When You Feel like Your Writing is Rubbish

Getting stuck, creativity, and perfectionism

Hi everyone,

It’s Kelly Eden, from Medium.

I’ve been a writer for 11 years now and sometimes the creative well runs a bit dry. I’ve had one of those weeks this week. It’s the end of the year and I’m tired. On top of that, I’ve had my very first trolls this week (you don’t get them writing for magazines!) and that sort of criticism can mean you over-analyse your writing and get stuck. Over-analysing is not creativity inducing at all! (If any of you have tips for dealing with trolls, by the way, I’d really appreciate hearing them!)

I find when the well runs dry I need to do two things: 

1) Refill it! It’s pretty obvious isn’t it, but we often forget to feed our minds as writers and push ourselves to produce as much as we can. I find listening to a podcast or watching a talk in a completely different field to my own is often very inspiring. It opens up your mind to other points of view, experiences, and ideas, and it’s a great way to unlock our creativity. I’m a parenting and “writing tips” writer mostly (some other stuff too at times) but I often listen to economics podcasts, Tedtalks about technology or social issues, or watch Great Big Stories to get inspired.

Here’s a fascinating Tedtalk I saw last week about how cultural norms and politeness silence Indian women.

Here’s a Great Big Story about two friends with disabilities making change in their community that I absolutely love.

2) The second thing I do is shake up my creativity. We can get into a flatline with the same niche over and over. So I enter a short story comp and write fiction, or try a completely different niche or style—even poetry! It gets things moving again. 

Here’s a short story competition you could try: Reedsy Contests

The other thing that might help is something I read recently—that when you have success, even a small amount, it can actually stunt creativity. You see people enjoying (or hating) your work and it piles in the pressure—what if that’s the best thing you ever write?

If this happens, it helps to stop thinking about the big crowd and write for one person. Write for your friend. Write for one reader that asked a question. Write for just one and it might feel more like you’re just having a simple conversation rather than putting on a big show.

For those of you ready to start using the pitching template I created for you last week, check out the article from Samantha Bookman, ex managing editor. She’s written a fantastic story about pitching to niche markets: Editors Don’t Need Perfect Writers, Just Reliable Ones. It might give you a bit more confidence to get that pitch emailed off!

If you didn’t see the pitching template here it is again:

How to Pitch Your Article to an Editor (Medium Members)

How to Pitch Your Article to an Editor (non members)