When reading puts you off writing 

I read a great book recently. A debut novel that made me think Wow! I was blown away. It wasn’t just the sublime writing, it was the story itself and the characters who had totally drawn me into their world over those few days. Reading it made me doubt my own abilities as a writer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not throwing the toys out of the cot and giving up. It’s just one of many adjustments my writer’s psyche will need as I continue to learn the craft. I understand that the author has been working hard on his novel for years – much longer than I have. He would have had the help of professional editors to make his novel the best possible published version it can be. But still, he had a brilliant story. And obviously, a natural talent to begin with.

I don’t want to look at my manuscript right now. Maybe I’m just experiencing a type of procrastination other writers know all to well about. I’m flummoxed, because normally I’m inspired to write when I fall deeply for a book. Maybe it’s just the intense work I’ve been doing on my own manuscript over the past few months and all we need is a little time out from each other. Time to process what it is about that other book I most want to emulate and to think how I can tweak my wip accordingly.

The good news is that I wrote a short story for a writer’s group in-house writing competition yesterday with no trouble whatsoever. After coming up with a killer concept the words flew out. Beginning, middle and end. Backstory, twist, intrigue. All tied together in a neat little package that I can’t wait to submit this week. So, all is not lost.

About my full length manuscript, I do know one thing. I’m determined to finish it, even if it’s destined to live out its days in the bottom drawer, or at the bottom of a rejection pile. I refuse to leave a trail of unfinished projects in my wake.

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My own writing will get there. One day…

41 thoughts on “When reading puts you off writing 

  1. I totally get this. This happens to me when I read a really good book. I think ‘pfft, what’s the point when there are so many really good writers out there’. Keep at it; one day someone will read YOUR book and say ‘damn, she rites so well it puts me off’!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mohamad! That’s true – it’s not just authors, everyone compares themselves to each other at some time. You even see it when you hang around at the school gate at pick up time! Thanks for your good wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel this sometimes too. But that author who impressed you so much probably felt the same while reading someone else’s book!
    South doubt it is the biggest killer of creativity. Try to believe in yourself and keep going ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. That’s a very inspiring thought – that even the best writers admire the work of others. I’m giving myself a few days to process, then back into the manuscript on Monday with a renewed sense of direction. Thanks for your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, yes and yes. Me too. I read a short story on the weekend (A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor) that made me just want to throw in the towel. Everything I write seems so primitive and facile in comparison.
    But I read somewhere that we should only ever compare ourselves to how we were last year, or the year before that. And I’m encouraged, because even though I’m no Flannery O’Connor, I’m slowly improving.
    We’re all with you, feeling the same doubts. Hope you push yours aside and go on anyway, when you’re ready. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point Fiona! Thank you! In all of this I hadn’t thought to compare myself to the writer I was a year ago, which is a huge difference! Thank you for reminding me of that and best wishes for your own writing journey too! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s like you’ve ready mind Marie. I read something on Twitter today that completely disheartened me about an integral plot point and I honestly felt like giving the whole thing up and trying something new. BUT, I know I can’t leave it unfinished. I am determined to get through this last rewrite and if it doesn’t go any further, at least I’ll know I finished it. Keep at it Marie, if the story is there the rest will follow x

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  5. I can totally relate to this, Marie. Self-doubt about my abilities as a writer follows me around most days…but we won’t let that niggling voice of fear hold us back. Love your determination and if you keep that up, you will no doubt get there.
    Good luck with the short story submission!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Suzi! I wonder if the self doubt ever stops? Probably not – as we keep aiming higher & higher. Thank goodness for determination, and the support from others who experience similar feelings. Thanks!

