essay up so much. It was the first money I’ve earned from writing. The other award wasn’t very rewarding: I had to read that essay (about improving our community) aloud in front of like fifty people.
  • I’ve self-published two ebooks on Amazon (blog post about that mess here) that have netted me a whopping $0.11 $0.60 in royalty payments. Woah!
  • Someone mentioned that my writings sound very “conversational” as if I’m actually having a talk with someone. That’s good, right?
  • A few coworkers have used my posts as a springboard to their own thinking and writings (the enlightenment post) and have told me their own thoughts on it. That means they had to get something useful from it, right?
  • Lastly, the general positive feedback from people who have read my stuff.

So now why do I suck? Is there any concrete reasons to suspect sucking?

  • I’m not wildly successful. I haven’t sold thousands of books yet.
  • Other people’s blogs are more popular.
  • My past few chapters haven’t had any positive feedback on them.
  • And. That’s it.
  • This isn’t a long list…
  • *thinking very hard*
  • *shrugs*

(Big Note here on how my negative points arise from comparing myself to other people. I obviously know this is a mistake but do it anyways. Oof.)

Thinking about this as objectively as possible leads me to believe that, hey, maybe I don’t fucking suck at all. But my brain doesn’t work this way! Even after typing all of the positives I have to look back on I only felt better for about ten minutes before feeling awful again. Brains are emotional things, and I’m apparently an emotional person. None of this shit matters because somehow a thought randomly appears in my mind that makes me think I’m terrible at writing. It doesn’t even take negative feedback: my brain can tear itself down all on its own! It’s a superpower I didn’t want but am somehow stuck with.

So this isn’t such a whiny post, are there ways to have a little more confidence in regards to writing? Firstly I should probably not worry so much about viewers/likes/numbers. I’ve recently read a blog post stressing this same point. (Vee over at Millenium Life Crisis always has great and informative content.) Secondly, stop worrying about beating the mythical “other people” because all that matters is your own progress. Maybe I can internalize that if I try hard enough. Another thing that sort of helps seems to be reflecting on the past; those 600 views a month sure mean something, and if I put myself in my past frame-of-mind I find myself thankful and proud of the progress I’ve made. Lastly, just keep writing! Even if I do feel like I suck, that doesn’t mean I have to give up. Ya know, progress forward just to make progress.

Closing Note: If it wasn’t obvious, I’m not trying to farm approval or validation with this post. If that isn’t clear I fucked up somewhere. The point wasn’t to whine until people came to support me, but to point out the clear issue of me lacking confidence. It’s a problem I really need to work on. If you did like this post, great! I won’t turn down feedback in any form. But I’m not trying to get a pity-party going on here either.

Writing Kinda Sucks

“…I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work.”

Hunter S. Thompson

I think when we pick up any new hobby or interest we only see the positives. We see the glory of it — the big picture of it all. As a painter you imagine relaxing at home and just creating beautiful artwork. Or the pianist sitting at their instrument creating interesting and wonderful music. Or the author, bringing magical worlds to life that only exist on paper and in the imagination of your readers. You dream of actually making it by publishing your books, selling your artwork, or ending up in a successful band, etc. When we undertake a new goal or hobby we rightfully only see the good because it’s where we want to be in our lives. But to get to the good you have to toil away with the total bullshit that no one talks about.

Prospective writers and authors also have their own fantasy: sitting at a desk with a cup of coffee and a dog in the corner/cat in your lap while you let your imagination run wild with ideas that you effortlessly slap down on paper/PC/typewriter/whatever the fuck you’re using. Anyone who has even attempted writing will instantly know this is bullshit. No one idolizes the times where you’re staring at your computer at 11 p.m. and while wanting to write something realizing that you have no idea for what to actually write. Or maybe you have an idea but it doesn’t come out right and you can’t get into a flow. There’s also the opposite problem like with me right now: awake at 2 a.m. suddenly finding yourself inspired to write a blog post about writing. The idea just appears out of the ether and you gotta grab the inspiration before it disappears.

I always thought writing was easy. It’s not that it’s hard like math is hard; it’s a different sort of difficult. I was always the type of person to procrastinate school papers until the night before they were due and knocked them out in a few hours of furious typing; I’d always get good grades by doing this too. Maybe this is where I got the “writing is easy” idea from, and I know for a fact it’s where I got my dreadful procrastination from. (Why plan anything out when you can knock it out in a few frightful hours?!) But writing isn’t easy. Let me walk you through a typical writing process for me. I’m assuming everyone else has similar issues and the more we write the more we learn to manage and minimize these pain-in-the-ass traits that writing entails.

