I had some other posts lined up, about sentence construction and “rules” of writing and all that nitty gritty stuff, but I don’t have a lot of time right now to write out a thoughtful post, so let’s go with a subject I know intimately.
Sometimes, it seems, when I’m writing a book, I’m Rapunzel from that scene in Tangled.
“I’m an awful and undeserving writer.”
“THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER!!”
“How could I even have put such words to paper?”
“I’m stuck in a corner oh god this book is going nowhere!”
“I JUST FIGURED OUT THE SOLUTION AND IT’S FANTASTIC AND FIXES ALL THE PROBLEMS EVER!”
And so on and so forth.
I bet most writers wish they could spend the whole time in that high-flying, love-the-universe stage. I see why – even if it’s only while writing, and the rest of the day you’re a normal, rational human being, the wordcount you get from that stage of the process is unbeatable. I once clocked 6,000 words in a night, writing 1,000 words in 45 minutes by the end. My friends made me go to sleep because it was 2am and I was going a little bit psycho.
But then, I’m kind of grateful when the downers roll around and I’m trying to walk ahead through the swamp for the next tentpole (shout out to Chuck Wendig for the metaphor, though I’ve mangled it horribly). And it’s not some Zen “without the bad, the good would not be as rewarding” thing (though it certainly helps to be a little philosophical on occasion). Frequently, but not always, there’s some point to it. Yeah, sometimes I just feel bad about the book for no good reason – sometimes, I think I just get over living inside these character’s heads. If I’ve had a few plot points to work over or I’ve been in obsession mode, chances are they’ve been sitting in my brain for days, simmering and interrupting my lectures with brainstorming. After that, it’s really no wonder the plot starts to seem stale and predictable, and the characters bland.
Then again, there are times when the blues actually help. They overblow problems, sure, but if it’s a specific problem (like “this plot point doesn’t make sense”, or “you’ve got nothing happening for, like, fifty pages”, or “you’ve gone out of character recently” as opposed to “This is boring and dry and nobody will ever want to read it”), then they very rarely invent the problems, I’ve found. Sometimes those ‘this sucks’ mumblings were what I needed to spot a problem I’d never have noticed if I spent all my time convinced I was riding high. And anything that makes my edit pass easier is a good thing.
Speaking of, don’t think the edit pass is immune from these! In fact, don’t think any part of the writing process is immune. Everything will always feel like you’re bodysurfing – you’ll catch three or four perfect waves, and then the next set will come along, and they’re all dumpers, and you’ll get a faceful of sand for your trouble.
But I’m guessing that I don’t need to tell you guys what the writer’s feels are like. From what I’ve seen, it’s a fairly universal trait among writers.
How do I deal with writer’s feels? Generally, I just don’t. I understand that whatever it is, it’s temporary. If it’s good, I ride the wave and get as many words written as possible, and try not to let the voice telling me everything I wrote is amazing seep too much into my everyday life. I have a tendency to become insufferable in these stages – going on for hours if I’m allowed about the book so far and my plans and the characters and the setting and and and…
If it’s not good, I use the cynicism to fix the problems I can. Oh, and always keep writing. It’s very easy to fall behind and do nothing when I’m feeling bleh about a book, but it’s much harder to pick up writing again after I stop for a few days than it is to just keep going, even if I don’t add as many words as I usually intend to.
Well, back to more interesting topics when I have some time to give them the thought they deserve. Discussion of Writer Feels in the comments would be welcomed – tips, tricks, techniques, or just commiseration on the experience.