The Many Mental States of A Creative Project (and Handling Them!) (To Write And Have Written)

It’s really easy to get caught up in the emotional streams of creating, and that can be great — or destructive. Let’s talk through some common and predictable moods so we know they’re coming and know what to do with them.

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Transcript:

Hi. Welcome. Yeah. It’s Tuesday. This is to write and have written good evening.

Good morning. Good midday, good. Whatever. And yeah, I’m Laura VAB or Dunk BA. I still don’t have a catchphrase, which is going to be my catchphrase, I guess.

And we’re going to talk tonight about the many different mental phases of writing and creating the ones that you are going to encounter at some point in your writing career and the ones that you are going to encounter with every single project. And we’re going to talk about what to do, how to see them coming, how to handle them, and how to avoid letting them run your life to detriment because they’re just emotions and they’re predictable emotions. And we know they’re just going to run through their cycle and we just need to let them do their thing while we continue to make good decisions.

So with that in mind, let’s go ahead and hold on. Here we go.

Okay. And I need to preface this with I wrote this topic down. This topic actually went on the calendar. Oh, my gosh. Maybe even months ago.

Definitely weeks ago, possibly months ago.

I kept meaning to sit down and write out notes for tonight because there’s a lot that could be said on this topic, and I made poor life decisions. I really thought that once I got through November and got through Nano Rhino and got Cannon kind put to bed as a book, which it is and in fact, kind of did a soft launch today. So we’ll talk about that a little bit. But yeah, I thought, oh, then I will be caught up and I will be able to sit down and write up my notes for the show and do some other projects.

And I told two different people that I would beta read or edit or similarly read for reviews or things for people.

And no, that was a terrible prediction because I had other things going on. I’m still teaching KPA workshops, and I’m teaching two different KPA series simultaneously. So I had a workshop in one state last weekend and a workshop in another state this upcoming weekend and all the homework that the students are giving me for those. And what was I thinking?

So yeah, I’m still trying to get ahead of things after the stream tonight. I’m going to stay up very late grading homework and writing student assessments and all of those things. And then I will get back to more fun projects. So yeah, that’s where I am. But that’s why I don’t have a super organized collection of notes to just go through tonight.

And so we’re going to be kind of taking this a little bit as we go because I didn’t write a lot of notes, but I know what I want to talk about, and I’m definitely open for discussion. Like, you guys know the drill. Everything is open for discussion here, but do you want to talk about these because some of these people talk about on the regular and some of them I really haven’t seen discussed a lot in the writing community, and they’re real, and we need to know what to do with them.

Okay. Grace says you’re a Panther.

You’ll be fine. You’re not wrong. Also, I used to compete in improv speeches in high school, so there we go. Yay speech team. Okay.

So I guess the short version of this is we want to know the different phases that are normal and expected in a writing project or in a writing career so that they don’t unseat you. Even good ones can let you get. Oh, wow. That’s a lot of really happy Owls going on in the background. Hold on, guys.

Somewhere down there’s a lot of anything that’s too much emotion that can overwhelm. You can throw you off your groove and not just distress, but you stress as well. And so I’m not saying we shouldn’t be emotional. We shouldn’t have happy and all of those things. That is definitely not the take home message here.

But I do want you to know how to handle it. I want you to know what’s coming, and I want you to know what’s normal and how to handle it. Okay. So let’s start with a really fun one that everybody has experienced. And that is Shiny new project.

So I have a new idea. I’m about to launch into a new project and we all have experienced this and we see this all the time. I have a new idea. Maybe that’s all I have. Maybe I don’t have characters, maybe I don’t have a plot, maybe I don’t have anything more than a premise.

And maybe I just have a hint of a premise. But I have a new idea and it’s the best thing ever. And so I’m going to focus on this and get started. This is exciting, and it’s exciting for a lot of good reasons, and it is legitimately exciting, and you should have a good time with it. And nothing I’m about to say is going to change the fact that you should be good and have it.

Grace, the Shiny phase is awesome. Yes, exactly. Shiny Phase is really fun. That’s actually the problem is that Shiny Phase is awesome and really fun. And there’s a whole bunch of neurochemistry that goes into this.

But the short version is Shiny Phase is awesome and really, really fun. So when we start getting into I have a premise and we start trying to turn that into. I have a story. It becomes unawesome and unfun pretty quickly because instead of being just a shiny idea. And while it is vague when it’s a premise, even if you have a relatively detailed idea, it’s still an idea.

You have a relatively detailed idea that you can probably explain in a paragraph or two when you try to turn that into a novel, it’s going to take a lot more fleshing out. That’s fine. That’s all good. That’s how the system works, right? The problem is when I start having to translate that idea into an actual story.

While it’s vague, everything that’s unclear is perfect. When we start putting into a rough draft form, and rough drafts are, by the way, awful. That is why they are called rough drafts. They are not a finished product, which is why they are called first drafts.

Then it starts being unperfect like a lot in a hurry. Grace says 1 hour of Snowflake or bits of Snowflake. The shiny phase is great. Okay, but then as soon as we start having to realize, oh, darn it. That doesn’t actually work, because if he did this and she does that and I kind of say, oh, I got to fix this timeline issue or whatever, and it starts feeling less awesome.

