Friday, 25 January 2008

Coffee Break: Wobbles

Hello and welcome to my first Coffee Break! Since it’s my birthday on Monday please help yourself to a slice (or two) of my birthday cake to enjoy along with your favourite drink of choice.

As I counted down the Fridays until it was my turn to host the Coffee Break, I panicked slightly about what topics I could post about. I didn’t want to repeat anything that had been posted before, nor did I want to post about a subject that would bore the pants off everyone.

I don’t post here very often (in fact I think this is only my second post!) but I do comment. If this were school, I suppose I could be likened to the shy quiet girl sitting at the back of class. I’ll admit that I do sometimes feel quite intimidated being in a group of such talented writers. You’re all lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I sometimes wonder if I’m worthy to be part of something as wonderful as the Novel Racers…

But anyway, this leads me nicely on to my chosen topic.

Wobbles. Nerves. Doubts. Fears.

Since I started writing my novel three years ago, I’ve suffered from each and every one of the above. Sometimes it can eat away at me so much that I just want to pack it all in and run away. It spreads like a virus through me, eating away at any confidence I ever had about my writing. I’m never sure what triggers it but sometimes I just think I’m wasting my time trying to write a novel. I convince myself that I’m rubbish and that no one will like what I’ve written.

These ‘episodes’ can last a few hours or a few days but I always seem to come out the other side. Maybe a little bashed and bruised but I always come back stronger.

Recently I had a major wobble about my writing, I was all set to quit. I had written my post for this blog explaining why I was leaving and that I wished everyone well with their writing but I never got round to posting it. That’s because I got myself out of my own wobble, I cast aside my own doubts by reading something I’d written over a year ago. I found myself laughing and giggling and it restored my faith in me and my writing. It also helped that I got lots of friendly kicks up the backside from mates telling me I shouldn’t quit.

So I ask you all this. How do you cope when doubt bites at you? When the fear, that no one will like what you’ve written, makes you feel like quitting? How do you deal with your writing wobbles? Do you mope and moan to your family? Do you keep it yourself in the hopes that you can work it out alone? Do you talk it over with writing friends or non-writing friends?

Hope this topic is okay. I’ll look at all the comments as forms of advice for any future wobbles and worries that I have. Lol!


Sarah*G* said...

I too sometimes wonder if I should be here amongst the Racers and feel a bit of a fraud at times. I have never submitted anything to be published. I am the only one who reads my stuff. I only started writing again about 7 or 8 months ago and it has been only the one project. I sometimes sit and think, 'What the bloody hell am I playing at? Why am I even thinking I could be a writer?' Then I look at my kids and think about their lives growing up and what they will think of their mother. (see my post on jan 13 for a full explanation of that). I also hear/read about the wonderful success stories of fellow racers when they get an agent/get an egent interested/get published and it boosts my confidence and belief that it could be done. Plus if I don't at least try then only I can be to blame for not accomplishing anything.

Sarah*G* said...

Happy Birthday for Monday!

Leatherdykeuk said...

I always think that my writing is rubbish and often doubt the sanity of a writer friend when she effuses over my work and Zinnia reduced me to tears (in a good way) earlier in the week.

The best way to get over it is to punch right through it. Write a flash or a drabble and polish it until it shines.

Then get back to the grind.

Leatherdykeuk said...

And Happy Birthday :)

Graeme K Talboys said...

Happy Birthday! Fab cake.

Wobbles? All the time. I think they are part of the job description. Writing is so personal, and very often we don't get the opportunity to share what we are doing until we have to kick our beloved child out into the cruel, hard world to fend for itself.

If I get a bad wobble, I just go and do something else. There's always a list of jobs to be done about the flat. And always plenty of reading to catch up with as well as a huge pile of stuff taped from the TV. I know now (after many years) that a few days off will do me good and it isn't long before I'm itching to get back to the keyboard.

Smaller wobbles I work through. I have so many projects on the go, there is usually something I can do that is writing based. It keeps the writing 'muscles' exercised whilst allowing the mind to rest from whatever it has become dulled by.

JJ said...

Excellent topic A Writer and a happy birthday for Monday. I'm staying off wheat at the moment, but since it's a virtual cake, I'll have a slice.

I too feel an utter fraud to be a 'novel racer' but what I tell myself is that while we're all set on similar journeys, ie creative writing, some of us (me) are at the start of ours, and others further along the road. I think that's wonderful.

