Motivation and Anxiety

#1
I have always wanted to be a writer. As a very young child, I filled notebooks with stories, adventures, game systems, ideas, and more. I didn't originally care that much about sharing my creations, I just did it for fun. But as I got older, things started to change. I wanted other people to read and enjoy my writing the way I read and enjoyed my favorite books. This desire basically stifled any attempt that I made to write. In almost every scenario, I wouldn't even manage to write a single word.

Things had to be perfect. I couldn't stand the thought of somebody reading my work and going, "Well that's a bit shit." The problem is that people have massively different tastes and thresholds. A person who loves a particular genre might put up with shoddy writing if the story was compelling enough.

I was stuck in a loop where I only wanted to write something that was perfect, but I didn't have the practice to write perfectly. It was a horrible cycle of procrastination and anxiety.

I finally got over a little bit of that anxiety by posting here on RoyalRoad. I thought to myself, "I've read a lot of objectively bad writing on this site, but those authors always seem to improve." If they could do it, why couldn't I?

My story saw modest success initially. A dozen follows, a warm comment or two, and a generous review. It pushed me to keep going!

Now, however, I find myself in a different position. Bear Station has just passed the 500 follower mark. I see that people drop out of the story after 10 or 15 chapters and I can't help but wonder what I did wrong? Now instead of a couple of voices pushing me forwards it feels like a crowd that I have to satisfy and my old anxiety is beginning to return.

I know that it's incredibly silly to complain about a story being successful, but I just needed to vent my thoughts a little bit. I'm worried that I'll just drop everything and pretend like I never wrote anything in the first place.

How do you guys deal with this kind of stuff?

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#2
My main strategy is to just keep writing regardless of how I feel about it. When I hit Rising I got a lot of criticism, much of it with valid points (if a bit overstated), and it was very tempting to just ditch the whole thing.

It is a sad truth that there're a lot more tutorials on how to cope with failure than on how to deal with success. But you started writing for a reason. Try to ignore everything else, zero back in on that original reason, and keep trudging. 

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#4
Honestly, just accept that you can't be perfect, and have fun improving the story. Keep in mind you are constantly improving by writing, and your story will be more and more refined with time. But you don't need that practice as much as I do :P

I'd say that you are already doing good enough, and there is no reason to put yourself down. People enjoy your story. Flat out. And you don't owe your readers anything. Sorry to say it like that. Write what you want to, and don't give two shits about their opinion. Unless , of course, you feel like they are justified. But there's the thing, you make the decision of whether or not to care about their opinion. This is your book, your writing, and if they don't like it, they can read something else. Don't let them ruin your enjoyment of writing just so they can get the story they want.

The fact that some people don't continue reading is not important. Don't let them ruin your fun. Some may like your story. Others don't. But a majority of them seem to enjoy the story.

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#5
There's a sign I keep above my writing desk that reads "You can't make everybody happy. You're not a taco." And that's sort of the attitude I wound up having to take, especially when I got conflicting criticism on my stuff.

When I'm writing, there are a few things that I have to keep in mind. First, that when I write, I have to be writing for ME first. I need to enjoy what I write, I need to stretch my creative wings and try things because I love writing and I want to get better at it. And, as awesome as it is when people see your work and love it, I need to keep in mind that I need to love it and want it even more than they do, because that way when the naysayers or the harsh critics come around, I can take what I want from them and ignore the rest.

Second: I have to remember to have fun. Play around, be silly, try new things just to get a laugh. If I'm not having fun with my writing... Well, that means something's gone horrible horribly wrong.

And third, I can't overstate how helpful joining a community of writers has been. I found a discord server that is dedicated to encouraging writers and building each other up, and it is amazing how much more enjoyable writing is when you have people around you who share the same passions and bear the same pains as you. It makes you feel like you're not alone, and that people are walking beside you that you actually KNOW, not just some faceless randos on the internet who may or may not give a hoot about you.

