The Fragile Ego Of a Writer


Yesterday I started the agonizing process of editing Chapter 2 of my NaNoWriMo novel, and it was absolute torture. Chapter 1 wasn’t too bad. I mean it needed some work, but the story and ideas were pretty solid. Chapter 2 was another story. In fact, it was so bad I thought to myself, you aren’t a real writer, and for a few moments felt like just giving up. Then I took a deep breath and went to work.

Now I may not be a real writer, but I’m at least going to give it a try. I’m not ready to give it up yet and I’m happy to say once I calmed myself down and told myself it was SUPPOSED to be a rough draft, things started to look a little better.

This illustrates one major problem with my writing: I absolutely LOATHE reading anything I have written. I know, this is horrible. It causes me to submit stories to contests and post them here before they are quite ready for prime time. I have been trying to work on this, and joining the writing group helps as well. That way, other people read my stuff too, which should help me improve while also letting me know I’m not horrible.

Any of you writers have the same problems?

13 thoughts on “The Fragile Ego Of a Writer

  1. Sometimes I read what I have just written and find it great, only to find it crap when reading again later on – and sometimes I find a freshly written piece crap and when I return days/weeks later I think it’s great.
    Which means I have no absolute decision over my own work. Since I was the one who wrote, I can not truly get objective.
    I think writing groups can help, but then again, it’s only the writer who can see/assume how good can he get.
    Uhmm….I hope I make sense here….

  2. Take heart. Just the fact that you have those feelings makes you a real writer. It’s the people who look back at their first drafts and convince themselves everything is fabulous and they can do no wrong. . . those are the people I question. It’s a good sign. It means you see what’s wrong and now you can make it better. Not that rewrites are fun. Just, necessary. Keep at it!!!

  3. First, if your write, you’re a writer. Second, doubts are pretty much inherent in the process–for everyone. Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo addresses these concerns from the perspective of a writer who is also a psychologist. Also, I find putting something aside is a good thing. I’m pretty impatient so I can’t put my work aside for long, but any time away from a piece will help you gain perspective.

  4. I used to hate rewriting. Really loathe it. Now it’s something I enjoy, mainly because I get a much more positive reaction from my test readers.

    The way I got over it was by redrafting my short stories, lots, over and over; after a while I started to really enjoy the process of taking something that’s a bit meh and making it better.

    Actually. Now I read this back it sounds lame. But it really did work for me.

  5. I revise what I write obsessively, and with every iteration of review, I hate the piece more and more. Letting it sit for a while tends to help, though.

    Sometimes I write something I think is great, and it gets no reaction at all. Other times I won’t be happy with the finished piece and other people really seem enjoy it. So I really can’t trust my own opinion, it seems.

  6. I think this is such a common problem. Writers really hate to edit their work. I do the same thing you do where I look at my stuff and absolutely loathe it. Luckily for me, I do like editing, but there are those moments when I think OH MY GOD I can’t do this and I just want to throw in the towel. That’s when I know I need a break and have to come back to it later. Good luck with it because I know you are a very talented writer!

  7. Since you asked
    I have two seemingly opposite troubles when reading my writing.

    When I start to hear clinks, and then clanks, in what I have written, then the whole thing begins to fall apart, and trying to read it does indeed become torture. As each word seems to stand out, sore and alone, awkwardly forced to stand next to some other oddball word (on and on in never ending anti-social line). All flow is lost, and so is story.
    On the other hand, there are times, when I enjoy reading my work, because I already know the story, and how it is supposed to feel, and I read it with that part of me, not at all dependent on how well it is written, and I feel flow, as it hums and sings through me.

    My problem is, I need to be able to hear the clinks and clanks, and yet hold the words/sentences/ideas/story together, and not let it all become an incoherent jumble to me, to where I lose my sense of how it supposed to be. If I can’t do that, I wont be able to work on it, and improve it. I also need to work with what is actually written not some internal sense of the story, that floats happily above, and beyond the words, sentences, plot structure, that is actually there. As that is not at all helpful for improving my writing either.

    I love it when I hear/write something and it sounds right, feels right. But when I read over something, and each time, my wording, my editing is slightly different, and I have no idea which way is better, that drives me NUTS. (Does that happen to you?)

    I hope you don’t always loathe reading your work. (Aren’t there actors like that, they can’t stand watching the movies and shows they are in?). You are on a really good track. You are in a writing group. You are brave enough to share your work (there and here, and elsewhere) and get feedback and work on your stuff. Hopefully the process will become more pleasant/easier for you over time.

  8. Hello. I stumbled upon an old post on your blog from 2007 and then found my way to your latest post. It was good to find another WriMo in the editing process. I too struggle with this phase but I am trying desperately to learn to embrace it. My fear that I will loathe the words I have written often paralyzes me and I refuse to look at a piece of work ever again. That was the case of my first NaNoWriMo novel. This year, I have committed myself to overcoming that fear. I expect that there will be good and bad during the editing process. I also expect that I will come across something brilliant. Writing is painful. It is hard. It can be torture. That is partly what makes our egos so fragile. All that suffering to what gain? To be able to call ourselves writers. We have earned it! If it were easy, everyone would do it.

  9. Pingback: Creative Procrastination

  10. Neil – maybe with experience there is hope for me then

    Rob – I can’t trust my own opinion either. That’s a good way to put it.

    Ello – thanks!

    Taffiny – thanks for the comments. You win the commenter of the week award! “my editing is slightly different, and I have no idea which way is better, that drives me NUTS.” that happens to me too. Actually, the more times I read something the more I find wrong and change.

    No One of Consequence – good luck with the editing process. I’ll follow your posts on your blog to see how you’re doing.

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