Shitty Writing? Calm Down. Zoom Out.

broken mirror

Looking for depth in your story while you’re working on it feels a lot like walking through a room full of mirrors.

An idea presents itself, but the wording is bombastic and overwrought, stretching and thinning the meaning. Other ideas get squashed and condensed so much that they’re short, round little things that don’t capture your attention.

Other mirrors are closer to the truth, and you generally agree (nice hair, reflection!) but there’s some bit of personal resonance missing (my ass isn’t that fat!).

The search for meaning and resonance — depth — has everything to do with perception and reaction. In other words, how you interpret information, and what you do about it.

If there’s a big sign on the door that says “Hall of Mirrors,” you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re in for. Reflective surfaces. Light bending back at you. Take a step back and look at the context. Are you at a carnival, or touring Versailles? To take a further step back, how do you feel at that present moment? That will give you a good indication of whether the experience you’re diving into will be fun, terrible, or a waste of time.

By zooming out and looking at the big picture, you can build your plan of attack. Zillions of things affect your perception, and your perception affects your writing. The words on the page are the details. That’s max-zoom, and you’ll never fix it if you’re not on your game. If your writing sucks, check your perception.

Writing requires being in the right head spaces and yes, sometimes it’s too hard to get there. When your mood and your perceptions are out of alignment with what you’re trying to do, your words will come out squashed and distorted. Like a fat ass in a mirror, distorted writing will make you doubt yourself.

Don’t worry, don’t get frustrated, and don’t crumple it up quite yet. Smash through that distorted mirror. When you’re done taping up your hand, take a moment and set your intentions into alignment with your head space. Go from there. Push on through and keep writing. There’s always another page.

He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that–it didn’t work.”
― Gary Paulsen, “Hatchet”

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.”
― Edwin Louis Cole

How do you pull yourself out of your writing slump? Leave a message in the comments.

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