Inspiration

This sounds stupid, but you need to have something to write about before you write. You need a story idea or a blog post idea or something. Once again this was never a problem in high school or college when people told you what to write. Now that you’re doing this on your own you need to figure out your own ideas. These ideas almost have to accidentally come to you and this is frustrating, especially in regards to blogging. We all know that frequently posting is a good idea, but you also need ideas for your posts. You end up torn between spam-posting low quality stuff day-after-day or postponing things for so long that you appear to be unreliable. It’s a pain in the ass.

It’s even worse for fiction writing as you need to conjure up characters, a plot, themes, and whatever else, and as I mentioned earlier you can’t seem to force this part. You can’t sit down and force yourself to write a good story with no plot in mind. You have to sit around and brainstorm and hope something good comes along. Even so, this isn’t an invitation to procrastinate in terms of perfection: you still need to get off your ass and write! It sounds contradictory huh?

The Writing

After you have an idea you can get to work on it. This is the actual fun part of writing where you can let your ideas run wild. Writing is the transformation of ideas into concrete words and sentences that other people can enjoy. It’s timeless and romantic and amazing to do when you get in the zone. You’re literally creating new worlds that have never been created! Bringing into existence people, creatures, and things that have never existed outside of your mind! It’s amazing! Sometimes you start typing and are surprised with what you’ve written, as if the ideas materialized out of thin air. What you write might be fantastically good, or shine light on some subconscious workings of your mind that you’re not even aware of. It’s this part of writing that is the most addictive. This is what I love about writing.

The Editing

For fucks sake this part is awful. I worked for hours day-after-day to finally edit my two ebooks and it wasn’t enjoyable at all. This is the part of the writing process where you take your random, rough, and rambling writings and clean the things up. You’re hunting around for grammatical errors, factual errors, spelling errors, and any other errors imaginable. For fictional stories you’re also making sure the characters’ names and jobs are consistent and that everything makes sense. I realized in one one of my stories that a character was terribly inconsistent in two of the chapters he’s in and it’s something that needs to be fixed. Sometimes you need to move paragraphs and chapters around or even delete the damn things. Sometimes you find irrelevant trash that you have no idea how it ended up in the work in the first place. Chapters about nothing in particular. This step is tedious, boring, time consuming and all around awful.

The End

Somehow if you pull all of this shit together you will have a finished product, be it a story, a novel, a blog post, or even a fancy self-help instructional guide. Whatever. And this is what makes it all worth it I suppose. When you can feel good for sitting through some not-very-fun bullshit to actually create something. When you’ve suffered through all of the difficult and tedious shit long enough to have something to show to others and something that you can be proud of. It doesn’t even matter if what you’ve created is trash because at least you’ve created something. How many countless others have wanted to create something but never got around to doing so? How many people fail before they even start?

But Not the End

Oh yeah, even once you have a finished product on your hands you’re still not finished with the process yet. The more I’ve been writing the more I’ve realized about the other shitty demon involved with trying to be an author: self-promotion. I’m also terrible at it. The fact is even if you wrote a masterpiece no one will buy it or even know about it if you don’t promote yourself. This involves goofy terms like “networking” and “advertising” and “getting yourself out there” and a few other nebulous terms that I despise while not being able to think of them right this moment. Let’s not forget the bloggers’ “SEO” stuff too!

As a side rant I’ve seen this problem mostly with MLM-Facebookers trying to pedal their wraps, diet pills, CBD oils, etc. These people try to sell products to their friends and family first without realizing that they can’t limp by selling products only to them. It’s the same with being an author: even if you have five or ten friends/family that love your writings they cannot support you completely. You can’t be a successful artist if only those people are purchasing your products. You need to branch out and find other customers!

I also think this is antithetical the the stereotypical writer as well, at least for me it is: I’m a person that likes to stay inside my head and someone who has confidence issues. A classic introvert I am. I really do think my writing isn’t good enough for people to actually want to read and am constantly surprised when I hear positive feedback on it. Obviously I’m terrible at self-promotion. It always comes across as begging or cringy when I try to get new people to read my writings. It’s hard to do. I wish I could ignore the self-promotion aspect of writing but it seems to go hand in hand with it. You simply can’t git gud at writing where everyone magically loves you. You need to put yourself out there for people to find you in the first place.