Regular wobbles happen to me all the time. While I made little progress on the actual novel last year, what I did achieve was to find a kind of faith that if I continued to write I would get better and my confidence would grow. Perhaps that sounds a bit bonkers, but while I wobble, the faith in the process of writing is usually there underpinning the shaky moment. It means that I can usually get myself out of it ... just by writing!

Looking back over the last eighteen months of article writing is what has shown me the progress that I've made in my confidence. I used to panic that I wouldn't be able to write something, that I'd agree and then not be able to do it. Now I agree; I still know it's got to be done BUT I KNOW I CAN DO IT. Faith, y'see. Not religious faith, just plain old fashioned faith in myself.

I can't do that with fiction yet so I do still write the occasional posts about my wobbles, and I hope not to bore anyone to death but I feel that naming the bogeyman gives him less power over me. It's cathartic to name and shame the little bugger. He's stronger going round and round in my head taunting me: spill it, say it - and it loses its power. The point is I think I will get that faith the more that I do it.

Thanks for the choccie cake.

liz fenwick said...

Happy Birthday for Monday and pass the cake! Is that Champagne to wash it down? Even better :-)

Great topic. I have been having the wobbles quite a bit recently and wondered if I should just quietly slip away and then I stopped and reminded myself that this is what I have always wanted to do and I have now been given the opportunity and the time to do it. The other thing that keeps me going is my family's belief in me. Dh is a tower of strength although he never reads what i write. My kids are so proud and some time its for them alone that I continue. I want them to see tha things don't happen easily or quickly - that you have to work bl..dy hard and that you fail and that it's okay to fail. In fact I am making it a regular habit at the moment.

I think the writer's road in general - there are exceptions, is the opposite of what much of today's society looks for - instant gratification. So for that side of me I turn to chocolate - which works every time and let my writing teach me that all is not easy and this inparticular is very hard.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Happy Birthday To You! Fab cake, can I have some more please? (Rachel, sorry I made you cry - didn't mean to! - but glad it was 'in a good way'.)

Wobbles, yes, I mostly keep mine to myself, with occasional exceptions. It's interesting to see the different ways people deal with it. I'm similar to Graeme, although I can see the logic in JJ's 'name and shame' approach. But for me, they go away faster if I give them less air time and do something else instead. I've also had the experience of reading old writing of mine and finding myself affected by it, and that was as encouraging as anything else. I'm developing a thicker skin as I go, I can now cope with being critiqued much better than I used to be able to, and I'm getting the hang of dealing with rejections from agents (Liz, I feel your pain!). Wobbles do go with the territory for writers, we all have to learn ways to get past them.

And I love the fact that the Novel Racers are such a diverse bunch, all working at different stages of the process. We all deserve to be a part of this.

L-Plate Author said...

Happy Birthday for Monday. X

Have you been reading my blog!!!!

I’ve had a massive wobble on my writing abilities lately. I have two books written and am drafting a third as part of the novel race. But making a decision to let go the interest that I had from one agent this week, and having worked with a previous one for two and a half years, who I did draft after draft with and still didn’t get an end result, has really put a dampener on my spirits at the moment. What’s the point of writing a third book when my first one wasn’t good enough and I’ve written a second one that I am going to start doing the rounds with and if it gets there could take more years? I haven’t had success with those yet so what is the point of sitting writing night after night to increase a word count that only the novel racers will see?

But then I remember all the positive things that have been said to me and I turn a corner again. And I'm constantly told by my bloke that he's rooting for me and not to give up, I'm nearly there! I write because I like to. I need to, to express myself and, yes, getting published is my ultimate goal but I’m not there yet. And if I keep telling myself that, then the words start to pour out.

Being part of the novel racers, as I have said before, has been my spur on this year. Writing is a lonely profession with only yourself as a critique (Argh!) and that’s tough. You don’t know whether you are doing right from wrong but you have to follow your gut instinct. I’m getting through my disappointment now because of all your lovely comments, so thanks for that guys.

Anyway, back to that word count……

Cathy said...

Happy birthday for Monday...lovely cake!

Great topic too. I think my way of dealing with the all too familiar wobbles is very similar to Graeme's. I do something else, preferably not writing.

I also just leave the piece of work I'm wobbling about for a while. If I am stuck with the novel I might try to write a short story. It is also amazing how in these circumstances I seem to get one of my very rare urges to write a poem! I also use that time to read, to start plotting future work, research etc.

Just reading about other writers' wobbles here and elsewhere on the net seems to help too. I love this group!

