If there’s two things writers do very very very well, they are (1) make tremendous snacks, and (2) complain about writing.
Although, I agree, #1 is a bit of a stretch sometimes because there are writers who make horrible writing-snacks for themselves. But I assume they are able to open a packet — ergo they can still fix a good snack. I, personally, make great brownies and —
OKAY WAIT. THIS IS NOT WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT.
This post is about complaining. Because we writers do it! We complain about many many things, and just in case you are a non-writer and wish to know what we whinge about commonly, I’ll list some for you.
- I can’t remember how to start a book.
- What is character development.
- Does anyone actually like my story???
- What if I’m a terrible writer.
- Is this too slow? Or too fast?
- I don’t even know what genre this is.
- Does my book suck, or is it just not right for that person?
- Plot holes.
And I complain about those all the time too. Naturally. I am a
whinger writer. But it occurred to me that there are some absolutely LOATHSOME parts of the writers’ life that no one actually talks about. Or at least they don’t talk about it often. And they should! Because these are underrated writer struggles!
Or possibly I am struggling with them alone. But hopefully not. It’s good to cry in groups. You can put your tears together and make a helpful sea and then use it to smite your enemies with. #WeepingWriterTeamWork And if you DO relate to my 10 underrated writer pains, then JUST KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT ALONE. The world is hopeless and dark but at least we’re together, Frank. Come sit with me.
1. THE “MY-PROJECT-IS-FINISHED” DEPRESSIVE WRITING DUMP.
This is actually quite common amongst artists! But I still feel like WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT ENOUGH???? But you finish a great project! It was HUGE. You put in so many hundreds of hours. It kind of consumed your brain. In fact, you have no brain now. Just zombie mush. You can’t even spell “brain” because you’re so exhausted. You end up saying BRIAN.
BRIAN and you have just finished something INCREDIBLE and…and…and…
I mean. Tell me I’m not alone. I hate finishing projects. I absolutely zoom from this total level of “OMG I MADE SOMETHING AMAZING” down to this pit of despair because (A) I have nothing to work on, (B) I have to reenter society and that seems dumb, and (C) I have to distance myself from
my friend, erm wait, my baby, erm my eNTIRE LIFE my project. I hate it okay?!
I personally get super consumed with what I do. As you might know, I binge-write, so I’ll spend about 100 hours STRAIGHT on a project. Then afterwards? It’s like I’ve legit lost an arm. I feel totally in the dumps. It’s even worse if I adored the project, because it’s like losing two arms.
Couple it with that whole “okay now what do I do” feeling and — yes just bury me, thanks. That’d be nicer. CAN I BE UNCONSCIOUS FOR 9 DAYS UNTIL THIS PASSES???????
Brian and I are not doing okay.
2. WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE WRITING THINGS THAT ARE TOO SIMILAR.
If you’re like me (WHICH I HOPE NOT, HEAVEN SAVE US) then you probably have 9893 books you want to write! Which is exciting, yes?! So many ideas. until you get hit with that paralysing moment of, “Okay but does this sound too similar to my last book???”
Cue existential crisis.
We all have things we like writing about, obviously! Themes will reoccur. Types of characters will come back! This isn’t always bad. I mean, look how famous John Green is and he just writes the same male in every book. Sarah J Maas has just written the same book about 9 times now. And even as MUCH OF A STIEFVATER FAN I AM…dude, Cole in Shiver and Ronan in The Raven Cycle share a fair few similar personality traits.
So these things happen.
Do I chill about it then? HAHHA HAHAAHAH…no of course not.
I’m constantly frazzled about if my plots sound too similar. If my characters are similar. Am I allowed to write about dragons this many times??? How often can I stab someone before it seems repetitive. Are my titles too close? Will everyone notice I put cake in EVERY BOOK? Do I explore the same themes too much? DID I JUST PLAGIARISE MYSELF????
3. READING AN ALREADY-PUBLISHED-BOOK THAT IS SUPER SIMILAR TO YOUR NOT-PUBLISHED BOOK.
How rude can you be, seriously, Published Authors?? I MEAN, I HAD THAT FIRST. I JUST WAS A BIT SLOWER. This is also a good slap in the face to remind you that: there’s literally nothing new out there.
But minnnnnnne. It was miiiiiiinnnnnnne.
I especially find this monstrously frustrating when I thought I had something rather unique going on and then — BOOM — how about we steal your cupcake and eat it in front of you.
I can’t even.
And then you’re hit with the options of (A) do I rewrite mine to be different? or (B) will it even matter because if mine does get published it’ll be in like 5 years?? and (C) do I just drown myself in a vat of chocolate?