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#6

SpaghettiWerfer Wrote: I'd say that you are already doing good enough, and there is no reason to put yourself down. People enjoy your story. Flat out. And you don't owe your readers anything. Sorry to say it like that
Very true. Much agreeance.


It's ultimately something that alone have jurisdiction over. Even if you have a patreon running with many patrons and all, you shouldn't feel obligated to pump out a perfect product. 

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#8

Dzzt Wrote: Some of my anxiety, I think, is coming from burnout. A chapter a day is kind of rough, even if they are only 2k words each.


When I went over your story, this is the first thing that came to my mind. It's good to step away for a couple of days. The more you stick to your story like this, the more you'll make it your life. And you don't want to equate your worth with people's acceptance of your story. It's good to do that daily thing though if you're in this for the financial aspect. If your view of writing is more of a business, it'll also insulate you from the feelings you're having now. Two sides how to deal with this. 

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#10
Cutting back your posting rate will help alleviate some of the anxiety. Having to write 2k words a day is a lot of pressure to put on yourself, particularly if you're trying to make them perfect. Take the feedback you receive with a grain of salt. People have different tastes and you can't satisfy everyone. Also, you need to recognize when something's good enough, even if it isn't perfect. Just enjoy writing and your story. Good luck.

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#11

Dzzt Wrote: I have always wanted to be a writer. 

Things had to be perfect. I couldn't stand the thought of somebody reading my work and going, "Well that's a bit shit."
I've been there for a long time. Sometimes our minds can be our worst enemies.  
I've read many times that if you write for yourself your writing will be better than if you try to please a market, or a group of readers.  Easy to understand but harder to do sometimes.  
As others have said, try to write for yourself.  Try to find a way to shut those other thoughts from your mind.  And if you figure out a way that works, let me know. :)
BTW,  I think "Bear Station" is a great title.  Makes me wonder what the story is about.  

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#12
Since you posted a "you" question at the end of the post, in other words, at least on the surface, you made this thread to ask about us, and not just vent about yourself, I will give you an answer. About me.


You see, I also wanted to be a....nah, not a writer, I've been writing fiction since 2009.
I wanted to be a published author of fiction. An author of fictional book.

The moment I started publishing my works on rr and other sites, I fulfilled that goal.

The moment I finished my first story, although it was only 50-something pages, I double fulfilled that goal.

The question was, what next? I already am an author. What now? I never thought about the after, because not being able to become an author before I died was my only bother, perhaps even a regret. 
So now I can die as an author. But since I am alive, what am I going to do now?

Am I going to stop, satisfied with having become an author, and move on to other goals in life? Or should I keep writing? When does it end, when is it enough? And what can I keep going for?

I already did enough. Aside from the stuff I posted on rr, I wrote several manuscripts published elsewhere, and several unpublished ones. 
.....And yet, I decided to keep writing, for myself. To visualize the stories and ideas that exist within my heart, put them on paper, and then share them with the world. 

But why do I want to share them with the world?
That's because I hate the world and all of humanity. 

That's right. I want to become better and better at writing and present my ideas, stories, characters, and morals in an ever more proficient way. So that my declaration of war upon the human race will not go unnoticed. Everything I published so far, and can publish as per rr rules here, has been tame, but it was just a tutorial. It will not always be so. I will yet dare to show my true colors, and when I do, I hope I will get that 0.5 top-rated review that says:

"This was written by a depraved monster, and I hated every bit of it!"

Like some of my favorite authors do under their works. 

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#14

Dzzt Wrote: I wanted other people to read and enjoy my writing the way I read and enjoyed my favorite books.
This is 100% your issue right there.


When you write for yourself, the process is fun and when you are in a state of relaxation, the artist comes out. And what does the "artist" do? He creates.

Now, when you writer for other people, now the critic comes out, and the critic is not an artist, and he does not create.

Period, no ands, ifs or buts about it. You're in critical mode and not in creative mode. My advice: tell yourself a fun story, the kind you want to read. If others follow in your wake and enjoy it, awesome. If not? That's fine too.

Congratulations on five hundred followers. A lot of people would kill for that. Don't throw it away.

