Niko Staten asked: “I read other writers' work and mine is just...such shit. Publishing a book seems more like a dream than ever before. How do you keep...going even when it seems pointless? Advice please, O' Wisest of Ones.”
To start off with something shocking in response...are you ready?
YOU KEEP GOING.
That is the secret to everything, writing included. You keep going even when you don't feel like it. You keep going when the wrinkles of your heart go stale and all the snowflakes of the world can't cheer you up. You keep going when it seems to you like all you're doing is treading water in a rusty bucket and upon looking closer see that it is liquid shit and it stinks and your feet are something of an alien nature and your conscience is nibbling on the edges of your brain and you think you forgot to send a Christmas card to your grandmother who for some reason decided to die on you before you did that and this blog post is being written by a half-delirious writer who hasn't been sleeping much so forgive me the imagery and let's return to the very important topic of our discussion, namely, how do you keep going when you think your writing is total and utter shit?
There are several things you can do. I'll list to you the ones that work for me. Try them on, see what happens.
1. Create a routine.
You're less likely to wiggle out of writing (in those moments when you think you suck and it sucks and everything in the world sucks and you want to strangle the sky just for the hell of it) if you actually have a routine that you can train your body to stick to. Your body is dumb. I mean, at first it isn't, because it thinks it's the boss of you, but you can easily trick it. So, you can read more about my routine here, but it can be anything. A cup of coffee. A special set of fluffy pajamas that make you look like a shaved bear. A special place to write that you can huddle in, like under the stairs to the attic where you hide the heads of your readers after your boiled them clean and now they're skulls and you painted them with golden daisies. Things like that. Maybe you have a pet shark that keeps you company, or maybe you feel good by yelling at people from your window after you throw rotten eggs on their heads. Whatever is your fancy. I'll tell you a secret, I stand on my head before I start writing. Every day. For real.
2. Have a support admirer.
So, my poor boyfriend is my punching bag and my pillow and my total admirer who always tells me that my writing is great, even when it isn't. It goes like this:
I show up downstairs (because upstairs in our bedroom is where I write). I look all sullen and I don't say anything and go straight for the coffee pot.
He says: "What's wrong?"
I go: "Nothing."
He says: "No, what's wrong?"
I go: "Oh, it's nothing."
We go like this back and forth until I finally admit that I think my writing is shit and I want to quit and never try writing books again and what the hell was I thinking, how could I possible write books and blah-blah-blah. Then it goes like this.
Me: "My writing is shit."
He: "You're writing is not shit."
Me: "Yes, it is."
He: "No, it isn't."
You can imagine the rest. Ultimately I stop whining and apologize or simply realize that I'm either tired or hungry or have seen some super smart tweets from some super awesome writers or have read some super awesome book and I will never write like this, and, well, after a while I stop and start believing him, and the reason I'm telling you all this is that you need someone in your life with faith in your work otherwise you will end up running at walls and walls are very sucky listeners and supporters. So.
FIND THOSE PEOPLE.
It could be your mom. It could be a friend. It could be your other (better?) half. It could be your kids! When I published ROSEHEAD and when my son read it, he said he loved it so much, and that carried me through the whole week of writing, I swear. If you have nobody else, it could be me. I will always tell you that you're awesome and your writing is awesome, if you send me cookies and pet ponies and say abracadabra three times and, well, not so much here but on Twitter every day for sure. If I don't do it, poke me, tell me you need me to say that your writing is not shit and I will.
3. Don't worry about the future.
This is the hardest lesson I had to learn on my own and it made my skin as pink as that of a boiled frog so instead of repeating my mistakes by jumping into the pot of scalding water, why don't you learn from me and just do what I say? This is what you do.
Stop worrying about everything. Stop worrying about what will happen. Will anyone read my books? Will anyone like them? Will anyone buy them? Will my mom call me and tell me I'm a genius? Will my dad send me a pistol to put to my head? Will I have to forever hide from my friends in an opium den and will my face slide off my head from shame and embarrassment at the atrocious and absolutely abominable quality of my prose?
Put it out of your head!
If you keep thinking about the big important things, you will forget to do the very small important thing at hand, namely, writing. All you have to do is think about your next sentence. That is all. Got it? Repeat after me.
ALL I HAVE TO DO IS THINK ABOUT MY NEXT SENTENCE.
Got it? Good. Now print it out and put it up all over your house and if your nosy relatives start asking stupid questions on why those strange yellowed and stained with tears and blood pieces of paper are plastered all over Auntie Sarah's antique commode, you tell them to piss off and mind their own business. Because you've got a novel to write and it takes precedent over some silly piece of furniture.
That'a all there is to writing. Not whole books, not even pages. It's sentences, those strings of words we writers like to form and mull over in our heads every day. You do that, don't you? You string whole dialogues of them. But ultimately, it comes to sentences.
This is what you do to keep going even when you think your writing is shit.
1. You create a routine.
2. You get a support admirer.
3. You stop worrying about the future and think about your next sentence instead.
If you have any more tips, go ahead and share for our benefit.