by Elizabeth Wong
We writers have to deal with things a lot of normal people don’t have to worry about. While others have health complications that are mostly physiological, our crazy minds tend to make up some other issues for us to deal with, and most of the time, a doctor won’t help.
Writers have a lot of unique diseases — thoughtitis (formerly known as “writer’s block”), fanepnea (“fangirl/boying so much over something that I can’t even write my own story right now”), excimea (the urge of wanting to start a new story already despite having ten others waiting to be finished), Amafic’s Disease (the action of falling in love with a fictional character), and AHPPTMSQPDLPS (Anti-Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia Syndrome, or the addiction of using overly and unnecessarily long words) — to name a few.
Yes, we’ve certainly got life hard.
Today, I’d like to write about a specific condition that all writers have struggled with at one point. If you’ve written anything before, you know exactly how it feels. It’s that crippling disease that erodes all rational thought until you’re left with nothing but panic; it’s that awful feeling in your gut as you stare at your work with absolute loathing. It is, yes, possibly one of our worst enemies as we face our characters in our twentieth attempt to get them to cooperate with us. It’s… writerosis. Non-fake-medical term? Writer doubt.
Uh-oh, things just got serious.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s that moment a few days after you write that stunning story or essay, that moment when you open the page again to re-read your work of genius…
And you throw it on the ground.
Stomp on it a few times, just to be sure.
Then you swear that you’ll never write anything again, because your best efforts are, at best, a piece of garbage. The end. The writer did not live happily ever after; the writer tried (and failed) to write a good happily ever after but didn’t get it right.
And No One Lived Happily Ever After.
…Oh, but wait. There’s more.
Alright, you depressed writer, let me tell you something: we’ve all gone through that before. All? Well, yes, all. We’ve all had those perfectionistic moments where we’ve wanted to quit because all we can see is how awful this story is. We’ve all wondered how anyone could possibly read through this without thinking the same. But you still have a story to tell, and encouragingly/sadly enough, I can guarantee that there’s always going to be something worse out there than this supposed bit of trash on your desk. All you need to do is keep plugging away and fight off that doubt.
Glad you asked! After long consideration as I struggled with my own writing problems, I managed to procrastinate enough in everything else that needs to get done just so I could write this post. And I came up with a list of some all-natural, easy-to-follow home remedies for writerosis:
1. Breaks. Yeah, there are always people who tell you that you should keep writing no matter how bad your piece turns out to be, but face it: you ain’t Superman. There are times when you just need to back off from your project and give it a break before coming back to it. Give your characters and your brain a rest; stop thinking about it for a while, then re-read what you have for a fresh perspective.
2. Readers. It’s a terrifying thing to share your writing with others, but if you haven’t already, you should try to get others to read your work for you and give you feedback. You might think your writing is terrible; but if your friend that you respect is telling you that it’s actually good, that might just be the push of encouragement that you need to keep going. Readers can also point out things that might be confusing or weird that you as the writer don’t notice; they’re always worth having around.
3. New inspiration. Maybe your story just feels too old and stale. What if you threw in a twist? Read other books to try to spark ideas, or research topics related to your story to see if you get any inspiration. Talk through your story’s problems to a friend or even aloud to yourself to see what can be fixed or changed.
4. Editors. I can’t believe I just added this, but editors are also a very real option for when you feel your story is just too… bleh. (That’s another writer-specific medical term; I might define it later.) Problem is, most of us aren’t serious enough about our writing to actually hire a legit editor, but who says an editor has to be professional? You can ask a teacher, a parent, or even a friend to help you edit your work. They add a new perspective and can help you figure out some of the kinks that you couldn’t work out on your own. Honestly, writing isn’t something you should be doing alone.
5. Planning ahead. Of course, if you’ve already started writing your story, there isn’t much you can do about this — but for future projects, try to plan out your story more thoroughly. Have a general idea of what’s going to happen and when so that your story doesn’t slowly veer off-course without you noticing. Stick mostly to your initial plan, but if you move faster/slower than you originally thought, give yourself the freedom to adjust the outline if something turns out to be different than what you planned. This won’t help much once you’ve already started your story, but it may help to prevent future writerosis.
6. Blind eyes. After trying all the above, if you still feel awful about your story, sometimes you just have to turn a blind eye to every bad part in your story. Let the mistakes pass. Uh….did this perfectionist really just type that? Yup, because sometimes you just have to finish your story just for the sake of finishing it. It’s not uncommon to look back later and find that your project isn’t half as awful as you thought when you finished; for now, keep plugging away until the very end instead of simply quitting.
These are my life tips on dealing with writerosis! If you’ve got other tips, let’s hear them. If these don’t work, I hear candy is also an effective remedy.
Alternately titled Writerosis.
Guest post contributed by Elisabeth Wong. Elisabeth originally created her blog for a creative writing class and continues to pour out her thoughts from there. She also goes by 时慧 and 雪（ゆき).