Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group



I was really glad to learn that Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group would be continuing in 2012, as I have been intending to participate since the first meeting, but time seemed to keep getting away from me in the fall. So this is my first posting for the Group and, as insecurity is my middle name, it seems appropriate that it is also my first post for the new year!

One of my biggest insecurities lately is comparing myself to other writers when I read. We've all heard how important it is for writers to also be readers, and that has certainly never been a problem for me in the past as I've loved reading for a long as I can remember.

But ever since I started writing my own novel, I find I am taking the pleasure out of reading by obsessively comparing my own writing to everything I read, and deciding that I surely come up short in each instance. I will read a passage and think, "what a great simile, I could never come up with that." Or I will decide that the character I am reading about is so brilliant and memorable that no character I envision could ever compare. I read about a street scene or landscape and convince myself that I could never describe something with that sort of detail, and there's no point in even trying to immerse my potential readers in my setting. Before I'm fifty pages into a book, I'm ready to throw in the towel on my own manuscript and forget the whole thing.

I'm not even talking about classics or works of great literature here. I can be reading a total guilty pleasure, the ultimate beach read, and I decide that everything about it puts my own work to shame.

Fortunately, I've managed to keep working on my own manuscript in spite of this bad habit I've developed, but I wish I could go back to enjoying a book for sheer pleasure and stop worrying about how my own work compares to what I am reading.

Does anyone else find themselves comparing their own writing to authors you read, and fearing you come up short? If so, how do you stop the internal critic from hammering away while you read?

Thanks again to Alex for hosting this great group, and I'm looking forward to participating on the first Wednesday of each month. If you'd like to join in, just click here for the link to get started.

See you all again next month! :)

42 comments:

  1. Oh, you should read Clarissa Draper's post today. She talks about the same thing and how she's realized those books she's reading are edited and not works-in-progress.

    It is very tempting to try to compare. When I read, I sometimes try to find another author who writes similarly to I do, but it can be hard to keep the perspective that your work, your style isn't the same as someone else's.

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  2. We are often our own worst critics. Why compare your writing to others, you will never have their voice or their words. You have something so much better...Your own. You are no better no worse, just different so relax, read and enjoy that simple fact.

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  3. I'm learning that I am my own best/worst competition :) and that the trick is to study and learn from other people (their routines, etc.) but not necessarily compare myself to them.

    (I figured this out when I would go bike riding and everyone - and I mean, everyone - blew past me.) :)

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  4. Learn from the books that make you feel your own writing is less than what you would have it be. Besides, as Cherie pointed out, yours is a work in progress.

    Look at what makes you sit back in awe or appreciation in a book you are reading. Think on how you could adapt that style or turn of phrase in your own work.

    My Insecure Writer post is WE GUESS WITH OUR FEARS on how to deal with the form rejection and how to write a winning query letter. Have a look, Roland, your newest follower.

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  5. I like Cherie's comment because that's the crux of it. When comparing a rough draft to a polished, fully edited work it's like comparing a pile of bricks to a finished home.

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  6. Oh my gosh, I feel so guilty when I do this! Sometimes I miss it when I wasn't writing and I could swallow a whole book in a few hours without getting all mopey over it.

    But they are such wonderful tools to grow. The more I read the more I understand all the things I need to as I write. And I have to keep in mind that my book is a work in progress.

    Also, there are times I pull out my book after I've set it aside for a few days and read something that totally makes me laugh, or go 'Did I write that? I don't remember writing that awesome comparison or description.' But I did. And I'm sure if you look at yours, you'll find those too!

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  7. Perhaps you need to get recommendation for badly written books and read a few of them as well? Then you'd be able to see that you write better than some, even if you feel you don't write as well as others.

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  8. Stopping in from Alex's site, nice to meet you!

    I always feel that way!! I read books by Rick Riordan and Patrick Carman and tons of other authors and my writing is NOTHING like theirs.

    What I've realized is that instead of trying to write like OTHERS I have to find my own voice.

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  9. Just keep writing, turn on some music, don't let the "other writers are better" thing get to you . . . but we've all been there. It just takes endurance and a continued writing to get through it.

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  10. I think we all do it. It's a matter of turning off the inner critic and just writing. You can fuss about it again during revisions!

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  11. I am FOREVER comparing my writing to others and noticing the limits of my skill! I am convinced that I will NEVER master the musical cadence nor visual imagery of other writers. But I do think I learn a bit by dissecting their works and studying their tricks. I try to remind myself that I can only do my best, find my own voice, and develop my own style. But I'm still insecure.

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  12. @Cherie, oh, thanks for letting me know about Clarissa's post, I will check that out. That's a great point about the works being edited, I hadn't thought of that but that is so true. Good thing to keep in mind!

    @Siv, thanks, I know that's how I need to look at it. It's funny as I've always loved reading as a means of relaxation, so I definitely need to get back to that and stop worrying so much about comparisons.

    @Madeline, LOL! Don't worry, if I was riding a bike with you, you would be the one blowing past me. :D

    @Roland, thanks, it's so great to meet you! Thanks for the tips, great advice. I will look forward to checking out your blog!

