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Old 08-06-2018, 11:25 AM   #1
ElizabethBean91
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In Constant Pursuit of Perfection

I'm having a little (or perhaps a lot) of difficulty getting my latest chapter written. After a year or so of writing, I believe I have encountered my first bout of writer's block. It isn't a lack of focus or ideas that led to this, but today I discovered the true root of my problem. The constant pursuit of perfection.

When I write, I never simply place down a rough draft and continue on to the story's end. My writing style has a lot to do with finding the perfect word, the perfect flow, and the perfect description as I write. This way writing causes me to hit roadblocks (or writerblocks) when I haven't found the perfect way to proceed. I believe this stems from my fear of creating inadequate or down-right bad writing.

I want my readers to enjoy a story that has been written the way it was meant to be written and I fear writing something that would leave readers with much to be desired. My pursuit of perfection has only led to stagnation as I struggle to gather the proper words...

How do you deal with mental blocks? Have you ever encountered writer's block?

Problem-solving is one of my biggest strengths, but this has been a tough one. I know how I can overcome it, by simply writing imperfectly and enjoying the process. I need to cast away my delusions of perfection and write what I love; because that is exactly what it is, a delusion. There is no perfect word, no perfect sentence, no perfect paragraph or flow. This is all coming to me as I'm writing this.

Writing, much like everything in life, comes with its highs and lows, the good and the bad, triumphs and struggles. I've decided, just as I've been writing this, that I know how I can solve my problem; by sitting down, ignoring distractions for a time, and writing a constant flow of imperfection; that's what editing is for. (This is literally how my mind works, the whole post is stream of consciousness.)

What struggles have you faced as a writer? How have you overcome those struggles?

Thank you for taking the time to read.
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:48 AM   #2
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I'm not sure if I've encountered writer's block, but I've encountered writer's slows. In my first 7 months as a Literotica author, I wrote and published 14 stories. In the 13 months since, I've written and published 6. The more I wrote the more self-conscious I became about writing. I was less able simply to sit down and let the words flow. I wanted everything to be right before I committed to writing the words.

I think the answer is you have to set aside a time and just force yourself to write. Even if you don't like the words, make them come out. Edit later. Don't worry too much about the quality of the first draft; just make sure it gets drafted. Perfection can come later.
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Old 08-06-2018, 12:52 PM   #3
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My writing style is the opposite of yours, EB91. I'm constantly rewriting and revising. So my solution to writer's block may not work for you.

If I get stuck on a particular part of the story, I skip ahead to write a part that I'm motivated for. Then I go back and write in the gap. And if it's not perfect, I don't sweat it, because I know I'll be fiddling with it later anyway. If I get stuck on an entire story, I start or work on a different story and come back to the stalled out story later. Or, yeah, pretty much what SimonDoom just said.

It doesn't always work for me. I'm in kind of a dry spell myself at the moment and can't even seem to get a rough idea to take shape. But don't let a need for perfection get in the way of progress. I've had way too many other non-writing projects that I've abandoned because I just lost steam and let them stall out permanently.
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Old 08-06-2018, 01:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElizabethBean91 View Post
I'm having a little (or perhaps a lot) of difficulty getting my latest chapter written. After a year or so of writing, I believe I have encountered my first bout of writer's block. It isn't a lack of focus or ideas that led to this, but today I discovered the true root of my problem. The constant pursuit of perfection.

When I write, I never simply place down a rough draft and continue on to the story's end. My writing style has a lot to do with finding the perfect word, the perfect flow, and the perfect description as I write. This way writing causes me to hit roadblocks (or writerblocks) when I haven't found the perfect way to proceed. I believe this stems from my fear of creating inadequate or down-right bad writing.

I want my readers to enjoy a story that has been written the way it was meant to be written and I fear writing something that would leave readers with much to be desired. My pursuit of perfection has only led to stagnation as I struggle to gather the proper words...

How do you deal with mental blocks? Have you ever encountered writer's block?

Problem-solving is one of my biggest strengths, but this has been a tough one. I know how I can overcome it, by simply writing imperfectly and enjoying the process. I need to cast away my delusions of perfection and write what I love; because that is exactly what it is, a delusion. There is no perfect word, no perfect sentence, no perfect paragraph or flow. This is all coming to me as I'm writing this.

