Top 6 Writing Whines

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blub blub blub… The only thing I really have to whine about is being fat, and that’s my own damn fault too.

As we work through this craziness of writing, we all struggle with the same problems. It might happen at different times or in a different order. We might be so unfortunate as to have them hit all at once or when we least need or expect it. The point is that it happens.

When it happens, there’s not much you can do. You can’t wish it away. There’s just one cure: you have to write.

Writing might feel like the last thing you want to do. Writing might feel like the worst thing you could do. However, writing is what you must do.

I realize this is all very abstract and repetitive, but any good religion has it’s fair share of ambiguity and ritual. Writing’s not so different. In fact, to continue the analogy, we might collectively name these woes a crisis of faith.

A crisis of faith manifests itself in many ways. In my case, it’s usually some part of me trying to convince myself that I don’t like writing, that writing makes me sad, or it isn’t really all that valuable.

Of course, what I really and truly hate, is feeling like a mopey writer. Really, there’s nothing worse than a writer who whines…

Top Six Writing Whines

1. I don’t have time to write

Bullshit. Everyone has time to write. People like to say that J.K. Rowling had time to write Harry Potter because she was on the dole. That’s probably true to some degree, but she was also a single mother. Last time I checked, that particular occupation was crazy-ass busy. She didn’t find time to write. She made time to write. So can you.

2. I don’t know what to write and/or I don’t have anything to say

Of course you do. You wouldn’t be complaining if you had nothing to say. You’re probably afraid of or embarrassed by what you have to say. You might be afraid of putting yourself forward. If fear isn’t holding you back, then it’s probably the realization that writing is real work. In either case, don’t sit around and whine about it. Suck it up and get back to the keyboard.

3. What I’m writing isn’t original enough

Welcome to the club. Every book ever written is essentially a copy of some other book. Even if you think you’re in the middle of developing something truly original, there are plenty of books just like the one you’re writing. This shouldn’t be depressing. It should inspire you and comfort you. If you get lost along the road, there’s not just one map to help you, there are dozens.

Now, if you’re thinking of originality in terms of style, you need to know how to write a story everyone can read before you screw up and write something no one will want to read. That sounds like I’m denigrating รผber-literary works and I am. I’m doing that because I spent a long time trying to write one, trying to develop a unique style. I came to realize that what I was doing was working on a technique designed to hide the fact that I didn’t know how to write a story.

If you’re going down that path, get out now before you trap yourself and waste a few years trying to be the next James Joyce, who by the way could write a damn fine story without all the obfuscation that came along with his obsession with time (which was a madness of the age).

4. Everyone’s disappointed that I want to write

Whether it’s disapproving parents, spouses, lovers, children, teachers, co-workers, whatever, there’s always someone out there waiting to crap on your writing and on you for daring to write. My only suggestion here is to tell this person to mind their own damn business.

If it’s your partner, then I’d ask why the hell you’re with them or why they’re with you? Do you both enjoy making each other miserable? If you wrote your life as a story, what would you as a character do? Suffer for hundreds and hundreds of pages? My what a boring story that would be! No, the character version of you would get the hell out of there and do something interesting!

The point here is that you have to stop worrying about what other people think. Only other writers will understand what you do and why you do it. Don’t bother trying to explain it to other people because they’ll just be confused or jealous.

5. I don’t write well enough

Who does? Writers get better with every book they write, but they have to start somewhere. Pick up the first published novel of any author and you’re in for a special treat of awfulness. MFA programs have dulled this a bit in recent years, but that’s only because they’re keeping writers out of the market until they have their skills up to snuff.

Anyway, you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to be good enough. Chances are you’re already good enough but you’re just wound so tight that everything you write comes out strained through a hyper-rigid sphincter. Loosen up. Relax. Allow yourself to write without worrying about commas. Yeah, you’ll have to put all that crap in again before you send it out, but at least you’ll have written it in the first place.

6. I’ll never get published

You’re right. You’ll never get published. In all the world, there is no one out there who wants a story from a writer who thinks they’re never going to be published.

I’m being very serious here.

If you write from a place where you believe you’re not going to get published, then you won’t get published. You’ll write story after story infected with your negative vibe. You’ll write story after story that aren’t actual stories.

Strike #6 through right now or you won’t get published. Ever.


Have some other whines to add to the list? That’s what the comments are for! Do it quick and get back to writing!

19 thoughts on “Top 6 Writing Whines

  1. Awesome post that just kicked my whining ass off the whiner bus and back into writing after getting some poor reviews on a short piece of fiction that was recently published. Thanks!

  2. Great post and great reminders. I found that you can turn these around into affirmations that would make even Stuart Smalley proud, though I’m not sure whether that is good or shows my own serious mental imbalance:)

    -I have time to write!
    -I know what to write and I have something to say!
    -What I’m writing is original enough!
    -I write well enough!
    -I’ll get published!

  3. @John Glad I could help with some ass kicking!

    @Mark LOL! I wonder what makes a better ass kicking post? Showing up the negative or reinforcing the positive?

  4. This reminds me of the inverse of a Howard Waldrop article. He tells people to stop writing if they have nothing to say, aren’t original, can’t find time to write. There’s something to both angles.

    Jamie, I haven’t heard you sound off about Clarion or its ilk this season. Is that possibility in the cards? I know your schedule isn’t as forgiving this year as last. Just curious.

  5. @Scott I’m going a little crazy trying to figure out what I should do. I want to apply, but as you noted my life is a little bit different this year. In June/July, it’s going to be downright crazy.

    I dunno. I’ll probably apply just so that I can keep my slot as #1 search result for Clarion West Rejection up to date. ๐Ÿ˜›

    How about you?