Flowerpot said...

happy birthday for Monday and what an amazing cake - though shame I can't eat chocolate! I can admire it though. I agree, I think wobbles are part of the business, game, whatever you like to call it. Don't give in to the wobbles though or you'll never write again. I take the dog for a walk, do something else and then always come back to it. Try and end the day on a writing good note. Then I can go to bed with confidence rather than feeling a loser. But there are times when that's so hard....

Caroline said...

Happy Birthday for Monday.

I feel the need to quit very very often. Last night I went to bed crying, overwhelmed and feeling like I am 'playing,' that I'm a fraud and really should just stop writing. I've the type of pesonality that focuse on tiny flaws in myself and I soon spin.

I think that every sinngle thing that I write - from blog posts to th larger novel - is rubbish. My self doubts drive everyone around me insane, so I try to keep them all inside.

I find that writing, blogging exposes and sometimes I can't cope with it. In all honesty I think I'd quite like my writing not to be read - but that kind of doesn't work with this career choice.


I don't honestly feel that I'd be able to stop or quit. When I can't write (family or work), I want to write even more. I have to ride the waves of panic and try (really try) to stop listening to the negative voices.

I don't jump to my wobbles. I ride the smaller niggles and do the 'wait and see' thing. With the larger ones, I spin, distract, cry and then wait and see what my moods do next.


SpiralSkies said...

It's fascinating reading everyone's responses to this very good question...

Like Caroline, I think everything - blog posts, The Novel, odds bits and bobs - is absolute rubbish. The first thing I ask lovely bf when I've written a blog post is 'shall I delete it?'.

Oddly, though, it NEVER occurs to me to give up altogether. This only struck me a few weeks ago. 'Ugh, I'm not sure I'll ever tackle another novel,' told myself. But. Well, there's this idea bubbling and, it's not even enough of an idea to put into words. More just a sense of the feel of the piece. And it won't go away.

Doomed. Utterly doomed and, probably, utterly crap.

We will all be schizophrenics at this rate, arguing with and then bashing up our inner wobble-makers!

Fiona said...

What else would you be doing if not writing? Cleaning the house? Going out and listening to friends moan about their lot? Not us of course, I mean, though, we all have friends who do that don't we?

What I am trying, in my clumsy way, to say is, you might be wasting your time and so might I but...what else should we be doing?

I think we're called, as a collection, an Insecurity of Writers. I like that.

Happy Birthday. What will your 80th birthday be like? Will you say to yourself, I wish I had carried on writing?
I just have to apply everything above to myself now!

See what we're all like?!!!

Lane said...

Happy Birthday on Monday A.Writer and great question!

Firstly I'd be more worried if we didn't wobble. The opposite is blind confidence which is devoid of critical self analysis. A crisis of confidence means we care and want to produce the very best possible, not that we can't do it.

If I hit a wall I splodge some paint on a canvas, walk dogs, write shopping lists and generally mutter to myself until I realise what the alternatives are and the thought of giving up at this stage is not pretty.

Secondly, the fact that this group has writers at every stage of the game, makes it an invaluable source of advice and support at every level so yes, we all deserve to be here.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Lucy Diamond said...

Good topic - and happy birthday for Monday! That cake looks so tasty...oh God trying to diet is such a nightmare!

I still wobble (especially after too much cake boom boom). I still get those doubts and panics, I truly think it's just part of the creative process. What a bunch of w*nkers we'd all be if we thought we were totally brilliant and the best writers on the planet!

I am always working on lots of different projects at any one time, so my solution is just to switch onto something else if I am having doubts. Having said that, I do have long-running wobbles (I'll never get another novel published etc) which just grumble away in the back of my mind. I try and tune them out as best I can but sometimes they get quite loud.
I have found blogging a great means of support, advice and encouragement. The Novel Racers are such a fantastic mutual cheering-on squad, I think we're lucky to have each other in that respect.

How has everyone done this week with the writing, anyway? I have added a few thousand to my tally, taking me up to 44,000 words.

Rowan Coleman said...

Happy Birthday love! Great topic. I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that I think in order to be a writer every so often you will be paranoid, insecure and feeling doomed. Panic and Emptiness are frequnet visitors. Also the wobbles don't stop when you are published, there are a whole new set of things to wobble about. You have a deal, but will your book be good enough to merit it? will the book buyers buy it? if it gets on to the shelves will people want to read it? Will it get any reviews? if it gets any reviews will they be any good? What if someone is rude about it on amazon? What if you never get another deal again and you have to go back to working in an office doing admin even though you are terrible at admin? These and many, many more wobbles will visit you in the still of night.