As a general closing note here: writing generally takes a long time! It takes much longer than you’d expect it to take. Consider this blog post: it’s only about twelve paragraphs long so take a guess how long I worked on it? I wrote it in 20 or 30 minutes, and have been editing/proofreading it for about an hour and a half (!!!). I also need to add tags to it, make a banner for it, proofread it again and then post it. In total I’d say this post — which is a total low-effort “quick” post — took a total of two to three hours from start to finish. Writing kinda sucks.

The “Valley of Despair” Sucks

I sometimes frequent the blogging subreddit, but not too frequently. The sub seems to focus mostly on increasing viewers, finding topics to write about, and doesn’t seem too concerned with the “art” of blogging. It isn’t too active of a sub with most posts getting at most between 20 to 30 comments. Compared to some subreddits (like the famed r/wallstreetbets) it isn’t really active even if you can find some decent information from time to time.

I still check it out sometimes and one comment resonated with me this past week. The actual discussion was about how many blogs actually “make it.” (which is an unexplained victory condition: what the hell does “making it” blogging mean? Make money? Keep it running for more than two years? I mean eventually you’ll die and your blog will end but that doesn’t seem like you’ve “failed at it.” Anyways, /rant #1.) There were varying answers but the one that stuck with me was one that mentioned “the valley of despair.” [Big Fucking Note here: I went and found the thread I was alluding too and the poster in question referred to it as “the dip” and linked to blog describing “the dip.” I really have no idea how I came upon the term “valley of despair” in regards to blogging, but apparently the term is real. Who fucking knows. Maybe my mind just connects dots on its own and doesn’t notify me that it’s doing so. Or maybe I’m losing my damn mind. I just wanted to stay accurate with what I’m actually writing.] I didn’t officially know what the hell the valley of despair was but something in the back of my mind knew it too well. Even if it wasn’t explained to me I already knew exactly what it was.

I suppose it’s easy to see in retrospect, as everything is. This blog right here had a “dead period” (actually two of them) not too long ago and since I’ve gotten my act together I’m finding some success. It feels like I’ve hit a stride where all I need to do is to keep working at the blog and it’ll be successful. I’m quietly confident about it and while I don’t think it’ll ever be a super-popular monetized thing I know it won’t be a “dead blog.” Looking back at those dead periods when I wasn’t writing, wasn’t posting, and felt about deleting the damn thing was, obviously, the dreaded valley of despair. And according to that one resonating Reddit comment, is the primary obstacle to successful blogging.

I didn’t want to make this post about blogging though because I’m in a new valley of despair in another area of my life: creative writing. To sum it up quickly, me, lost without any major goals, decided to take up creative writing about three weeks ago. I attempted this years ago and just didn’t stick with it, but this time it’s different. (Really. I’m fucking sticking to it this time.) I took my old blog and started collecting some short stories and chapters to a “book,” made a Facebook author’s page for myself, and started posting and sharing my work (please go check these out if you’re interested). Initially I was met with some warm reception from a few friends and, holy fuck, I was actually doing it! I was going to be Jeremy the Author Guy and sell books and shit. I was riding the wave and on top of the world was king of the world.

It’s funny what two weeks can do to you though. My last few “chapters” haven’t had shit for readers/viewers/likes/feedback at all, and I’m fundamentally wondering if I’m actually cut out to be a writer. Do I even have that “gift” that creative writing requires. (It doesn’t. I’m convinced, logically, that all anything takes is hard work and “talent” is just some bullshit idea people who don’t want to do hard work use as an excuse to not try anything. /rant #2.) Even if I know in my mind that it’s just hard work and dedication, I still feel in my heart there is some vague thing called “talent” that I might not have and will never have it even if I don’t believe it. It’s like some festering, subconscious fear I have, like being scared of the dark knowing well you’re perfectly safe. Hell, and maybe my stories are just terrible. This is a really scary thought because if they were no one would say it out of kindness. I’d like to really know how bad I am so I can either 1. give the fuck up or 2. know what I’m bad at exactly so I can improve on it. But pestering friends and family to read your shit is a whole new level of cringe that just comes across as attention seeking. BUT I JUST WANT FEEDBACK GUYS.

Let’s define this a little bit more though as it makes total sense with writing/blogging/whatever new project you’ve started. Some uninspired Googling has given me a bunch of charts and websites talking about “emotional change” and while that isn’t exactly what starting a project is, I think it’s close enough to actually be the same thing. Like maybe starting a new project is a subset of “emotional change” as you’re adjusting to having an entire new part of your life you’re dedicated to. There also is apparently a Dunning-Kruger valley of despair, but that doesn’t seem to be relevant to the topic at hand.

