On pushing past feelings of inadequacy

Jul 24

I recently came face to face with my first real stall in writing. Now, to give you a basic idea of the timeline of the book thus far, I first started planning out this book at the beginning of this year. The idea came about after many, many loose discussions with my brother, and it took a little while to get the ball rolling, but that’s about right. Then, after lots of “planning” (read: procrastinating), I finally started writing in March. I had about a chapter until mid-to-late June of this year, which is when I created this website and announced my resolve to, you know, write a book.

Since making that firm decision, I’m up to 8 chapters and 25,000 words. That’s about 63 pages in Microsoft Word (TNR size 12, 1.5 spacing), which is a pretty steep slope in terms of progress.I’ve been feeling so good about said progress, in fact, that I started to delude myself into thinking that I’d have this book finished and ready for editing within months. Which, to be fair, I am feeling rather inspired again, so who knows. But as mentioned, I did have my first run-in with not being able to move forward with the story.

It came about because I recently finished reading Divergent by Veronica Roth (and its sequel: Insurgent). I really, really enjoyed these books. Very reminiscent of the Hunger Games, and we already know how I feel about those delicious books. They aren’t perfect, but they’re thrilling, engaging, and well-written. And Ms. Roth is not much older than me, I believe. In fact, she began writing Divergent while she was still an undergrad.

Upon finishing the second book, I suddenly became very disheartened. My head swam with thoughts about how I’d never be able to write something as good as Divergent, that I was just kidding myself, insert pitiful thoughts here. I was feeling incredibly inadequate, which I hear is normal, but was still not fun to deal with. I firmly believe that in any artistic field, it’s our self-inflated opinion of our talents that gets us through the tough times. Deflate my ego and my motivation goes right along with it, haha.

I now realize that it was just poor timing, of course. It wasn’t really Divergent, it could have been anything. I was really dealing  with the recent chapter that I had written. One that I was not happy with in the slightest (lazy writing, boring dialogue, and just generally far too much of an information dump). But I felt stuck, because I couldn’t figure out any other way to have the story move forward the way I had planned.

I stayed that way for over a week, moping, not bothering to open my laptop, always finding an excuse not to write. Then, lying in bed one night (this past Saturday night, in fact), it finally hit me. If I can’t figure out a way to have the story move forward without this one horrible scene, then I simply need to change the way the story moves forward! Done and done. I deleted the chapter and changed the timeline of the novel significantly, without altering any of the major plot or setting points. I just switched a few things around, and am much happier with how things are progressing.

My biggest lesson learned from all this isn’t something as neat and tidy as “Don’t compare yourself to others!” or “Just believe in yourself!” As much as I wish I could say those things, I’m not quite that optimistic (or naive). Obviously I’m going to continuously compare myself to others (though I am considering nixing the reading of any more YA dystopia fiction for the meantime, haha), and I’m not always going to feel confident in my abilities as a writer. What I can say, however, is that eventually, the words do come back. It might take a little while, you might have to take a break, but even if you’re stuck, eventually the ideas will come. And that is something I can have confidence in.

3 comments

  1. You’re right, it is too easy to feel inadequate when you compare yourself to a successful published author. I think it’s important to remember that those books go through a lot of editing so you shouldn’t expect yours to meet that standard right out of the gate. I’m glad you got through it 🙂

  2. I definitely need to have “Compare and Despair” tattooed on my person somewhere. It would help me push through moments like not just with writing but with life in general.

    The other thing I do when I get stuck in a certain point in my writing is to start writing another scene. There’s no rule that says you need to work in order and sometimes writing what happens next helps me find a way to close that gap because it starts to set up the structure, you know?

    I guess maybe I need to add Divergent to my list of books to read, huh?

    • admin /

      Yesssss. I thought it was great. Do it, do it, do it!

      Also, I am getting better about writing scenes (or at least starting them) as they occur to me. I have a whole separate document now that’s just full of little snippets of dialogue and whatnot for me to add in when I come to the appropriate time. It’s definitely helping!

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