I think trying to be a writer at any level of your career is like walking an emotional tightrope - at at any point you could stumble and fall off. The good news is that if you are determined to follow a profession that requires you put so much of yourself on the line for other people to disect then you are probably the kind of person who climbs right back up the ladder and tries the high wire again. I think that most successful writers - And by success I mean ones that get up every day and write because it means so much to them that a little wobble here and there won't stop them trying - are the ones with nerves of steel.

I wobble about twice a day for many reasons, I am famous for it.

Also can I echo the thoughts of other racers when I say that all of us deserve to be here, equally. This after all is partly what the racers are for - a group of support and encouragement that all of us need from time to time.

Finally, I apologise if my spelling etc is worse than normal today. I am having a bit of a hyper day and when I get like that I lose control over my dyslexia and my efforts to be neat and tidy go to hell in a hand cart.

Rowan Coleman said...

by the way I am still editing the US edition of my book and I haven't started yet!! I start next week. I'll be at your heels, Lucy!

liz fenwick said...

Oh, progress, wel there was some this week. Up to page 38 on the editing.......very slow as I had reworked those pages three time already!!!

Juliette M said...

Happy birthday for Monday, but my Weight Watchers plan says darn your tasty looking cake for making me want some!!

I have three friends (known as The Witches of Eeepwick) whom I text or ring whenever I need to say "Eeep! My writing is crap!" Theyv are usually very good at giving me a kick up the arse. Z. is very harsh but fair; J. is extremely encouraging and R. is somewhere between the two. They are all breaths of fresh air to a writer with a wibble or a wobble!

I also try to balance wobbles by keeping many projects in the air. That way if I find I am angsting over my fairy novel, I take a day off and write a bit for my murder mystery instead. Not recommended as it mtakes twice as long to bloody well finish anything, but it works for me.

Juliette M said...

Happy birthday for Monday, but my Weight Watchers plan says darn your tasty looking cake for making me want some!!

I have three friends (known as The Witches of Eeepwick) whom I text or ring whenever I need to say "Eeep! My writing is crap!" Theyv are usually very good at giving me a kick up the arse. Z. is very harsh but fair; J. is extremely encouraging and R. is somewhere between the two. They are all breaths of fresh air to a writer with a wibble or a wobble!

I also try to balance wobbles by keeping many projects in the air. That way if I find I am angsting over my fairy novel, I take a day off and write a bit for my murder mystery instead. Not recommended as it mtakes twice as long to bloody well finish anything, but it works for me.

Helen said...

I am very similar to Jen and caroline in that everytime I write blog posts, reviews, my new column I get a fit of the massive wobbles. When my first column came out the other week I was shaking like a leaf all day and my stomach was twisty and turny waiting for someone to comment that I'd written a load of rubbish. I honestly thought (and still do) that someone would. I am struggling with this feeling of being exposed. Of having my opinions read.

Writing my novel is different as, so far, no one else has read it and I don't feel exposed. I get overwhelemd with it which I guess means a wobble.

See A Writer we are all the same. And we are a diverse bunch of people all at different stages of our writing career, which is what makes the novel racers so interesting. No-one should feel like a fraud.

Great topic!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Happy Birthday! Lovely cake. Almost too lovely to eat. Almost. ;o)

I love the term wobbles. I borrow a phrase from another author and call it 'the squirms'. I get them off and on throughout the year. (Usually after getting rejections.) Like Graeme, when they get bad, I find something else to do. The lesser ones, I write through. For me, it helps that I promised myself I'd do something writerly every day, so if I slip, I feel like I'm breaking a promise to myself - which is worse to me than the squirms. ;o)

I don't talk to my family about it. My husband worries, and my daughter wrestles with her own doubts, so why add to hers. Sometimes I whine to my critique partner, and she's awesome at bucking me back up. Other than that I just muddle through.

Debs said...

Happy birthday for Monday. Great post too. I always turn to chocolate initially and wonder who I'm trying to fool by thinking that I can write anything anyone will ever actually want to publish.

My husband is very supportive although that's probably because I'm pretty exhausting at the best of times but at least I leave everyone in peace when I'm immersed in my writing, so the thought of me not doing this must be frightening for my family.

Reading other writer's blogs (something I've only really done recently) has been a great boost and shown me that I'm not the only insecure person who loves to write and that even though you work and rework a piece and it still isn't good enough, others have the same problem. I can't imagine not writing so will just have to perserve.

