What to Do When Your Writing Sucks: Overcoming Negative Thoughts

As a writer, you’re your own worst critic. You put yourself out there, leaving yourself completely vulnerable. It makes sense that we want our work to be the best it can be. But, being your own worst critic, it’s easy to let that voice in your head get the best of you and convince you that your writing sucks.

As someone who deals with that angry voice constantly, I know how difficult it can be, especially when writing. Over the years, I’ve found a few tricks to help silence that negative voice, at least for a little while. Let’s get started!

Remind Yourself This is for You

The negative voice is usually the worst when you’re in the early stages of writing. And, since you’re focusing on trying to put words on a paper in a semi-coherent way that resembles something of a narrative arc that at least one person will like, it’s an easy opening for the mean voice to tell you your writing sucks.

Chances are you’ll have lots of blanks in your first draft. Mine is full of blank lines where names and places should go that haven’t been fully fleshed out yet and even more notes to put some types of action between dialogue.

Your first draft is rough. It’s going to be terrible. And that’s okay.

The first draft is only for you. It’s for you to simply take the abstract thought of your poem, script, or story and put it in a concrete form. It will never be perfect, and that’s not the point of it. So, when you re-read something you wrote and think that an illiterate elephant could write a better sentence than you did, remind yourself that it doesn’t matter. The first draft is for you and you alone.

What to Do When Your Writing Sucks: Look Back at How Far You’ve Come

While this isn’t the most minimalist method, I recommend keeping all your novel drafts. This way, you can look back at how far your story has come since you first put pen to paper. Now, I’m the type of person who prefers to handwrite my first few drafts, so I have physical copies of my early-stage drafts before I eventually transitioning to electronic copies once we’re getting close to publication-ready.

Each story has its own binder with every draft inside. Then, the binders are filed away onto their own shelf.

If you’re the type of person who does everything electronically, consider creating a new document each time you work on a draft. This way, you can still look back at how far you’ve come.

Another great thing about looking back on your previous work is seeing how much your skills have improved over time. I’ve already published two books, wrote two books that are sitting in my editing queue, and am now getting a third book ready for publication.

I don’t say this to brag but to simply prove a point. Looking back at the first draft I ever wrote five years ago, I can genuinely say that my writing sucked. Writing 500 words per chapter and leaving major plot points while writing he said/she said every two minutes made me want to rip it up and burn the evidence.

Now, I can say that my most recent first draft actually resembles some sort of story. Sure, it’s still full of blanks and notes to myself of things that need to be added/removed in the next draft, but going from my first draft to my second draft no longer requires a complete re-write. Instead, it’s more like a 75% re-write…which I feel is quite good.

Take a Break

If you’ve tried silencing the voice by telling yourself the first few drafts are supposed to be rough and you’ve tried looking back but are still feeling discouraged about your work, consider taking a short break from the piece you’re working on.

I’ve found that sometimes working on a side project helps clear my head, allowing me to return with renewed energy. Consider workshopping a new character you hope to use in a future piece, or you can switch gears entirely by starting a new piece in a completely different genre.

By taking a break to work on something else, you’re unplugging from your story while still working on the craft. After all, practice makes perfect, so try your best to write every single day.

Turn Off The Mean Voice Today: Overcoming Negative Thoughts for Good

It’s easy to get in your head as a writer and convince yourself that whatever you’re writing is garbage. But that’s not true. It’s okay to be your own worst critic while still maintaining positive thoughts as a writer. Thanks to these three tactics for overcoming negative thoughts when you think your writing sucks, you can complete the first, second, or even tenth draft with more confidence.

What are you waiting for? Use these tactics to silence that negative voice once and for all, starting with your next writing session!

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