5 Reasons You Haven’t Written Anything You’re Proud of Lately

It’s okay. You can get through this.

Hey. Hey you.

Yes, you. Can I tell you something?

Sometimes writers … really don’t like the things they write.

It’s true. Some writers struggle with self-editing and criticism for no reason other than they want to drop and forget about their work the second they don’t have to look at it anymore.

The good news? This is completely normal.

The bad news? It’s not easy to keep writing when you feel disappointed in most if not all of the things you are producing.

But there’s more good news: not all hope is lost. You can pinpoint the reason (or reasons) for your dissatisfaction and implement strategies to overcome your struggles.

Here’s why you haven’t been proud of the work you’ve been doing lately, writers — and a few things you can do to feel better about what you’re accomplishing.

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12 Signs You’re Working On a Story That’s Worth Finishing

1. It’s a story you have wanted to tell for a long time, and are finally sitting down to write.

1. It’s a story you have wanted to tell for a long time, and are finally sitting down to write.

2. You don’t dread working on it — you’re actually excited to see the finished product.

3. You know how it ends. You might not know every detail about how your characters get to the end, but you have a good idea of how you and your future readers will be feeling when you reach it.

4. You’re aware of the mistakes you’re making along the way, but you take note of them and keep writing anyway. You’re determined to finish the story, no matter what it takes.

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What ‘Writing On a Bad Day’ Looks Like (and What to Do About It)

Are you having a bad writing day? Should you keep writing anyway?

We all have bad days. Every single one of us. Even if we’re in denial. Even if we wake up the morning after a slow, frustrating, not at all productive day of writing and think, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.” It happens to everyone. Even to those who don’t want to admit it.

This doesn’t make the bad days any easier — of course it doesn’t. A bad writing day is one of the most soul-sucking things that can happen to a creator. You have all these ideas and plans, all these hopes, you’re excited to get the work done. You can’t wait to see how it’s all going to turn out. Yet when you sit down to put the words to paper, everything in front of, behind, and beneath you seems to just completely fall apart.

Suddenly a day that was shaping up to be great turned into … well. A bad day.

Here’s what one of these days looks like — maybe you’re having one right now and you don’t even know it. And if there’s a way to make one of these days a little better, maybe we can find that out together, too.

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Let Your Story Decide Its Own Length

Should you worry about word count? If so, when?

Earlier this week, I started writing a new story. I didn’t do it on purpose. It just sort of … happened.

I don’t know if it’s science fiction or fantasy or some dystopian something or other — it could be a little bit of everything at this point for all I care.

But I found myself stumbling a little bit when I realized I didn’t know what kind of story this was — as in, I didn’t know what I was actually getting myself into. Is it a book? A novella? A short story? I have no clue.

Which isn’t a HUGE problem — I’ve been doing this long enough that the story tends to break through all my related and unrelated anxiety and still gets written no matter how many things might be wrong with it.

Not everyone can headbutt their way through big concerns in their writing though. Something as simple as “how long is this story supposed to be?” can turn a would have been productive writing session into a solid hour of YouTube rabbit holes and no real answers.

So let’s talk about length — specifically, what to do when you’re not quite sure if you should be worrying about your word count or not.

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Read This When It Feels Like Your Work Doesn’t Matter

I promise, it matters.

“Nothing I’m doing is making a difference. No one cares about what I’m working on. What’s the point?”

I would be surprised if a string of thoughts similar to this has never woven through your mind.

Here’s the truth: Every writer has bad days. Every writer struggles. Every writer experiences moments of existential dread. These “what am I doing here” moments aren’t fun. They can feel stressful and overwhelming and make it hard to get things done.

But these moments can also allow for times of much-needed self-reflection and honesty about the things we as writers truly want.

If you’re having a rough day, and it feels like everything you have tried to write has fallen flat or you haven’t been proud of it, keep reading. I’m writing this post especially for you.

And if you’re having an OK day and writing doesn’t seem so terrible, you never know — something in here might really resonate with you and help you somewhere down the road.

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Just Set Your Story Free

Let go.

A few days after I finished the first draft of a book — for the first time in more years than I’m ready to admit — I started writing another story.