Since I couldn’t find a site that seemed legit or non-clickbaity enough, I just screencapped everything Google tossed at me. As you can see most charts show the same sort of trend when faced with “change.” It’s kinda like a sine curve or something.

Close enough, right?

And then I went and drew my own so I can talk about each point I labeled, as well as not get any sort of copyright bullshit tossed at me.

Current Mood vs. XP Points Gained at your “project” or whatever you’re doing. It seemed general enough.
  1. This is usually called “uninformed optimism” or some shit like that. Basically this is the point where you’re high off actually making a decision to progress forward at something. You have a goal that you’ve set upon and you start working towards it. Actually doing work towards a goal feels fucking amazing and even if you’re scared of the future, at least you’re taking matters into your own hands.
  2. This is the start of the valley of despair also called something lame like “informed pessimism.” This is where you realize that your goal isn’t going to be all fun and games and that, holy hell, sometimes doing a glorious and noble task like writing a book is actually not that fun sometimes. And sometimes it’s actual work that you dread.
  3. The pit of the valley of despair. I think with creative writing I’m somewhere between #2 and #3 (although I’d like to be closer to #3 so I can actually get over feeling awful about it. I don’t even know how to explain this spot on the chart because it’s like an unexplainable pit in your stomach. It’s a total feeling of shit, like you’re not meant or cut out to do what you’ve set out to do. Like the universe itself doesn’t want you as an author/blogger/artist/whatever. It makes you want to quit and many people do give up their project in this phase. The project feels like a mistake: a mistake that you continue to put time, effort, and resources towards that also feels like a waste of all of these. The general feeling of being shit is also kinda shitty. There doesn’t seem to be a way forward and you’re not happy doing what you’re doing. It’s a feeling of being lost and of wanting to toss the towel in and give up.
  4. “Informed optimism.” After hard work and giving up all hope you find some success but you’re not letting that shit go to your head because you think you still fucking suck at what you’re doing, but there are clear signs of progress if you quit being pessimistic enough to notice them. I like to think you make progress continually at this stage because of giving up in the valley of despair. You simply don’t care if you make it or not and your project just becomes something you do without attachment anymore. There’s something very freeing about not giving a shit, and this allows you to do what you do in the most genuine way possible. I say this so clearly because this blog right here is at #4 I think. I don’t give a fuck if no one reads it or if I fail, and contrary to what you’d expect, I’m actually have some success with it.
  5. Success! (whatever that actually means) I don’t even want to get into this because I don’t know what it’s like to be at #5. I’m assuming this is the point where you feel confident at what you’re doing — a quiet confidence that isn’t cocky — and your project has become a facet of who you are and part of your life. You accomplish things in a determined but carefree manner. I get this impression when I visit successful and mature blogs as well as many YouTube channels. Like go watch a newer SmarterEveryDay video and tell me Destin isn’t at #5 on this chart. That man is in the zone doing what he’s doing and he’s confident and enthusiastic with what he’s doing.

“Hey Black Haired Guy, got any tips for us bloggers/writers weathering the storm in the valley of despair?” No, no I do not because, like I said, I’m not at #5 so don’t think I am qualified to give tips and am kinda hoping for tips myself. But if anything (and maybe to just get myself fucking hyped the fuck up to continue on creatively writing) don’t give up! Because what else are you supposed to do besides not give up? If you give up in the valley of despair you’re fucking giving up. The whole thing this chart hints at is the fact that success might just be making it through the valley in the first place. Like maybe this is where the 80 or 90% of blogs that “don’t make it” go to die; what if the valley of despair is just the great filter between you and success? I just don’t see what you’d gain by giving up because giving up is giving up!

Being slightly more specific maybe I do have more ways to get myself siked up more tips for those in the valley of despair. Make small bits of progress: a book isn’t going to write itself in a few days and a blog won’t be successful in the first few months or years. Take things one tiny bit at a time. Write a chapter every two days or post a blog post every few days or every week. Maybe make a schedule and hold yourself to it like it’s a job? Try to summon memories from when you first started and we’re enthusiastic about your dream/goal. Find that passion that surely still lives deep within you. And if you’re really lost? Write down a plan. Writing seems to be a large part in marketing yourself so try doing that for some possible success. Ask people to read and critique your writings and learn from it. Or, to sum up what I said before: don’t fucking give up!