I'm in the middle of writing my latest novel and I hate my writing. Loathe it, in fact. I don't want to come back to it on a daily basis. At this point, I'd rather just abandon the project or start over from scratch.
Have you ever felt this way?
I'm betting you have.
And I'm here to tell you that's okay!
All writers hate their work
If you're feeling like throwing those pages into a deep well, hold up.
All writers hate their work at some point. You can hate it when you're a novice and you can hate it when you're experienced. There are different reasons for both, and sometimes it's not just that you're having a bad day.
If you're a novice who hates your work…
When you're just starting out, there's this gap between what you're producing and what you want to produce. You'll look at your work and think you're just awful and you don't come anywhere near the quality of writing put out by the authors you love.
You think, I hate my writing. You'll be tempted to give up. You'll think you'll never get better.
Ira Glass has an amazing quote about this part of your creative career:
“For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit.”
If you're at this point in your career and that's why you hate your work, know this: You're enough of a writer right now to recognize good work. And that means there's hope. That means you can improve.
Realize that most writers take years to become decent at telling a story. Forgive yourself for what you perceive as “failing” and keep trying. You will improve.
If you're an experienced writer who hates your work…
Take a breath. It's completely normal to want to trash your stories. Right now, I would love nothing more than to nuke my book. It's a good thing it's not printed or those pages would be burning in my fire pit while I celebrate the death of all my characters and my horrible writing.
The thing is this happens to me every time I write a book. And most times when I'm working on a longer short story.
I've discovered there are a few reasons this might be happening:
I'm tired. I've been trying to race through this current book quicker than I normally write. It's exhausting and frustrating and sometimes makes me want to cry. I keep doing it though because I understand the value of finishing.
Self-doubt is rearing its ugly head and I'm letting it take over. Which is a huge no-no. If this is you, eat some ice cream and wallow in self-pity for a day and then get back to writing. Again, finishing is the important part.
Something's not working and my subconscious knows it. This is where I fear I'm at right now and I just can't put my finger on the problem. Since I'm on my first draft though, I'll keep chugging along and try to keep the stakes as high as I can. Then I'll worry about structure in the second draft.
I'm bored. If you've planned a novel to any extent, you already know how it ends and what happens next. You already know the story. Why would you want to slog through it again? Answer: Because it's not written until it's actually written.
Most of the time these feelings are temporary. So skip the bonfire and keep adding words. You'll eventually have a day where you'll swear you're a genius.
Hating your work isn't a bad thing
When I first started writing I loved everything I wrote. I didn't edit (other than for typos) because I thought the story came out of me perfectly.
Oh, how ridiculous I was.
I got rejection after rejection. My friends and family would smile and say, “Sure, I like it,” even though they didn't. My ego ruled. And my writing suffered.
A little hate for your work can be healthy. It causes you to pay attention, to analyze, and to stay humble enough to realize you need more than one draft (or three . . . or twenty). It causes you to strive to be better.
And it makes the days you don't hate it that much sweeter.
I'm just going to say it: You might never love your work.
You might be proud of your success, be happy to be published, be motivated to write another story. And you might still hate everything you've ever produced.
(Pro tip: Don't re-read your stories after their published. Just celebrate the fact that they are indeed published.)
Hating your work is fine. It doesn't mean you're an awful writer. It doesn't mean you quit. Someone else will like your work. Be proud that you didn't give up and you finished.
Do you ever hate your writing? What do you do when that happens? Let me know in the comments!
Today, I want you to think of something you hate. Spiders, the cold, vegetables, people who record concerts on their phones (my personal favorite hate), whatever you like. Think about how much you hate it.
Now flip those feelings and take fifteen minutes to write about what you hate from the point of view of a character who loves it more than anything else in the world.
Share your writing in the comments and don't forget to comment on your fellow writers' work!
Sarah Gribble is the author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She just released Surviving Death, her first novel, and is currently working on her next book.