Writing, much like everything in life, comes with its highs and lows, the good and the bad, triumphs and struggles. I've decided, just as I've been writing this, that I know how I can solve my problem; by sitting down, ignoring distractions for a time, and writing a constant flow of imperfection; that's what editing is for. (This is literally how my mind works, the whole post is stream of consciousness.)

What struggles have you faced as a writer? How have you overcome those struggles?

Thank you for taking the time to read.
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Mm. I have had similar. In my case I think I lose the principle behind what I'm writing. So, I think about it, normally when busy with some thing else, like being busy on the tractor. A busy that is based on repetition I'm not suggesting you buy a tractor. It is then I realise where the story is going and how to get there. It doesn't have to be a principle, it can be anything you want to use to structure a story. It can be the behaviour of you or a friend for example- in the circumstance you have so far described, what would you or they do next? How would you or they want to end the circumstance you have described? What more would you want to talk about to complete the story? These and similar are the questions for me and when I'm doing some thing else they often come with crystal clarity because the dross that messes with the thinking has gone. Really, every story you write is yours, no one else's. You can make of each what ever you want. Don't bog yourself down with the expectations of others. Then turn off the tractor, find the pencil and paper and write it down fast. You can edit it later.
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Old 08-06-2018, 01:11 PM   #5
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When I get stuck at a "blockage" I try to go around it - sort of like the island-hopping strategy in the World War II Pacific.

If I can't think of the right word I might put some underlining in to be filled in later, or use a tentative word with a question mark after it. I might leave out a paragraph and write a note in there saying "Describe this later" or something of that sort.

On the other hand I might leave a note for a paragraph that says, "Drop this?" or "Does this make sense?"

That way I can keep going to the ending (which itself might be tentative!) I might give myself a few days, or maybe more time than that, before I go back for another pass. If things are going well or I'm just lucky the majority of the first draft may survive into the final form. If not, I may start over with a different premise or just put the whole thing on a semi-permanent "hold."
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:39 PM   #6
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That happens to me with distressing frequency. I want to find that perfect word and it just escapes me in the moment. It is really tough to do, but I write down the word or words that I can come up with in that moment and force myself to move on with the story. Either that, or I walk away from the computer and try to visualize the scene in my head.
Here's the thing, though. Often, just because I have forged on with the story, I find I get to a place that makes me re-think that entire storyline or direction. I wind up cutting pages wholesale (I always keep them in an 'Extracts' doc, they may be useful later) and that little bit that I was fussing over is no longer even a part of the story.
Again, I get it. It is nigh-impossible to be a perfectionist and "move on" from a point that is troubling you. Forcing yourself to do it is part of the discipline you will need to be a more productive writer.
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Old 08-06-2018, 04:01 PM   #7
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I usually only have a blockage on a story when my Muse has dropped another story or stories that it would rather I work on. Often this is because the first story hasn't jelled enough in my mind to start writing. I almost always, though, as the OP does, soldier on through to the end of a full rough draft rather than polishing what already was written before finishing the base story. I keep of a master list of planned/in the works stories so that little is lost no matter what I'm working on at the time.
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Old 08-06-2018, 07:19 PM   #8
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One problem here is defining "perfect" - a fool's game. What might be considered "perfect" by one person might be read with chuckles and laughter by another.

I seem to be lucky. I occasionally have "slow to start" periods, but I know that's because my subconscious is still mixing the ingredients for a particular chapter or section, and it's just a matter of time before the muse will knock. If ever I stalled completely on something it would mean I'd completely lost interest, and no amount of surgery would revive the rotting corpse. I'm ruthless with that kind of thing, I'll just trash it and start something else.
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Old 08-06-2018, 08:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElizabethBean91 View Post
I'm having a little (or perhaps a lot) of difficulty getting my latest chapter written. After a year or so of writing, I believe I have encountered my first bout of writer's block. It isn't a lack of focus or ideas that led to this, but today I discovered the true root of my problem. The constant pursuit of perfection.

