Things To Do When You Hate Your Writing

Millie Ho Drawing

Today, I hate my writing. I want to select all and delete my novel, all 80,000 words of it.

This ever happen to you?

Overcoming writing perfectionism is a lifelong journey. Perfectionism makes you rewrite dialogue and burn story notes. It’s got you by the throat, especially late at night, when it pins your eyelids back and forces you to brainstorm all the ways your story doesn’t make sense.

I think the problem here is that I’m spending too much time with my writing. Working on four and a half drafts in a few months is not normal, at least not for me, and a little distance is needed here.

So I focused my energies on other things.

I brainstormed ideas for SORROWBACON. This led to a doodling session. See illustration above. The “I don’t care” is in reference to the quality of my writing, and obviously a terrible lie, because I do care about quality, and I care a lot. But actions start with thoughts, and not caring is one step towards a more productive mindset.

I listened to music, specifically Ready for Salvation by Kalmah, on repeat.

Then I looked up Latin terms and phrases. It’s one of the many things Wikipedia is good for.

I laced up my sneakers and walked around downtown Toronto, rolling tabula rasa in my head over and over.

Tabula rasa. Blank slate.

I’ve done this Focus My Energies On Other Things when I hated my writing enough times now to know that it works.

When I get back to my apartment, I will be a blank slate.

And I will be able to write again.

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Millie’s Note: What do you do when you are tempted to start over?

26 thoughts on “Things To Do When You Hate Your Writing

  1. psychopathsgetbored28 says:

    I do the same…listen to some music or read a trashy tabloid maybe (just so that I can bravo myself -.-)…basically try to distract myself and ‘try’ to think positive, which gets stuck at ‘trying’. Also I drink tea, lots and lots of tea.
    Hope you’re feeling better. Take care!
    Love the doodle. <3

  2. coldhandboyack says:

    Perfectionism is a curse. We can always do better, but never perfect. I like to fix things that don’t work, and don’t believe in throwing them away. We go out; sometimes it’s a movie, or a dinner, sometimes we have company. This clears the mind a bit for the next round.

  3. chrisbkm says:

    Backing away from the ledge. Walking away in one manner or another usually works. Typically there’s quite an edit upon return. Usually I end up with a lot less of everything (words and concepts) but what really mattered has more room to breath and unfold. Or, sometimes it’s easier to say good-bye and move on.

  4. Jacqui Murray says:

    I spent a couple hours one day forcing ‘tabula rasa’ into a story I was writing. Definitely a square peg in a round hole, but I got it in and then cut it later. I just loved the sound and meaning of that phrase.

  5. rung2diotimasladder says:

    I think it’s great that you strive for perfection. Too many writers strive for external indicators of “good writing”— praise from others, successful sales—but that goal is even more elusive! At least perfection is entirely up to you.

    You can get there! You may just be feeling claustrophobic in the moment, so definitely take some time off. I find doing something else not only clears my mind but also informs my writing.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Tina! I will take your advice and step away from the work for a few days. Perfectionism is a double-edged sword, but at least now I know how to control it.

  6. Daniel says:

    I think it’s good to put down the work for a time – a month, two months, get some distance. Work on something new so when you come back to your work you’ll see it with fresh, critical eyes. You got it out quick, now take the time to regain your focus.

  7. aetherhouse says:

    I’m at the same point. I’m about 30% through a fifth draft, having gone 10 months straight. I’m not sick of the characters, but I’m sick of this story. I want to write the sequels. I want to have them moving on to bigger and better things. But I know I have to get this one perfect first. It’s hard. I’m hating my voice. But I took two weeks off (one week I was sick. Meh). And now, I think I’m ready to jump back into it.

    • Millie Ho says:

      I think the fifth draft should be the last draft. The story gets diluted after a certain number of iterations, and then we start thinking about sequels. Taking time off is a wise idea. I’ll go back to the story after clearing my mind.

      • aetherhouse says:

        Do you rewrite your drafts from scratch? Personally, I don’t, so a fifth draft can’t possibly be the last! However, I think I’ve finally “found” the story with this draft, so no more plot or major changes. It’ll all just be nitpick and style.

  8. Mary says:

    Right with you Millie – oh yes, I’ve had a more than a few lemon paintings! So I walk away and distance myself to be able come back with fresh eyes. Inspiration comes at the most surprising moments and times – it will be back before you know it.

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