Learning to Write for Ourselves #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Welcome to another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post.

After a break last month to focus on my university assignment, I’ve returned ๐Ÿ™‚

I was going to write about my MA in Creative Writing, but the last module wasn’t great. We only spent a week on publishing and the rest on teaching in schools etc, not much use to an introvert who doesn’t want to do those things! I’m also not keen to revisit the marketing research I did for my assignment yet, so I’ll focus on something else in this post:

Learning to write for ourselves (Or, how to make writing fun again!)

author toolbox writing for ourselves

The biggest problem with my MA is I have very little time to write during term time, and it’s ruined writing for me. The reason? Everything I do write is scrutinised for grades, and I’m aiming high so I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself. Writing’s just not as fun any more. I’d rather play video games, do surveys for Swagbucks, and cuddle with Merlin.

Merlin Sprawled out
Merlin does not object to this!

I used to love writing and spend every spare moment doing it. I didn’t care what I wrote or how good it was.ย I wrote to amuse myself, with no pressure to impress. I didn’t worry about plot, characters, or which scenes worked. Writing was fun, so I did it.ย I want to get back to that.

So how will I make writing fun again?

Remind myself first drafts don’t have to be a high standard. No one sees the first draft but me, so I give myself permission for it to be as trashy as possible.ย 

Don’t let feedback get me down. Last semester I got lots of useful feedback on my writing, but one person said she wanted my characters to be girls. It bothered me as the comment wasn’t helpful, and I spent too much time dwelling on it. I need to remember I don’t have to act on all feedback, as I’m writing for myself first, and focus on the positives.

merlin-in-his-ball-pit-e1560691042658.jpg
Like Merlin in a ball pit!

Imagine the stories I want to tell as a TV show and write them down, for fun,ย and to get to know my characters: The same reasons I read, game, and watch TV.

Sketch my characters: It helps me connect with them.

Write for myself. Ignore trends and target markets, and stop second guessing my writing based on what imaginary critics might say. Write the stories I want to read, that mean something to me. Because if I’m not having fun and don’t love my characters? It’ll show in my writing.

scales divider copy

Thanks for reading!

Have you ever been stuck in a writing rut or receivedย unhelpful feedback? What types of stories mean the most to you?ย Chat in the comments!

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. To read more posts from the hop, click here, or on the image below:

ATB

My past posts: Reasons I DNF Books
Work experience in Publishing at Penguin Books.
Lessons in Storytelling from TV and Film.

Next week I’ll probably review Good Omens: The TV show and the book!

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39 comments

  1. This is such an interesting post and something I’ve been thinking about lately, or something similar I’ve been thinking about lately, specifically, how I have to unlearn some of the more rigid writing advice I absorbed in my first years writing fiction. Great post, Louise!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you touched on not making your first draft your highest standard, because that’s always my biggest problem when writing.

    Sometimes I can’t even get past the first chapter of my draft because I keep thinking of different endings and directions the story could go, and continue revising my first chapter until I’m convinced it’ll fit perfectly with future chapters in my draft- when I should probably write the whole thing out first and make changes to the story after all of that. Because of that, I even stepped away from writing for a while (though I’m back now!)

    I’m glad you shared this. I finally got around to checking out this blog and I’m beyond relieved someone talked about that- sometimes I feel like maybe I’m not meant for writing when I push myself too hard on the first draft. Seeing that issue written out here makes me realize it’s more common for writers than I imagined. Looking forward to reading more of your content!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have to try so hard not to focus on first chapters! I think the advice that finally got through to me was that I’d probably change it anyway, after I’d written the rest of the story. (I have maybe 3 or 4 versions of chapter 1 so far!) Now I just have to get past the middle, where I tend to get stuck ๐Ÿ™‚

      It’s a really common issue, I think, to get caught up on the first draft. It doesn’t make it less difficult to deal with, but at least we’re not alone!

      Thanks for stopping by ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • No problem! I’m glad I found your blog- and exactly. I’m sure I could just move on from it, since as you’ve mentioned, people inevitably have to make multiple revisions to their first draft. So I definitely agree it’s a common issue- I see people talk about this all the time on writing subreddits for example.

        It just takes some deep breaths and persistence to push through that draft knowing that it’s okay for everything to not come together perfectly the first time around- and focus on getting the writing down first. I’m just impressed you reached the middle, since I always have trouble with getting past the beginning! One step at a time, I guess. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post. I get stuck in ruts often. More often than I care to admit. It can be so easy to lose sight of the joy when you think about having to get things ‘right’ and everything that needs to come after. I returned to writing stories to go along with the Sims game that I play. It’s for me. No pressure, no need for it to be perfect. Just the basic telling of the story. And it helps to take that breather.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! You summed up what I have also experienced in regards to feedback. You certainly don’t have to act on every suggestion, particularly the ones that serve no purpose in the context of your story.

