Dislike Your Writing? Me Too.

English: the conflict of writing for man or ma...

I’ve been writing all my life, and it’s been a long one. My books have been published by major houses and they’ve crossed genres. My articles and short stories have been well received. Yes, I’ve earned money from my writing. But there’s still one, very big problem: I don’t like my writing. In fact, I just can’t go back to read something I’ve written and keep my brain in a steady state.

This is a personal issue, I suppose. I don’t think too many other writers are this distressed with their work. There’s no good, objective explanation. No known diagnosis that works. My reviews have been good and my writing has opened many doors of opportunity that I never anticipated. It should all be perfect but, at the end of the day, I’m still dissatisfied. I have an itchy bug that I chase every day. That bug refuses to die.

It gets even worse.

I can’t talk to anyone about my writing without becoming embarrassed. My family and close friends know this, so they just don’t talk to me about my writing. I’ve even changed residences because of my writing when I felt that I was losing too much privacy in my life. I do whatever it takes to avoid the subject, right down to flatly denying that I write at all. Everyone close to me has been trained to avoid the subject.

But, I’m lying to myself and to them. Secretly, I want people to read my words. In my heart, I feel good when something I’ve written moves a reader, makes him or her pause for a moment, think, get a good chuckle. Of course, I deny this to everyone. Well, almost everyone. My wife knows about my secret and she honors it. I suppose she puts up with lots of strange stuff, living with a writer. Anyway, I know that my secret is safe with her. But what about the rest of the world?

Now, I’m outing myself, just a little. OK, I don’t like my writing. OK, I still want someone, somewhere to read my words. I guess that I just don’t want to know about it in the traditional way. This is all too schizophrenic for my taste. I want my cake, I want to eat it, and then I throw it all back up.

It may come down to an evil mind trick that I’m playing on myself. It may all come down to tension. It’s mostly unconscious, I think. I carry around this dark critic that whispers, “Your writing is absolute doo-doo, so go find something else to do with your life.” Another part of my brain won’t let me stop writing, no matter how hard I try to find some other way. So, there’s a war going on. Write. Don’t write. Do better. It’s all crap. Get a real life!

Geez. What a drag! This has been going on for nearly 50 years now. Enough!

Since I’ve gone this far, I might as well spill the whole story. I need this tension. I need this kind of insecurity. If I was really satisfied with something I wrote, just one thing, I’m afraid I would stop writing on the spot. That would be the summit and I could sit back and say, “Wow! That was great.” If that happened, what would come next?

I suppose this whole schizophrenic approach to writing is my way of keeping motivated, of staying in the game. Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass. But, it keeps me writing and that’s what I enjoy. It’s both the curse and the blessing of my writing life. It’s the fuel for the engine, the tension for the rubber band in my mind.

I don’t like this article very much but I’m going to publish it anyway. Then I’ll never read it again.

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24 thoughts on “Dislike Your Writing? Me Too.

  1. I’m not good enough to systematically dislike my writing but in the days when I was very active on the piano, I didn’t like my music. I could hear everything that was wrong with. I was told that this is felt even by the very best virtuosos. So yes, it’s a drag and a pain in the ass. My commiserations, Michael. I’m sure Gregor thinks so too.

    • Gregor frets about everything, you know. He’s a pain in the ass. Anyway, I hear ya. I suppose artists (other than writers) also feel this way a good deal of the time. It must be the ham in the sandwich. Thank you.

  2. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever gone as far as to not like my writing, but I don’t think I’ve ever been truly satisfied with it. I don’t think any writer ever really is though. I’m not a published author like you, but I hope to be at some point. I enjoyed your article. I think it speaks to the inner struggle that most authors have.

  3. Michael … whaaaaat!!!!! I have news for you … if you once wrote one thing that you absolutely loved guess what would happen? You would be satisfied for about … ooo, 12 hours.

    Then the writer’s worm (which all writers have) would start to burrow in your mind again and you would have to write something. Simple. Even writers who love the work they produce can never sit back and say ‘enough’.

    Writers write … it’s what we do, most days if not everyday. It is a compulsion, nothing rational or sane about it.

    Ah, I think that is where you are going wrong … you think we’re sane. x

  4. It’s a darn good thing that what we (writers) think of our work doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. I promise that in all future comments I will never refer to anything you have written – though you will know I have read your stuff and liked it because why else would I comment? I will use all comment space to talk about myself – how does that sound? Last night I started to read the latest draft of The Light Never Lies and guess what? It was total crap. Just saying.

  5. I think you’re right with the doo-doo theory. It’s the old “I’m a total fraud” thing, which I do believe all (or certainly most) writers suffer from. Yet… we overcome that feeling and keep cranking out the crap!

  6. Today, Francis Guenette read my blog post and in the comment section, she left a link to this post. I’m so happy that she did. Michael, I think you might be my long lost brother. 🙂 Each word you wrote in this post resonates with me. I actually found comfort while reading this. I know you don’t read your posts ever again, but I hope you read your comments. Thank you for your honesty.

  7. Was having a really, really bad writing day until your post popped up in my email (divine intervention??). I came across these lines and laughed until I almost cried: “I do whatever it takes to avoid the subject, right down to flatly denying that I write at all. Everyone close to me has been trained to avoid the subject.”
    Thanks so much for making a crummy day a little less crummy.

  8. Hey Michael, now I see why you first popped over to my blog when I posted my “So what if I’m feeling like a failure” line! We’re in good company, my dear. Beethoven hated some of his symphonies, Cezanne never thought he got his paintings right, and Nureyev was convinced he couldn’t dance. But that old creativity demon, no matter the form, won’t let us get away with not sacrificing our souls to feed its delights. More power to you, to us. “Write on!” as Shakespeare once said (though he used the more familiar 60s “Right on!” back in his day.) Love your stuff, Michael, all of it–words, thoughts, fears, doubts, passions…

    • Thanks for your kind words. I was surprised at the feedback this article generated, that so many of us are caught in the same web. Nice to know that you can always be surprised no matter your geezer status.

  9. I started writing at an early age and then stopped because I could never go back to whatever I had written… I thought I was the only one that had that strange feeling about one’s own work. Some 20 years later I have started writing again and I’ve learnt not to be that harsh on myself.
    Glad to read I was not so strange after all. 🙂

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