Always improving and how to kick the fear...

I write a lot. I am kept busy at work, with interviews, articles, and even the posts here on the blog. More creatively I have written for the games, completing quest dialog, texts, and item descriptions by the dozens down the years on both Anarchy Online and Age of Conan. So it's a little weird that writing is the one thing I most struggle to immediately associate with what I do.

It's a self confidence thing that so often plagues creative endeavors. I'm not always comfortable considering myself a writer ... even though I do a lot of it. Of course, as writers are often advised, the best way to be a writer, is of course, to just write. That part I usually manage without too many problems. My problems are generally two fold, one I never actually finish much of what I write, and two, I usually struggle to gauge whether my writing actually improves, and whether people would actually want to ... you know ... read the things I write ...

To that end, some of us here in Montreal who shared a similar taste for crafting words, formed a little group. We set a theme for each month, and write an original piece for each session. Then meet up to discuss what we liked, disliked and thought about each others work. It's a wonderfully supportive and collaborative group, and it has transformed how I approach my writing, and what I thought about my storytelling.

Writing to deadlines that are for your own development is a great incentive. It has helped deal with the usual procrastination that previously ended up crippling my attempts to finish things. Even if the pieces aren't great (and you won't knock it out of the park every time) it's the discipline of trying that has kept the creative juices flowing, and I have found myself also getting more and more of my own texts done. The longer texts are actually getting somewhere now.

At a fundamental level, we also create stories in order to share them. We want to say something, we might not always know what it is, but there is a tale to tell. The beauty of taking part in a group like this is that you are inspired to really try and come up with something compelling, because even if you don't want to admit it, you generally always hope that people like the piece. The fear that people won't like what you write is probably one of the most daunting, and why that format of writers 'group therapy' as it were, can be really effective. It also allows you to develop as a writer ... to improve ... 

Fearing constructive criticism is never a productive thing, (and you shouldn't fear anything that isn't constructive) regardless of the creative sphere. While there will of course be subjective differences in taste and preference, having an open mind is vital to improving your writing. There will be a myriad of things that exposure to feedback teaches you, that isn't simply someone having a different opinion. 

... and as an added bonus, every so often, you manage to craft a tale that you are proud of and feel inclined to share ... I've added another of those over on my writing depository (and added a link to the writing stuff to the top of the blog for those interested) ...

Disorientated is a story of memory and loss set in a future London ... enjoy, and constructive criticism welcome.

... and to our little secret cabal of scriveners ... you guys are awesome!

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Waldgeist said...

I don't know if you own a Mac, but recently I've been enjoying writing with "iA Writer". A little app, that's so little and so cut down, I can't possibly do anything else but to write in it's very pleasant environment and font/layout/contrast settings.

You can write Markdown, if you want to use the text later as a blogpost or even work article.

It's how I manage to do those last minute translations too, because I can blend out everything else and completely focus on the task at hand.

Keep on writing :)

Craig Morrison said...

I use Scrivener for windows for most of my writing, wonderful application and a bargain at twice it's actual price. Well worth checking out on either Mac (where it originated) or the windows version. I'm pretty comfortable there now, and quickly become a creature of habit!

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly on all accounts.

Deadlines helps a lot for me, but sharing the stories and getting the input helps even more. So glad we have this group.

Waldgeist said...

I've used Scrivener and also yarny.me a couple of times. It's great, but for me quite overloaded with stuff and too many places where I can procrastinate and stop me from actually writing. I can work for hours on end on any task highly concentrated (obsessive? ;)), but my mind craves for distraction and jumps at the first occasion. The more I can fiddle, the more I will fiddle :D

When I need to write a longer text, I also have to put on headphones, so I can blend out everything. At NaNoWriMo I used yarny.me but it actually stopped my work after about 11 000 words, because I thought "ok, now I should plan out the story, so I know where it is going". I did that, sketched out a couple of things and then when I wanted to continue writing... I couldn't. The fact, that I seemingly knew the whole story ruined the flow for me... weird thing. I kept on stopping and re-deciding, that the next step would mean x/y/z in the context of the layout and that I didn't like it. So I kept on thinking and not writing. This year I'll just try not to plan and keep on writing, to see what comes out in the end :)

Anonymous said...

Writing groups were one of the things I really missed from Chicago. Forming our little cabal has been a treat.

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