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  6. Appreciating the quality of other people’s writing is vital to our own growth as writers, in my opinion.Thanks for sharing your thoughts — and I’m so glad you’ve ended up feeling inspired rather than intimidated.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Maureen. I couldn’t agree more! I’m reading the book again (to my son) : it’s the first time I’ve read the same book twice in succession and it’s crystallising what it was that flummoxed me. I’ll remember to re-read a book if this happens again!
      Thanks for your support x

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    • Thanks Louise. Fiona’s advice was great – I hadn’t thought of looking at it like that, even though I’ve seen hundreds of memes to that effect over the past year.
      If it’s not my current wip that gets published, the next one might! X

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was reading your blog and discovered this post and felt I needed to reply! I think I’m the author whose work you read, but if I’m not I think I can still speak to this!

    I can safely tell you that the feeling you describe never ever leaves. Well maybe it does when you’re old and curmudgeony. But so far, for me, I still experience this. Right before my book came out I read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and I just thought: eep! My book doesn’t go to those depths! My book is not as rich! My ending isn’t as punchy! And so on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Ben! Yes – it was your book I read that sent me into a little spin. And it’s just as good second time around as I read it to my son. It’s interesting to see his reactions (he reacts mostly to the dialogue – especially the father’s), and it’s been easy to hook him into the book using the ‘wait and see’ response when he asks, ‘why is the dad’s hand like that?’, ‘why do they need a dog?’ etc. We haven’t got to the whaling station yet, so that will be interesting.
      Thank you for your comments. It’s been so reassuring to learn this is such a common feeling, and that writers I admire go through it too. I’m sure the desire to emulate helps us get better at our own work, provided we don’t give up along the way.
      Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. I’ve recently read The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey and Wimmera by Mark Brandi. Both debut novels. Both amazing. Then I read the first draft of my WIP. Hmmm.
      But we will get there! We will get there.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Haha. Sorry, wasn’t quite finished. On a school bus trip and phone is jumping all over!

    Anyway, I know this feeling will always be there, no matter what happens. In a way it’s good; it indicates a deep desire to create the best thing possible. But I think it also stems from self doubt. As long as you don’t let it rule you, and discount yourself from trying before you start, then you’ve kept it in check.

    Also To Become was the fifth book I’ve written. I went through all the hopes and dreams and the slow death of those dreams on every one of those. The author’s talent stems from their persistence I tell you what. Like a purifying fire the trials of rejection will allow the good – those who truly care – to rise to the top. Just stick with it, in other words. And I look forward to reading your book one day!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can completely relate to this Marie! There are times i read a great book and think, i could write something like this one day… and then i can read a good book and feel completely hopeless! Keep at it though, your hard work will pay off one day. Just as it did for that author you admire 😉

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  10. Marie,
    Here’s an article to inspire you to just do it!
    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/your-money/free-yourself-of-your-harshest-critic-and-plow-ahead.html

    If I’m reading Steinbeck, I may feel that I have NO talent. If I’m reading Ephron, I feel inspired. This isn’t a statement about their talent. It’s more a statement about their writing style. I’ve got a voice and it’s never going to be Steinbeck, but I can reach for Ephron.

    Best to you

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I completely agree! (I actually wrote a post about this feeling too.) I love reading different books, but they also make me nervous about my novel. Sometimes I’m inspired to write more and other times I want to never see my book again. It’s a bitter sweet.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I had that feeling early on, although it was less despair, more in the way of envy, when I read books I truly admired in my genre. I always believed, though, that if I kept going, kept getting feedback, kept at it, one day my book would get out there in the world if I put in the effort ( the money it cost! manuscript assessments, etc, etc). It was an endless process and I would have given up and started something else if I hadn’t had such positive feedback on it. Might be worth polishing up yout novel, after you have given it a breather and are feeling inspired again, and then give it to some professional assessors in your genre, who can give an honest opinion. You might be pleasantly surprised!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your advice, Elizabeth. I agree – keep on going and seek some professional advice when the time’s right. I’ve had good feedback from several read throughs at my writing group, so I’m on the right track. It’s just going to take time and effort!
      Thanks for your support! X

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