    I think we all need a little reminder from time to time that writing is what WE love to do and we spend a lot of time doing it, so we should write what we enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ugh those invisible future critics. They can get so loud sometimes! I love your focus on writing for enjoyment, I hope the joy comes back for you quickly ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, Merlin is the most adorable kitten ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Writing does need to be fun (which itself is a strange statement, since fun rarely goes well with any ultimatums).
    But there is that weird way in which we get into something because we like it, but over time that original reason gets submerged and lost.

    I feel like a solid portion of one’s weekly writing efforts should be given over to “fun writing.”

    That’s actually something I like to do in writers’ groups, set aside 10-20 minutes where people are given a random prompt, and they just write (or think) without any purpose beyond that. In many cases, for my own sake, I like to formally tell myself “whatever I write in this time, that’s the end of it.
    I’ll write it, I’ll type it up, save it somewhere, and that’s the end of it (unless I randomly opt to rummage around in months or years to come).” But in the short term of the next few months, I regard it as a “one and done” type of thing, and I find that very therapudic.

    I also feel there’s merit in having multiple projects in the works. For example, recently I’ve started a new process, where I write a rough draft for a story, and then set it aside for at least a month, during which I work on something else (either a rough draft or revision of another story). The goal is to always have at least 2 stories in some phase of outline, rough draft, or revision, so that when 1 is complete (or reaches a natural pause) I already have something else to engage. This also means I’m never completely invested in a single story, so there’s less issue if it’s not “amazing.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! I started writing because it was fun, but somewhere along the way that reason got lost, under all the publishing and marketing advice!

      I really like the idea of 10-20 minutes on a random prompt, it sounds like a great exercise to get started or get over writer’s block. Going to give that a try next time I feel stuck ๐Ÿ™‚

      Multiple projects appeals to me too, as I can never focus on one idea for too long!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I totally sympathize with this: “The biggest problem with my MA is I have very little time to write during term time, and itโ€™s ruined writing for me.” I had a similar experience with my MFA. Eventually I got my love of writing back, and then some, but it took time for me to unplug from the program I was in. The most valuable lesson I learned from my creative writing degree was to write everyday, but I didn’t figure out how to integrate writing into my life until long after I graduated. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here: first drafts are always for ourselves. Your strategies for making writing fun again remind me to keep an open mind and to not be so hard on myself when I’m drafting. I’m currently in a bit of rut right now, so I like this post even more. Nice work!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I had feedback that my first-person novella should be rewritten in third person. Little did that judge know that I’d written it in third person and hated it so much I rewrote it in first. To each his own ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this post. I can relate to how you feel. I struggled the last few months with different things:
    – Day to day stresses
    – Which feedback I should accept
    – Feeling overwhelmed by how much I had to edit
    – Struggling with confidence
    – Thinking about marketing and feeling overwhelmed by the process
    – Worried that people will hate my story.

    As a result, I lost some love for writing. And I did not write much for months – I did some prompts on Twitter, but did not work on any stories for months.

    But, a friend reminded me to not worry about what others think. She told me to just write for fun. And another friend just encouraged me to write.

    So, I did. I decided to work on a short story for fun. And I felt so much better! I also feel like my writing is better.

    I will get back to editing, but first, will have fun warming back up to writing with the short I am writing.

    So yeah, I definitely can relate to you. And I can relate to how school can take away our joys for activities we like. I ended up disliking reading for a while b/c in high school many yrs ago, I had to read a lot of stories that I had no interest in. And then, writing for a grade made me dislike writing to some extent. You are not alone.

    Your post is very relatable.

    Hang in their Louise. You have my full support. And yes, keep on writing for fun!

    PS. You are awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same, I’d never asked for feedback before university, and although it was mostly helpful that one person suggesting I change the gender of my MC didn’t sit well with me. Doing my assignment, making a plan to market a book, made marketing a little less overwhelming, but there’s so much to think about! I have to keep reminding myself there’s no point thinking about it until I’ve finished a draft ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m trying to find the joy in writing again: I hadn’t been writing much for months either, I’d gotten so stuck. When I was a kid I used to scribble on paper without a thought and tell whatever stories I wanted to. I didn’t think about spelling, grammar, or if people would like it, I just wrote whatever I wanted, and most importantly I finished stories! Now I get caught up in the plot, thinking it’s not good enough and second guessing myself. I just want to get back to how it used to be, so this month I’m trying to write for fun. It’s helping ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hope your short story is going well, I’m sure it is awesome ๐Ÿ˜€

      Like

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