    @Karen, great analogy, thanks so much.

    @Cassie Mae, that's exactly what I end up doing, getting mopey, and I know it's silly! But you are right, reading is a wonderful tool for our own growth as writers. Thanks!

    @Annalisa, that's a great idea, I think I will try that. Maybe that is what I need!

    @Jess, hi, so nice to meet you as well! I know that is the key, I need to focus on my own voice, but it is hard not to compare. Thanks for your comments!

    @Tyrean, thanks, I know I need to just keep writing, that's what it will take. Thanks so much.

    @Christine, LOL, I know I will end up fussing again, no question. As soon as I finish the first draft the fussing will start all over again. :D

    @Kara, you sound exactly like me! I hope we can find our own voices together. :)

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  13. Julie, I compare myself negatively to everyone about everything, but a long time ago I heard that comparison is an act of vengeance against oneself and that is so true. When I remember that, I can stop comparing. Good luck!
    Karen

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  14. Hi Julie, because I tend towards humour in my blog, I always try to write with a kind of rhythm, in the same way as a comedian telling jokes would. I learnt that from our lovely British comedienne and writer, Victoria Wood. I don't always achieve my aims, but will hopefully get there some day. I think this device is useful for all writing genres. Of course having confidence in one's own ability can only be a plus! I think you have that, for sure :)

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  15. happens to me all the time! but i will usually make a note on an area to improve, like more infused background & make it flow! reading good stuff makes me want to do better!

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  16. Oh, Julie, I do the same thing when I'm reading a really good novel. I'm just convinced I'll never be able to write that well. But I keep writing anyway. I realized awhile ago I don't have to be the best writer, just the best I can be.

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  17. I understand this feeling so well. I've read some great YA books this year and will do the comparing thing also. I have to tell myself that all these authors use different techniques, and I have positives in my work, too. If I don't tell myself that, I tend to want to make a bonfire with mine.

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  18. I can't very well compare very well my poetry as I mainly write what happens in my life and travels. What comes down on paper is written from the heart(A plug for my latest book)seriously don't compare you are you and unique.

    Yvonne.

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  19. My problem is kinda the opposite of yours. Instead of reading for pure pleasure or knowledge, I find myself editing the book, magazine, or newspaper as I go along, and get all hung up on poor phrasing and grammar, etc. Once I really get into it, I can relax a little, but the nagging little editor in my head is a pushy little witch.

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  20. I totally empathise with this! I haven't been enjoying reading half as much since I've been writing and it does make me feel like throwing in the towel in my darker moments! Don't know what the solution is except to read a genre I wouldn't write myself - and then I can't really get that excited about the book... Best thing is to stamp on the demons whispering in your ear!

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  21. Just keep doing what you love and leave all the technical stuff for the editors. You've come too far to let anything slow you down. You're such a good person, with real talent, and I know your book will be a success! Julie

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  22. Normal thoughts, Julie. Normal.

    I'll bet if you had the chance to converse with any of those authors you speak of, you would find that they, too, had these thoughts at one time or another. Some probably still do.

    Just keep on keeping on!

    A belated Happy New Year to you and yours! And thanks for stopping by the Society today.

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  23. I struggle with this too. I still haven't figured out a good way to handle it. If you find the key will you tell me :)

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  24. Ah, yes, constantly, but I think reading one's favorite author is the best way to get better. My favorite is Greg Iles. he write psychological thrillers, like me. He is king of the simile. Now, whenever I run across one, I type into my iPhone's notepad. I call it Greg Ilesisms. I've learned a lot doing that. Now, I have a CP who is just as good as Iles when it comes to similes. I sigh every time I read one of his. That's enough to make me insecure. But really, I think studying the work of those we admire is the best way to improve.

    Great IWSG post! As a lifetime member, I welcome you to the group!

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  25. I think it's a phase. I went through it, too. I hope it helps you to know that I've gone back to reading for pure pleasure. If something really intrigues me as to skill, I may stop and study that paragraph for awhile, but not to compare, only to see how the writer constructed what struck me.

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  26. I do this all the time, Julie! I'm a little sad that I can't enjoy books the same way that I used to, but at the same time, I can also appreciate them a lot more because I understand the time and effort that went into them. For me, it's a matter of appreciating someone else's brilliance and realizing that my own writing will improve as I keep working at it and reading other people's brilliant books will help me along the way too.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  27. Ugh! I do that too...but I realize that all writers are different and nothing makes us better or worse than one another, just unique!

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  28. I constantly do this--finish a novel and wish that I could have written it, it was so incredible. I think it's a good exercise, to see how others do it and that crushing ultimately makes your writing better. Because we all form our own style from the experiences we have, and really appreciating someone else's talent only enriches that milieu.

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  29. Yes! But the only way we'll become that good is to keep writing.
    Thanks for participating! I think you'll get a lot out of this group. I know I do.

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  30. Ah Miss Julie! You are uniquely and wonderfully you! Just go with it and it will be fabulous - I know it.