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#16
I have to take issue with the idea that writing for other people is not creative nor artistic. I have done both, I have written for myself as audience first, and I have written paid work for clients who had their own singular vision for a project. You can very much be creative and artistic writing for other people, you just have to own the work you do.  

The fact is, writers can struggle tremendously whether they are writing for themselves or for others. The critic can and will come out regardless of who you are writing for. The trick, in my opinion, is to stomp down on that critical voice and keep writing, regardless of whether you write for yourself or for an audience. 

We are all of us our own worst critics, almost every writer struggles with it, almost every writer has periods of doubt and anxiety and depression and fear. Even big name authors who have found success time and again. 

If you want others to read and enjoy your work the way you do your favorite novels, that is a Noble and admirable goal. It's why I write as well, because I want to being joy to my readers. Part of the writers journey is understanding that it takes time and practice to gain the skills you need to make that goal a reality. It's like any other craft, the more you do it. The more of yourself you invest in it, the better you will become. 

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#17
How do I deal with it?  I don't.  My stuff has never been successful.  However that doesn't bother me.  The drive for success is not my motivation.  I write because I have a burning desire.  I have something to say and a desperate need to share.

Stories are about defining and exploring the human condition.  What are you trying to say?  That's something you need to answer for yourself. It doesn't need to be clear before you write or even after the first draft, but it does need to be resolved. It helps define and focus your plot and provides drive to your characters.

If I was in your position, something I would ask myself is whether this tale is something I'd want to read.  When you're reading it back, do your characters still make you laugh or cry or puff up with pride?  If not, then perhaps your readers are feeling the same.  Is your tale too long?  Is it powering toward an inevitable conclusion, or just meandering its way toward a possible ending?

Remember, all writing is rewriting.  It is better to get the crap on the page, instead of waiting for it to be perfect in your head. Fix it in post!

Cheers!

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#18
I'm still waiting for my first Royal Road comments and reviews, so I guess I'm a little anxious about it. But considering my longest fiction at the moment was written in 1998 when I was still a teenager, I don't feel the same kind of anxiety I will when I start posting my most recent work.  It's kind of like, well here's something that's sat on various hard drives for nearly 24 years, might as well let someone read it. If everyone hates it, oh well.  On the chance people get a kick out of it and like it, well it gives me more motivation to finally finish it.

As for people dropping your story mid way through, you just can't please everyone.  I've been a photographer for a long time, and I've found that no matter how good my work was, if people just didn't care, then they just ignore it and move on.  Might have been the single greatest photo I've ever taken, the defining photo of my career... And nobody cares because they have no personal interest in it.  It's just one of those "oh well" kind of things. 

I'm not going to lie, I'm not looking forward to negative reviews and criticism.  I've been wanting to write and publish something (even if it is self-published) for nearly 30 years.  Life and other interests got in the way a lot. A poor reaction to my work will feel like a kick in the pants after so many years of wanting to do this, but at the same time, now is the perfect time for me to stop worrying, procrastinating etc and just go for it.  I feel a bit more ready for it after many years of ups and downs with photography. 

Re: Motivation and Anxiety

#19
Whenever I go through a stressful period in writing I mostly go out and try to leave this whole thing behind me and talk to people either about my issues with writing or anything and everything else. At the same time I also write other, small, pieces of writing that I will never publish with the purpose of getting the writing part of my brain get back into it. Although I don't know if that will help you in your case specifically, I think that clearing your head certainly will.

When it comes to the actual writing part: I think we as people often strive to achieve unrealistic goals and reality doesn't match that. That's the reason we are our own worst critics. I have found that having a steady balance between writing and doing other things is the key. Write stories and characters you enjoy and people will relate to that.

There are many stories on this site. All of them target a specific audience. So as the story continues forward people that started reading in earlier chapters expecting something else will drop the story. Or they might get too busy to continue reading or wait for more content to binge read. Time and often times luck plays a factor in matters like this. 

Keep writing and I'm certain that at least a few people will end up being touched by your story.