August 22, 2014

The Crap Cycle

You know the routine.  You go to bed Sunday evening with a mind brim-full of ideas, itching to get up the next morning and write.  On Monday you roll out of bed and sit down at the computer; you've got an hour, maybe several, and you're ready to go - until you open up the document and try to start.  And then everything is awful.  You struggle through a paragraph or two and move on, frustrated, to something else.  Everything is crap!  Your writing is rubbish!  This story is nonsense!  The characters are stupid!  You will never write anything as good as your last book (or chapter)!  You should just give up now!

But on Tuesday you try again and the story flows better; you've got over that trying bit of dialogue or description and feel like you've found your rhythm.  Things are great!  You love this story!  These characters are the bomb!  You're the top!  You're the Colosseum!

And then Wednesday?  Boom!

Crap again.

In case you couldn't tell, this cycle happens to me quite a lot - especially when, as with the past several weeks, I'm given the mixed blessing of plenty of writing time.  The ratio of good writing days to bad writing days seems skewed and you become frustrated with both the story and yourself, insecure about everything from the characters to that sentence you just wrote.  I've dubbed it the crap cycle, where the scene that sounded great yesterday sounds horrible today and you can't seem to heave the story out of the rut it's inexplicably fallen into.  There are plenty of blog posts out there to encourage you through this artistic slough, to pump you up and get you running again, but I would like to point out one thing:

the crap cycle
is a good thing

The days when we feel like our writing is rubbish and we're forced to evaluate our work through somewhat jaded eyes are good and necessary parts of the process.  We need to maintain a healthy cynicism, a recurring recognition that we are always capable of doing better.  If all we're doing is gleefully throwing out words, happy with everything we write, never suffering from the frustration of not achieving all we have in our hearts to achieve - then maybe our goals are too low.  Maybe our desires aren't big enough.  Maybe we need to step back and reevaluate, and then step forward again and try harder.

a little perfectionism
is a good thing

We do need to write fearlessly.  We need to ignore the editor side of us.  But not all the time.  Execution is as important as the idea.  We should take time to make our sentences ring true, our dialogue cohesive, our descriptions interwoven and spot-on.  If we leave everything until the editing process, I do not believe our finished product will be as good - as finished  - as it could be.  Allow yourself time to concentrate on making what you write solid, and the work of polishing, the punch-list at the end of the job, will be that much easier for it.

is not pessimism

All things in moderation.  Both of these principles can be taken to extremes: we can obsess too much over details, spending so much effort rewriting yesterday's work that we never get to today's, and we can become negative. Remember to forge ahead.  When you've finally gotten through a tough bit, give yourself a pat on the back and move forward; don't go back and fret over it again.  Never let your recognition that improvement is always possible become warped into an attitude of depression, envy, or defeatism.  Rather, let it spur you on to better things.  Enjoy the times when you are the top, and remember that the times on the bottom are there to keep us humble and still striving.


  1. This was exactly what I needed, Abigail, and you've pounded the issue so well! I'm excited to get to my writing tommorow - of course, once I start this could be different, but...;)
    Today was not what I wanted it to be writing-wise, and it came to the point I had to put aside the one paragraph I'd written and just do something else. I think those days are necessary too - like you mentioned in a letter, I believe - because we need breaks to refresh the fountain of inspiration.
    ...and then we keep pressing on. :)

    1. I don't agree with the write-every-day, push-on-whatever-the-cost, climb-every-mountain mentality. Sometimes breaks are indispensable. But then, as you say, we have to return to our work.

      ...and now I'm mentally playing "Eye of the Tiger" as a kind of life soundtrack.

  2. This is such a great reminder! Thank you for this!

  3. Can I just have this playing on loop through my brain as I finish my novel?
    You hit the nail on the head. SO stinkin' encouraging and just what I needed.
    Now to turn off the WiFi and just write through today's crap cycle!

    1. "Fight! WIN! ...And call me when you get back. I enjoy our chats." Hope this post helped inspire you through the day's crap cycle!

  4. Thank you for posting this. It is exactly what I needed today.

    1. I'm sorry you needed it. I don't like needing posts like this. But if it helped, I'm glad for that!

  5. I definitely know what crap-cycle feels like! It is a bit disturbing seeing the seesaw of my emotions in regard to my artistic judgments. But of course, now that you've given it a proper name and all, I feel like I am doing things right after all. . . ;) *grins* Your post reminded me of a quote I saw on Pinterest the other day about writers, which really fits in with the theme of what you're speaking of.

    "I think it’s fairly common for writers to be afflicted with two simultaneous yet contradictory delusions, the burning certainty that we’re unique geniuses, and the constant fear that we’re witless frauds who are speeding toward epic failure." -Scott Lynch

    I am glad you've been able to fit writing in lately, Abigail =). . . coming back from my trip to England, I have been feeling so writing-starved, it felt amazing sitting down yesterday and just writing a few paragraphs. They weren't very good, generally; and were edits, specifically. . . but I still felt good about it. Now, if I open up my word-document, I know I will be sure to hate it and press "backspacebackspacebackspace. . . "

    This little post holds something important for me to remember.

  6. I need to print this post and keep it close at hand in my writing space! It's good to know other writers endure the cycle too. I definitely agree, that we need moderation as writers. It's something I've been learning in other areas of my life, but I hadn't thought of applying it to the writing cycle. Thanks for sharing! I really enjoy your blog, so I nominated you for an award on mine, here:
    Please don't feel any obligation to accept- I just wanted to let you know, I think you have a lovely site and a gift with words! I'm looking forward to reading more of your work. :)


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
find me elsewhere
take my button


Follow by Email

published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

Bookmarks In...

Search This Blog