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  31. What has helped me to keep on writing, and keep on being ME, is critique group partners or other writers telling me they like my Voice. So, even when I do read others' writing, and think how much better they are than me...I make myself stop and remember that they are not ME and I am not THEM!

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  32. What a great post. I read books that are 'better' than mine and try to figure how what it is I like and how can I make my writing better.
    Don't be discourage, just be a student.

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  33. Do dare not to compare! I think we tend to under estimate our own imagination when we compare ourselves to others, You have a wonderful unique imagination Ms. Julie, dare not to compare! :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  34. This happens to me all the time. It's horrible. Whenever I read anything by John Hart I want to figuratively throw my writerly self off the nearest bridge! LOL. I try to channel that into positive energy, try to study what I like and see if I can try it in my own work. But I can so relate to this feeling!

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  35. I've just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy - for pleasure, outside of my normal genre. For those novels, in paperback, I didn't find myself quite so critical. But when I go to read my own genre - and it's an ebook, I find myself noticing the slightest typos, or formatting mistakes, which takes some of the pleasure away.

    Despite the small needs for further editing on many of the ebooks I've read, I still find myself wondering if I can ever produce such efforts, and sell a book to somebody like me.

    I do try to channel these into noticing the take-aways - what I can use, what plot devices, POVs, details that I like and will try to include in my own writing.

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  36. @Karen, I love that comparison, and it is so true. I'm going to try to remember to think of it that way, as I can really relate to you when it comes to negative comparisons about everything. Thanks so much!

    @Carolyn, I definitely think you have that rhythm with your posts, thanks for the tip!

    @Tara, I like you idea of making a note of something to improve, I always mean to do that and then it all just gets jumbled in my head. I need to look at this as a way to improve.

    @LG, that's what I need to strive for as well, thanks!

    @Brinda, I had to laugh about the bonfire, I have been close to that as well! I need to remember the positives, thanks so much.

    @Yvonne, thank you, that's a great way to look at it!

    @Susan, LOL, I have done that sometimes as well, but then I try to stop myself as I start thinking about how some pushy witch might be doing the same with my work! :D

    @Linda, I definitely need to stamp on those demons, I love that image. Good idea about reading different genres, I have been trying to expand my reading anyway so that will be a good thing for me to do. Thanks!

    @Julie, you're always so nice to me, thanks so much! I appreciate your encouragement.

    @Bryce, thanks so much, that's a good point about the authors I'm reading. And it's always a pleasure to stop by the Society!

    @Angela, I will, and please, tell me too if you figure it out. Hopefully we can both get over it!

    @Nancy, oh, that's a great idea! I love psychological thrillers as well, and that is what my story is. I think Iles is a great writer as well. Thanks for the welcome, it's great to meet you!

    @Mary, thanks, I hope this will just be a phase too. I do need to start looking at it as a way to learn and improve.

    @Allison, good points, thanks! And thanks for coming by, I really appreciate your comments!

    @Ashley, glad I'm not alone in doing this, it seems like there are a lot of us! Thanks for your comments!

    @Julie, I think you're right about it being a good exercise, I need to start treating it that way. Thanks!

    @Alex, thanks again for hosting the group, I'm really glad to have the chance to participate!

    @Melissa, oh, that's so nice, thank you!

    @Becky, I need to find a crit group like that, I'm still looking for that and I think that would help a great deal. Thanks so much!

    @Susan, great way to look at it, I'm so new to all this that being a student is a great thing for me. Thanks!

    @Jules, that's so nice of you to say, thanks! I will take that dare LOL.

    @Lisa, LOL, I'm always ready to throw myself off that bridge too, I'm glad to find that so many others can relate!

    @Hunter, I do the same thing as far as typos, etc, and then worry about having those myself. I think channeling this into a learning experience is the best way to go about it though, thanks so much. Great to meet you!

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  37. Oh yeah, I do that all the time, be it Maya Angelou's literary genius or InTouch magazine's gossipy nonsense. But nobody can do your voice like you can!
    Keep faith,
    xoRobyn

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  38. @Robyn, LOL about InTouch, I am the same, no doubt. Thanks, you keep the faith too! :)

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  39. I do that all the time. A great antidote for me is to read something by a commercially successful yet lousy writer (I won't mention any names, but I am thinking of a wildly successful female author of romantic schlock written at approximately 8th-grade level; many of her so-called "novels" have even been made into boo-hooey made-for-TV "specials"). This always reasures me that if they can get something published, then darn it, so can I!

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  40. @Belinda, oh, that's a great idea for an antidote. And, you made me laugh about the romantic schlock, I have a feeling I know you are talking about but I'm not sure LOL. Thanks!

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  41. Hi Julie, I'm glad you enjoyed my comment and hope my antidote helps. There are actually quite a few (in my opinion, at least) untalented authors who regularly make the bestseller list. Don't you agree? I'm mystified. I guess fantastic writing talent like ours just doesn't get recognized as quickly as it should LOL!

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  42. @Belinda, LOL, that has to be it! I totally know what you mean though, there are several top-selling authors that I think are totally unreadable. But, to each their own I guess!

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Thank you for your comments!