When I write, I never simply place down a rough draft and continue on to the story's end. My writing style has a lot to do with finding the perfect word, the perfect flow, and the perfect description as I write. This way writing causes me to hit roadblocks (or writerblocks) when I haven't found the perfect way to proceed. I believe this stems from my fear of creating inadequate or down-right bad writing.
Yeah, I can't do the "rough draft" method of writing. I revise and edit as I go, and by the time I get to the end of the story it's pretty much done unless my beta readers flag something.

Perfectionism is a major problem. I get dissatisfied with my work very easily, and then sometimes I end up scrapping it and starting over, or stalling. I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn't need to be perfect, that no story ever is.
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:36 PM   #10
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Yeah, I can't do the "rough draft" method of writing. I revise and edit as I go, and by the time I get to the end of the story it's pretty much done unless my beta readers flag something.
Me too - raw draft, edit as I go, Betas pull me up, tweak, submit. Keeps it flowing smoothly.

Curiously, I have just broken loose from a log jam where I'd been semi-stalled for a week or so - ironically because I had to do some deliberate plot wrangling (which I usually never do). It's probably a bit clunky, but at least the wheels go around. It'll do, to get to the next section which will be written as usual. If I try to play with it, it'll just go bad. Near enough is good enough, keep going, is my motto.
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Old 08-07-2018, 01:44 AM   #11
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My writing style has a lot to do with finding the perfect word, the perfect flow, and the perfect description as I write.

Writing, much like everything in life, comes with its highs and lows, the good and the bad, triumphs and struggles. I've decided, just as I've been writing this, that I know how I can solve my problem; by sitting down, ignoring distractions for a time, and writing a constant flow of imperfection; that's what editing is for. (This is literally how my mind works, the whole post is stream of consciousness.)
I read the first chapter of your story, and I enjoyed it very much. You have a compelling show-not-tell style that vividly conveys the emotions of your characters. If it takes you some effort to get there, well, that's your craft, and it shows in the dazzle of all your glittering red H's. Keep aiming for perfection, even if you don't always achieve it.

As far as writer's block, I ascribe it to biorhythms. Some days the ideas just flow, some days they don't. Kind of like the weather—you just have to wait for the skies to clear. While I admire the discipline of authors who put in time writing every day, I'm not above hanging out the "Gone Fishing" sign whenever it suits my fancy. Probably why I never get anything done.

I've found your idea of stream-of-consciousness drafting to be useful at times. You might also want to emulate the so-called Faulkneresque style: 'stream-of-consciousness writing typically brought on by Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.' The idea is to lubricate the creative process and get more closely arm-in-arm with the muse herself. This approach typically produces a lot of dross, but the occasional gem, and, as you say, it at least gives you something to edit.
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Old 08-07-2018, 03:43 PM   #12
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Wow, thank you all. I hadn't received an e-mail that anyone posted here, so I tracked it down and I have to say thank you. A lot of your suggestions will surely help me out.

SimonDoom--I absolutely get what you're saying. I had been feeling self-conscious about my writing, too. I constantly worry "is this good enough? Is this really the best I can do? This author writes so good, what if I'm not that good?" The time I set aside is typically 8am-12noon. My girlfriend allows me to write for a those four hours, or if I wake up early and get a head-start, and then I spend the rest of the day with her.

LoquiSordidaAdMe--I like your style. Sometimes I do get stuck in a chapter that doesn't appeal to me, but is essential to my story. Unfortunately, rather than skip it like I should, I sort of "trudge through the mud" and slowly write it. What I need to do is be more relaxed and not stress so much that I make no progress. I'm trying to keep the momentum going and I worry about losing steam, but I have the plans and ideas; it's just a matter of putting those ideas into writing.

weftandwarp--I'm thinking about walking around campus early in the morning, there's a beautiful path that is pretty quiet. Just to walk, allow my mind to wander, sort through ideas, etc. I like your idea of taking a pencil and paper with me so I can write down an idea before I forget it on my way back to my PC.

gunhilltrain--I had done that, marking a spot to return to at a later date, in a previous project. That does work out, as LoquiSordidaAdMe had also suggested, but it's sometimes hard for me to enact it properly. Being able to write down the basic concept of what I want, until I know how best to go about it, would certainly help me stay productive for the time I spend writing.