I obviously NEVER choose option (c) ..haha…hah..hhhhhhaaaaa. Oh c’mon.
4. WHEN YOU LET YOUR CREATIVE TANK RUN DRY.
I’m super good at absolutely MURDERING my creative tank and not noticing until it’s too late. Like for the first 5 months of this year I wrote 4 novels, outlined 9 other novels, and I’ve been collecting other small smudges of ideas too. And then one day — BAM — I’ve got nothing.
This is 100% an indicator that I’m putting out more art than I’m taking in. Not good, writers! Not good! But the smart thing to do would be never to let the creative tank (or creative well, if you prefer) get so low!
But I just never notice I’m running on empty until I’m literally on the carpet. Crying. With no inspiration. And Brian is petting my hair and just saying “THIS IS WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS”.
Learning how to monitor your own creative input and output is super hard. Help.
5. HAVING TO WRITE OUTSIDE YOUR EXPERIENCE.
Now I don’t actually mean this as in representing a diversity or minority that you have no experience in. I mean EVERYDAY VERY COMMON THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE HAD EXPERIENCE IN.
Here, let me quickly list for you some things I constantly need to write about but have 0% clue how to do it:
- Hospitals. I’VE NEVER BEEN TO ONE. I mean, I was born in one, but I was pretty much a useless loafer at that point and not looking towards my future novel research.
- School. Hi. I was homeschooled. This makes writing contemporary somewhat akin to bicycling through hell.
- Eating a ton of different foods. I haven’t tried them all plus I have a lot of allergies. So no. I will not be eating an Oreo any time soon.
- Police / law. Because I’m an upstanding citizen. Except for those library fines, but I am slightly evil, okay? Any time I need to smack my characters with the law I just…I just???? LET THEM RUN AWAY?? I don’t know what it’s like in a jail cell, mate.
- Broken bones. #nope
- Romance. I’ve not been in love, dude. How am I supposed to squish these characters’ ships together?
- Being an extrovert. #SuperNope I swear it actually kills my
Brianbrain when I have to write people who aren’t introverts because…how???? HOW AND WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE AROUND HUMANS???
- Living in a city. Haven’t done it.
- Public transport. Nooope.
- Severe pain. Unless you count reading MOCKINGJAY. But other than that I’ve stayed boringly intact my whole life.
- Being tall. What’s life like when you can actually reach the top shelf of your cupboard? IDK.
- Weapons and physical fighting. I cut up a pumpkin once. But that’s literally all the weaponisation I’ve encountered. Oh, well, I mean…my TBR is pretty much a weapon. BUT I DIGRESS.
Look I could go on with this list for a long long time. But you get the point, right?!
“Well you could physically research some of this, Cait,” you say patiently while buttering a scone because you’re trying to prove that you actually can make good snacks and therefore fulfil your destiny as a writer.
And the answer is: yes and no?
I obviously am not LANDING MYSELF IN HOSPITAL or stealing the Mona Lisa for “research”.
Although it could be fun — NO NO. WAIT. NO. HAHAHA…no, Cait.
And drastic measures like that aside, I also have an anxiety disorder. I refuse to believe that having a disorder can make you less allowed to tell stories. It’s not laziness keeping me from some types of research! And I believe this for many types of writers — you shouldn’t have to be able-bodied, neurotypical, privileged or had a ton of life experience to be able to tell your stories.
I get my research in other ways, mainly: talking to friends I know and feel safe discussing things with; reading blogs and articles; watching movies and documentaries; and reading other books. (Also FYI biographies are great #ownvoices accounts if you want specifics in things!)
However I do frequently tell my family we should eat ice cream. For storytelling purposes. I don’t know what raspberry cheesecake ice cream tastes like so how can I write this book? Hmm??
And I’m actually quite in favour of writers telling things they haven’t experienced.
Dude, if they didn’t, we’d have one story to tell. A super boring biography. I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT. If I can figure out what it’s like to ride a dragon and become Davy Jones, then I can research what it’s like to be very poor or live constantly on the road or be a swimmer or go through the aftermath of committing a crime.
RESEEEEARCH. BUILD EMPATHY. LISTEN AND WATCH AND READ ABOUT REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES.
There are obviously things I think you shouldn’t write about if you haven’t experienced them! But that’s like a HUGE topic and not what this post is about.
My point is: as a writer, there is a LOT of things to research that can be totally underrated and overlooked! Basically our lives are one big puddle of collecting information for stories. Everything from changing the oil of a car to ordering a restaurant.
This is why Brian is overworked and underpaid.