I’m not sure I could have stopped it from happening even if I’d tried. And I certainly would not recommend anyone do this. Heck, I wish I hadn’t. I know my brain needed more rest, and I’m doing the best I can to make sure it still gets as much as time will allow.

But it happened. It’s still happening. The story I’ve temporarily set aside isn’t finished yet. But I have, I’m hesitant but not embarrassed to say, already fallen in love with another.

This is the way of creativity. Sometimes the sky is dark. Sometimes it lights up with color, and you have no choice but to reach up and touch it.

There is something different about this story. There is freedom in it — freedom I neither asked for nor expected.

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The Type of Burnout No One’s Talking About Might Be the One Affecting Writers the Most

Do you ever feel like you just can’t keep up?

I am running through a forest, searching for a path or a clearing or some sign that will signal my journey is nearing its end. But the trees don’t stop. So neither do I.

This is the best way I’ve come up with to describe creative burnout.

A lot of people think burnout is an automatic, forced shutdown — that you push your body and mind so hard for so long that you simply stop functioning. And for some people, this can happen at varying degrees of severity. It’s dangerous, unpleasant, and probably more widespread among creators than we know.

But even more dangerous, even more prevalent and unfavorable, is the more common “running through the forest” analogy. You can also compare it to running on a treadmill or hamster wheel. Burnout happens when you’re so worn down by your routines and rituals and work that you go on complete autopilot. You go through the motions, expecting there to be an end to it all, but an end often doesn’t come. Not until you or someone else forces an ending.

We could consider an “automatic shutdown” as the extreme consequence of burnout. The reason straight to autopilot burnout is so dangerous is that you often don’t realize the damage you’re doing to your body and mind. You keep running through the forest. Your body begs you to stop, your mind tells you to rest, but you’re so convinced that the edge of the trees is just up ahead that you do not stop.

This is physically exhausting. But what about the emotional impact of realizing you may never find the edge of the forest? Why don’t we talk about THAT?

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How to Live ‘Comfortably’ With Impostor Syndrome: A Quick Guide

There’s no getting rid of it. We have to learn to live with it.

I’ve spent most of my life believing everything I’ve ever earned was actually handed to me out of sympathy.

While I’m aware this — at least for the most part — is not true, there is no turning off the “switch” in my brain that makes me believe I don’t deserve the things I have achieved in my life. Did I only pass organic chemistry because the professor felt sorry for me? Did I only get that writing job because they couldn’t find anyone else, or anyone better? Are all those compliments just lies hiding behind smiles?

I’m not sure how, but I’ve managed to keep moving forward despite the constant noise in my head telling me I’m going to get “caught.” That someone is going to find out I’ve been collecting sympathy cards and never should have passed that class or worked for that company or received those compliments. That I somehow cheated or took someone else’s ideas … or I’m just not good at writing, never have been, never will be.

When someone is faced with evidence they are fully qualified and capable of the success they have earned, and still have a hard time accepting they have earned it, they’re said to have impostor syndrome. This is not a psychiatric disorder, but it is a psychological phenomenon that can affect a creator’s ability to do the best work possible.

It can also make it really difficult for you to feel satisfied with the work you do, or be happy in general.

While there isn’t necessarily a way to “cure” impostor syndrome, there are ways to learn to live with it and thrive despite it. If you want to be like Viola Davis, talking openly about impostor syndrome as you held your brand-new Oscar statue in hand (or whatever literary equivalent you might be going for), here’s what you can do.

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12 More Reminders You Probably Need Today

You might need to hear this today. I did.

1. Just because you’re not feeling confident about your work right now doesn’t mean it isn’t good work.

2. Haters gonna hate. Let them be miserable; don’t let them make YOU miserable.

3. The whole point of a first draft is to write something. It might be good. It might be terrible. Doesn’t matter. It just has to be something.

4. If you write because it’s what you want to do, then you’re already doing it “right.”

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10 Honest Truths About How Finishing a Book Really Feels

It’s miserable and magical.

1. You kind of never want to look at it ever again.

2. You also can’t stop thinking about it.

3. You get very lonely.

4. You wonder if it was worth it.

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