LexxRuthless--Visualizing a scene is something I've always been good at. When I start a story, I go to bed that night, or the night before, and I have this concept that I visualize; I used to do this every night in high school, where I'd speak to the girl I had a crush on, or save the school from whatever danger and be a hero, basically wish-fulfillment fantasies where I save lives (now I want to be a CNA). So, I can picture my characters and the way they look, I can see their location, the house layout, pictures on the wall, etc. Every night, I can return to this fantasy world and build upon that, remembering where everything is supposed to be, where they left off the night before, and how the story progresses from there.

KeithD--I know what you mean. I've had a story mulling in my mind for years, and now I have the means to put into words the way it was meant to be put. So, here I am working on "The Mistle Family" which I've loved, but now my Muse is saying, "adventures on the high seas, with lusty pirates, great adventures, and plenty of hot love scenes". Rather than saying, "I'm all set, I want to finish this first", my mind is saying, "cool, where do I sign up?"

electricblue66--You're exactly right. There is no perfect. And, that idea of "What might be considered "perfect" by one person might be read with chuckles and laughter by another" is one of the things that cause me to be hesitant. I read from other authors, see what their comments are about and what readers enjoy and dislike, then I look at my work and say "it's just not good enough". Perfect for me is not perfect for everyone and I need to learn to be okay with that and stop trying to please everyone while producing nothing. That is truly my weakest point.

Bramblethorn--That's exactly like me. I can't really say whether my work is truly good or complete crap, because I tend to more biasly learn toward crap. I always say I am my harshest critic, and sometimes that stalls me and I can't seem to proceed or know how to proceed. I edit as I go, but then I edit one or two more times in the end, then I bought a program, (ProWritingAid) to help me edit some more and find flaws I didn't catch. At the moment, I have no beta readers, so I am everything in my work.

HectorBidon--Thank you, that is a huge compliment. I've studied for years before I ever began writing, and even then my earliest work was awful (I think). I feel I've gained a better grasp on the craft over years of trial and error. Conveying emotion comes easy to me, because I've felt just about every emotion a person can feel; from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, elation and despair. I like the idea of a Faulkner-style stream-of-consciousness, because it throws caution to the wind and is all about writing everything that comes to mind the moment it comes to mind just like that. Carefree writing, just letting myself go, and then going back later and fixing what needs to be fixed.

I want to say thank you to everyone whom read this and responded. I appreciate you taking the time to do so. As this was only my second post in a forum of any kind, and I may be remiss of etiquette, I never expected such a response. I've read everything all of you had said and I will take your experience and advice to heart, because that is exactly what I've needed. Thank you.
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Old 08-07-2018, 04:06 PM   #13
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Since i write as people speak, "perfection" never enters my mind.
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Old 08-07-2018, 04:36 PM   #14
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This is one of the most focused and varied collections of responses to this question I've ever seen on this forum.

I did look through the others and didn't see mine, so I'll add it quickly:

I get moving.

I can sit in a chair for long periods because my brain is always moving. But if the brain gets sluggish, unfocused, impatient, anxious, or what not, I get out of the chair and do anything from long walks outside, "living room" dancing, cleaning the house, or (by necessity) 'the day job,' which does involve lots of movement. Often with inspiring music.

But it's not exercise. Not as people might think it. I can't focus on ideas and writing if it's jogging or stretching or reps, just for the sole purpose of doing that. That takes all my focus and I can't think. The movement has to be automatic where my mind can be a bit disconnected.

For me, idea flow and pushing forward through a block is related to blood flow.
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Old 08-07-2018, 04:46 PM   #15
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Reader v Readers

For several years, I used to write a column for a yachting magazine. After the first two or three columns, the editor received a letter from a reader saying how much he enjoyed my musings. (Yes, it was back in snail-mail days.)

‘That guy is your reader,’ the editor told me.

‘Gosh, I hope I have more than one,’ I said.

‘Oh, don’t worry, you have thousands,’ Bruce said. ‘But you need to write for one. Otherwise, there’s a danger that you will end up chasing all over the place.’

I try to apply that same idea to writing short stories.
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Old 08-07-2018, 07:51 PM   #16
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TxRad-- I also tend to write the way I speak; and I'm naturally very eloquent. Perfection should not enter my mind, but it's the fear of disappointing any readers that gets me. I need to be content with not being perfect, there are readers that may hate my work and others that may love it, otherwise I'll be stuck in this rut in which I'm presently stuck. I even proofread text messages several times before I send them.