  6. My C-SD app is out. My CW app goes out tomorrow. I have high hopes since the story I sent is a WotF finalist right now. (C-SD got a shortened edit) Technically, though, that only means one person (KDW) liked my story, so who knows.

    I’ve been prowling a little for familiar names from last year. I’d hate to think I was the only also-ran from last year clawing for a spot this time.

    By the way, I feel your pain on the “whining about being fat being my own damn fault”. :)

  7. Jamie,

    Your tips are right on the money. And I really appreciate your sense of humor. It is a pleasure to read your blog. Thanks for this contribution and keep up the good work.

  8. I love your blog – and now i know why … i often get discouraged for one reason or another.. and this post really hits the nail on the head !!!

    maybe one day you’ll see my name on the bestseller list :) :)
    (now THATs a freakin dream come true!!!)

  9. Oh yeah, I’d really dare to add a whine in the comments box that just kicked away at all the lame excuses I have ever muttered to myself in order to escape the real work of doing it. Nope, not gonna be tricked into that one my friend. I have no whines, HA! and I am now going back to write, I don’t know what, but it will be good, and it will be published!
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Unleash Your Passion for a Perfect Performance =-.

  10. Other writing whines:

    “Nobody appreciates my writing anyway.”
    “I work best when I wait until the last minute.”
    “I like to wait until I have an inspiration.”
    “Oh, look, it’s snowing.” (and other “squirrels” that attack: http://wp.me/pnsRh-WI)

    We have some great tips for writers (http://promega.wordpress.com/category/science-writing-series/) on our Promega Connections blog.
    .-= Michele Arduengo´s last blog ..Fascinating evolutions and a juicy confession =-.

  11. J.K. Rowling had time to write, not because she was on the dole, but because she made time to write. She could have just as easily spent that time watching TV–which is what most of my students who whine they don’t have time to write do. It’s not that they don’t have time to write, they don’t make time to write. But we writers tend to be great whiners, too. Thanks for a great list of whines.
    .-= Charlotte Rains Dixon´s last blog ..Finding Faults =-.

  12. Here to look around – in case you didn’t see/hear – found you by the list here, through Mike’s Writing WOrkshop:

    http://universitiesandcolleges.org/top-100-blog-to-improve-your-writing-in-2010/

    How about: I’m afraid I’ll get exactly what I asked for and it won’t be exactly what I wanted? — not speaking personally, but I have heard this one. The person was published, but things didn’t work out as this person wanted it to–so the person gave up…
    .-= kat magendie´s last blog ..The Island of MisFit Characters =-.

  13. Hey, Jamie–I was thinking about this blog post again in light of all the Ted Genoways “Death of Fiction” nonsense (he might as well write a list called “Top Six Reasons All Your Fears Are Justified, or, Why You Should Give Up Writing”–the jerk), so I came back to re-read this entry, and #3 reminded me of a story I thought I’d share. I found it while re-reading my Story Sense for my series on research for fiction (http://snoekbrown.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/re-researching-fiction-the-new-expanded-edition/):

    In Story Sense, Paul Lucey tells about how “years ago during a museum visit I noticed ancient hieroglyphics from the tomb of a mummified Egyptian scribe, which in translation proclaimed that ‘all stories are told. There is nothing more to be written!’ That outburst–a sad epitaph for a writer–was untrue then and it is untrue now….”

    I think the brutal bitch of the bunch is probably #6, though, because it’s the one complaint we cannot overcome alone, but then, publishing is a creature unto itself anyway, a whole other blog post.

    And again, keep these things coming, man! I like it when you post!
    .-= Sam Snoek-Brown´s last blog ..A Clean, Well-Lighted Place* =-.

  14. @Scott I’m half tempted to submit a few of my writing essays instead of stories.

    @Archan Well, it’s nice to be on the money, but since they’re free I guess you get what you pay for. ๐Ÿ˜›

    @Deb That’s the way to do it!

    @Karen Woot! Whine free! You win the prize!

    @Charlotte I think that’s what I said, though I guess i qualified it a bit. Glad you liked the post!

    @Scobberlotcher Bloggy ass kicking is a specialty here at HNTW.

    @Kat Yay! I always love making the lists of awesome blogs. It means I’m doing a good job of pretending I know what I’m doing. :) I like your whine, btw. That’s definitely a good one to add to the list. The opposite is also true, “What happens if I get exactly what I wanted? What the hell do I do then?!?”

    @Heather @Vera Thanks for stopping in!

    @Sam I always laugh at those “Death of Fiction” things. As long as the human species exists, there will be fiction. We can’t help making up stories to make ourselves feel better about what we see in the mirror!

  15. Funny, I finally got to this post after catching up on Jay Lake’s post of a not dissimilar vein (http://www.jlake.com/2010/01/21/process-the-larval-stages-of-the-common-american-speculative-fiction-writer/). Its no secret I follow a half dozen or more blogs of authors I like reading, and yet in the last year I’ve seen them go from “Starting a new project, yay!” to “Finished, finished, finished! Mailing it off to the publishers!”…and I’m still struggling to complete one project successfully. One thing you’ve touched on before and that would be a good #7 is “7. I’m too busy thinking about being a writer and trying to live ‘like a writer’ (beard [as appropriate], cafe, moleskine, etc.) to actually do writing.” – ie, more time spent daydreaming about being a writer than spent daydreaming about what you’re writing (daydreaming is fine, but at least make it productive!).
    .-= Michael Cummings´s last blog ..SNOW (or, How I learned to like the beard and other notes) =-.

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