Helen Shearer said...

Hello and happy birthday! I have to be one of the world's biggest chocofreaks so I hope you don't mind if I dive right into the birthday cake.

Wobbles. Where do I begin? I suppose I get the occasional lapse of confidence like everyone else, but since the week of Christmas I have written very little. I don't think I'm absolute crap. I think I can write fairly well, I just find myself wondering if I have anything new and exciting to say. I haven't blogged since early December and I have never had a several week dry spell before and, to be honest, it's freaking me out a little bit. What I have been doing is reading more and getting the niggly jobs around the house done. I picked up a copy of Screenplay by Syd Field, and even though it's written for screen writers, it has lots of good stuff that can be applied to novel writing too.

Glad to hear that we all have these moments of doubt. Have a great week, all!

CTaylor said...

How do I deal with the wobbles?

I feel really sorry for myself until I get short story hit and then I think "Okay, yes, I can write, it's fine."

And then I get a rejection, or I get writer's block or I read a BRILLIANT novel or short story and think I'm a crap writer again and lo and behold - another wobble.

Seriously though - story hits aren't the only way to sort out my wobbles, although they do help! I guess I just wait for the wobble to pass (because they always do you know).

At some point (normally a couple of days after the wobble) I start to write again (because I can't not) and then I get into it or I write something that makes me laugh or cry and I think "Hey, maybe I'm not quite so shit" and then I forget all about wobbles, until the next one.

I also try and look ahead. After my recent agent-related wobble I thought to myself "Okay, so if he doesn't like this book after the rewrite I'll send it to someone else and someone else and someone else. And if no one likes it I'll write another book. And another. And another, until someone falls in love with one of my books."

Because, no matter how much I wobble, I'll never stop writing.

I don't think I'll EVER be the writer I want to be. Maybe none of us ever become the writer we want to be. But that's okay, because the writers we look up to probably have their wobbles too and they probably sit around thinking "I wish I wrote like my favourite author" too.

If we didn't all suffer wobbles and wish we were better writers we wouldn't keep pushing, keeping trying and we would never improve and grow.

(Oh, a surprisingly optimistic post from me there. Will wonders never cease?).

A. Writer said...

Thank you to everyone wishing me a happy birthday!

It's great to read everyone's experiences with the dreaded 'wobbles'.



Firstly Bonne Anniversaire from France mine is a hot chocolate please ah..I see all the cake has gone... hmmm bit late in the evening for me to be eating cake anyway so all the better!

Wobbles,I am sure even the most famous writers get them and for me the only thing is to write through them or talk myself out of them in my head and keep reminding myself that there are a great many published and well known authors out there who were told they would never suceed but did regardless.

Unless I keep trying I will never know if its worth the paper and ink or not.

Good question. Its always good to see how others deal with things.

wordtryst said...

Chocolate! My favourite! Happy birthday, A.Writer!

Lovely post... and I would imagine it's pertinent to all writers. What I like about the Racers is that there are writers at every stage of the game here. And writers from many genres - I think they must all be represented. I don't think any of those further along the road ever forget the start of the journey. And guess what? The uncertainties don't go away! Beginning each book is like writing the first all over again. You have no idea whether it'll be any good.

I think I've gotten to the point where I know, even when I'm at the bottom of the cycle, that I'll come out on the other side. But it's constant, hard work trying to maintain some balance, and changing focus from whatever is causing the trembles works for me.

One of my sensitive areas is the genre of my first book. It's romance, and I tend to feel defensive about that because it's not considered 'real' writing in many circles.

On the subject of blogging shyness, when I started my blog weeks passed before I had the courage to make it public! But I'm glad to say it has been nothing but positive, and often the highlight of my day is reading the comments on my blog, and the posts and comments on other writers' blogs. Community works wonders!

Leatherdykeuk said...

Does Susan Hill read us? You'd think so, because she wrote something very similar on her writing course yesterday. See the POST HERE.

Leigh said...

Actually, A. Writer, you helped me through my first major wobble just recently. I've had lots of minor crises, during which time I just go and do some housework until I decide I'd rather be writing.

But my first major loss of confidence was handled by having watched you (blog-wise) go through it before, and knowing that however bad I felt about the whole thing, I would come out of the other side.

So, thanks, and only two days later, I did!

p.s. Happy Birthday!

A. Writer said...

Aw... Leigh! I'm glad I helped! :)