Etaski--A lot of very helpful suggestions, which I truly appreciate. My mind never stops either, but then it often drifts. "What ever happened to Edward Norton from Fight Club? Let's look him up on Wikipedia. (half hour later) He was in that movie? Interesting." A long walk sounds like a good idea, weftandwarp mentioned doing something other than writing to get the juices flowing. I really have start morning walks, because that will help much more than simply plopping down at my desk and telling myself I have to write now.

SamScribble--That is immediately impressive to me. I would love to write a column for a paper or magazine; anything except politics, because it's enough already, just saying. You must have a lot of experience with yachts, I don't think I've ever even been on a boat. Reaching thousands of people, that is awesome. You remind me of an old saying my grandfather told me. "You can't chase two rabbits, because you'll end up losing both." Trying to please everybody all the time, I will end up losing them all. Same with stories, try writing every story simultaneously, I'll never write a single one.

I think I need to fall in love with The Mistle Family again. I've been writing, stopping, brainstorming some more, writing, deleting, and stalling on Chapter 06. I know how it should go, but I just need to get it there.
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Old 08-07-2018, 08:45 PM   #17
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EB91, as you can see, the consensus is, "write what YOU want to write, don't try to second guess your readers." Your post replies clearly demonstrate you have a command of the English language, you can string a sentence and thoughts together, but they also show you overthink things.

Don't put so much pressure on yourself. I'm guessing your best material comes when you let yourself relax into the flow of it all - just get the words down first, raw and quick. Worry about the "best" word later, during edit (but don't worry it long), let yourself be spontaneous, put your "writer's mind" aside for a moment, just write. You'll get readers, but only if they've got something to read!

Also, you have chosen an extremely good moniker - but now it's just going to get confusing .

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Old 08-08-2018, 02:03 AM   #18
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NO WRITER BLOCKS FOR ME.

With every activity, if things aint going right, I put the activity aside for a while till the fix pops into my skull. I also like to think about other writers fuck ups and how to fix them.
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Old 08-11-2018, 02:43 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElizabethBean91 View Post
I'm having a little (or perhaps a lot) of difficulty getting my latest chapter written. After a year or so of writing, I believe I have encountered my first bout of writer's block. It isn't a lack of focus or ideas that led to this, but today I discovered the true root of my problem. The constant pursuit of perfection.

When I write, I never simply place down a rough draft and continue on to the story's end. My writing style has a lot to do with finding the perfect word, the perfect flow, and the perfect description as I write. This way writing causes me to hit roadblocks (or writerblocks) when I haven't found the perfect way to proceed. I believe this stems from my fear of creating inadequate or down-right bad writing.

I want my readers to enjoy a story that has been written the way it was meant to be written and I fear writing something that would leave readers with much to be desired. My pursuit of perfection has only led to stagnation as I struggle to gather the proper words...

How do you deal with mental blocks? Have you ever encountered writer's block?

Problem-solving is one of my biggest strengths, but this has been a tough one. I know how I can overcome it, by simply writing imperfectly and enjoying the process. I need to cast away my delusions of perfection and write what I love; because that is exactly what it is, a delusion. There is no perfect word, no perfect sentence, no perfect paragraph or flow. This is all coming to me as I'm writing this.

Writing, much like everything in life, comes with its highs and lows, the good and the bad, triumphs and struggles. I've decided, just as I've been writing this, that I know how I can solve my problem; by sitting down, ignoring distractions for a time, and writing a constant flow of imperfection; that's what editing is for. (This is literally how my mind works, the whole post is stream of consciousness.)

What struggles have you faced as a writer? How have you overcome those struggles?

Thank you for taking the time to read.
Well... there's your fuckin problem; perfection is a fallacy. It ain't real, everything is flawed. There is j
no perfect word, flow, prose or spoon. You'll drive yourself mad.
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Old 08-11-2018, 11:08 AM   #20
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Well... there's your fuckin problem; perfection is a fallacy. It ain't real, everything is flawed. There is j
no perfect word, flow, prose or spoon. You'll drive yourself mad.
Yep, yep.
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Old 08-11-2018, 11:53 AM   #21
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EB66--Exactly, I need to try working up to my own standards, rather than worry if it will please the readers or not; still I'm a hopeless people-pleaser and I do want them to love my work as much as I do. My ultimate goal is just to create a ton of stories, because I have so many ideas, and get them out there for others to enjoy. Worrying about my best work when a rough draft is inked out would no doubt be the best course of action. I forgot who said it now, but someone said something along the lines of, "if you don't write it, you'll never get it in front of readers." No matter how many ideas I have, if I don't write them down, they'll never be read.

