When You Feel Like Your Writing Is Going Nowhere

You’re allowed to suck.


You go to open your document for the fourth day in a row. For the first three days, you were proud of what you were writing. You were excited. It made you feel good.

Today … not so much.

Today it’s all you can do to look back at everything you’ve written the past three days without deleting it all right here, right now.

You hate it. All of it.

So much so that you don’t even want to start over. You just want to forget it ever happened.

It’s imperfect, cringe-worthy, and stupid. And, frankly, so are you.

At least that’s what you start to (wrongfully) believe.

You’re feeling the pressure we are all familiar with — the false need to do something flawlessly the first time, because that’s how “the best of them” do it.

You know this is irrational. Yet it’s hard to shake this belief. To accept, instead, the less flattering reality.

I think we feel pressured to create perfect things because we don’t feel like we have enough time to create imperfect things.

We’re so obsessed with earning success that we forget messing up, doing things bad the first time, being wrong — it’s all part of being human.

We don’t often see writers we admire fail. To us, all their successes seem perfect because we don’t have access to them at points at which they aren’t.

If you’re sitting here feeling like everything you’ve been working on the past weeks, months, even years has been a total waste … don’t be so hard on yourself, I guess. It might seem like having to rewrite something or start over means you wasted valuable space in your life.

What it really means is that you’re learning how to write better and create better things. You’re going to put hundreds if not thousands of hours into your work and produce very few good things in that time, relative to the space you’ve so-called “wasted.”

But those good things will be worth all that time. You can’t see that. You don’t want to look that far ahead because you don’t want to think about how many more hours you have to go before you’ve finally produced something worth reading.

This is a universal struggle. It doesn’t matter your skill or profession, your age, where you’re from. There will be points at which you want to throw everything down and give up because it doesn’t feel like you’ve gotten anything out of all the time you’ve spent, up until now, trying to make something good.

Don’t give up.

I would suggest taking a break, taking some time to reflect on your goals and where you want to go and what you’ve accomplished so far.

But don’t forget to come back.

You haven’t spent all these hours working on your novel or screenplay or memoir or whatever because you like working. You obviously want all this effort to mean something someday.

It never will if you just stop.

Your work is not pointless. Your effort has not been wasted. You are worth so much more than you can see from your current vantage point.

Remember that.

It doesn’t make it less frustrating. But I hope it gives you a small fragment of hope to at least get you through yet another day of invisible, seemingly uneventful work.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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