FEELINGLUCKYPUNK--That's great. But keep in mind that searching for "other writer's fuck ups", don't forget to correct your own, first. As JaxRhapsody says, "there's your fuckin problem; perfection is a fallacy."

JaxRhapsody--You're fuckin' right. I've managed to get a fuckin' handle on it and it's working out well so far. Perfection is indeed unobtainable and it is foolish to try, but it's also hard to retrain your mind to operate in a new way. For me, that means ignoring spelling errors, those irksome red lines, for now. Not going to the previous paragraph, or the top of the page, and re-reading until it is exactly as I want it before even finishing the chapter. It's a struggle, I'm still tempted to do this often, but that is the fuckin' price to make my work up to the reader's expectations.

KeithD--Indeed, indeed.
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Old 08-12-2018, 09:29 AM   #22
HectorBidon
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Originally Posted by ElizabethBean91 View Post
I have so many ideas . . .
It's summer! Your fictional family won't miss you if you take a week off. Head up to the U.P. There's a motel outside of Ontonogon that has cabins down by the lake. Hunt for obsidian. Keep an eye open for porcupines. Take a notepad and a pencil and pretend you're somebody else.
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Old 08-12-2018, 11:13 AM   #23
ElizabethBean91
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HectorBidon--Lol, I feel like I haven't taken the summer off. I haven't enjoyed family cookouts, or swimming in the pool, or much time with my loved ones. You're right, it's been a beautiful summer and I should simply enjoy it. My sister told me, "enjoy the journey, don't focus on the destination". By focusing solely on where I want to be, I take myself out of where I am and I don't enjoy life. I feel like by focusing so much on being more productive, getting more done, doing more, writing more, I end up getting nowhere and I burn myself out. Nobody is perfect, like JaxRhapsody said, and I can't hold on to these ridiculous expectations of myself. I was feeling a little down this morning, but your post, HectorBidon, had me thinking and feeling a little more positively. I will get my work done, but I'll do it only after I learn to enjoy the moment. Also, I've never been to Ontonogon and I'd love a cabin on the lake. I'm from Warren, originally, so that's quite a hike up north and across the lake for me. Someday maybe, that'd be nice and relaxing. Thank you.

Last edited by ElizabethBean91 : 08-12-2018 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 08-12-2018, 12:57 PM   #24
HeyAll
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In my opinion, there is such a thing as "too perfect." In my book (no pun intended), that means filling the sentences and paragraphs with so many pros, beautiful phrases, and exotic words that it makes the reader to a double-take to figure out what it means.

To me, good writing is when you can read something at a casual pace and automatically visualize it like a movie. Once you have that, move on.

But that's just my opinion.

As for ideas, the truth is, ideas are everywhere. You just have to look and think.
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Old 08-12-2018, 01:21 PM   #25
SimonDoom
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Originally Posted by HeyAll View Post
In my opinion, there is such a thing as "too perfect." In my book (no pun intended), that means filling the sentences and paragraphs with so many pros, beautiful phrases, and exotic words that it makes the reader to a double-take to figure out what it means.

To me, good writing is when you can read something at a casual pace and automatically visualize it like a movie. Once you have that, move on.

But that's just my opinion.
Your comment highlights the fact that perfection isn't just a matter of degree -- i.e., how perfect do you want to try to be -- but a matter of what you are trying to accomplish with your story. Some authors may fuss over words but neglect the story. Other authors write very tight storylines and have good crisp dialogue but don't fuss too much over prose style.

What's "perfect" for you is very different from what's "perfect" for another author.

I would describe myself as also seeing my story visually, and wanting the reader to be able to see it that way, but I also fuss over turns of phrase, and at times I hope the reader can slow down and appreciate the words by themselves and not just as a vehicle for propelling the story forward. Everybody is different, thank goodness.
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