This is where your brain starts. Okay, now it becomes work, and this is also a good phase. Like rough drafts can be really fun as well, but it also starts feeling a lot more like work where people get into trouble is they’re struggling because their rough draft is hard and it’s ugly because it’s a rough draft and they get a new idea. And new idea is shiny and awesome. And so it’s really easy to get sucked out of.

My rough draft isn’t going well. I’m having to actually work at a shiny new idea that is vague and therefore is perfect. We just kind of move on to new idea and abandon old idea.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. And this is the tough love part of the show, right?

Oh, I’m a writer. I’ve written lots of stories. I’ve written 20, 25, 10, 25 different stories. I just haven’t finished them. I just start one and then I moved to the next one and then I moved to the next one and then move to the next one.

I’m going to be a little bit mean here and say, no, you haven’t written 25 stories. Stories have beginning, middles and ends. That is the definition of a story. You have written 25 beginnings. You have not written 25 stories.

Now nobody actually cares. Like there’s not a badge police that counts how many stories you’ve actually written. So you get to be a writer or whatever that is. The point is, you’re not going to improve at writing stories. While you are not writing stories, if you want to improve at writing stories, you need to write stories, which means beginning, middles and ends.

So enjoy shiny phase. Oh, my gosh. Rough drafts are rough. First drafts are only the first of many iterations. They’re going to be hard.

We need shiny, shiny joy to power us through that. But just be aware of the lure of all that brain chemistry wanting to go off again when you get a new idea and it might want to tempt you away from your current project.

I am definitely a person who works on multiple projects at once. So that’s not what I’m saying. You can never start something new until you finish the previous one. I’m just saying, make some educated choices on why are you quitting the current project? Are you continuing the current project?

Do you know that you’re lying to yourself about ever coming back to that current project? All of these things. Look at this from a big picture perspective, not just we and dorphin’s perspective. Okay, Grace says me with the Scarlet Pimpinol in space. That is very shiny.

And that is also all I have. Yeah, that’s exactly. It’s so easy to do that, which, by the way, that is an awesome premise, and you should probably sit down and finish that. Just saying. But yeah, it’s so easy to get caught in.

I have an awesome premise, and as soon as I start putting it down on paper, it’s going to be less awesome because it’s moving from shiny, shiny premise to horrible rough draft. And that is a heck of a transition. And I’m not going to lie. It’s not always fun to live through that transition. So that’s why it’s good to be aware of these phases and know.

Yeah, that’s all this is. This is just an awareness talk. I’m not telling you how to live your life. Just know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The next one is very much related to that. And this is one I see all the freaking time. This is oh, my gosh. We should just make T shirts and hand out membership cards because this is so common, and this is also very often subtle. It’s subconscious, I think, and a lot of writers and I think a lot of people don’t realize that they’re experiencing this and it’s really, really affecting their writing.

And that is the what if I don’t do it right? Question that is heading hanging over you because I had this super cool idea, super shiny, and then I start writing it. And now it’s terrible because it’s not a vague, shiny idea. And now it’s a rough draft, and rough drafts are, by definition, rough.

I’m not good enough to write this. I’m not doing this justice. Somebody else has already done it. They’ve done it better. Somebody else could do it better.

I’m looking at my rough draft and I’m looking at my favorite authors published work, and they’re not the same. I’m just going to interrupt myself for a second. Of course, they’re not the same. And I’ve vented on this on stream before. So this isn’t new, but it’s very easy to compare your first draft to somebody else’s fifth draft with professional edits and then say, Well, they’re not the same.

So I’m not good enough. You know what? Their first draft wasn’t all shiny either. Okay, you cannot revise until you have something written to revise and your story is going to need revisions, period. End of discussion.

Editing is necessary, but you can’t edit until it’s written, so write the thing. Okay. But it’s really easy. And so people go into this glacial pace of I’m going to write three words a day. I’ve been working on the same story for 82 years and whatever.

And it’s because of fear. It’s because you’re worried that you’re not going to do it right. And it’s not going to be good enough. And to that I say yes, of course it’s not going to be good enough. That’s why it’s a first draft.

Okay. Yeah. I don’t expect my first draft to be good enough. And what I have found, personally, is the more latitude I give myself in the first draft, the better my first draft, actually is because I stop hyper stressing about it and turn off the editor. And that lets my subconscious do a much better job with the story, because my subconscious actually usually does know what it’s doing, and I know I’m going to come back and edit it.

So it’s okay if I just get it down on paper and it’s not quite perfect because I’m going to come back to it. But then because I’m getting it down while I’m in flow and really into the story itself and not stressing about was this the exact right verb kind of thing? Then it actually is better, and it usually is the right verb. But even if it’s not better when you just let it go, just let it go anyway. It’s a rough draft, all right.

And there are usually tells that you, I think, are common indicators that this is what’s going on, and I just need to take the time to get it right. Or I’m just thinking about it a little bit. I’m going to go back and outline a couple more times. I’ve already outlined it three times, but I think I need to outline it once more to make it right. Sometimes this will actually come across no, sometimes frequently.

I think this is what it comes across in the form of criticism of others to oh, Nano rhyme is really stupid, because if you write that fast, it can’t be good. So I don’t write that fast. So mine is really going to be better because I’ve been working on the same 5000 words for four years. Yeah, that’s projecting and defending. And don’t worry about other people’s projects.

Get yours down and then you can edit it later and it’s okay. What if I don’t do it right? Is probably the one that is the most subtle and unconscious of the things we’re going to talk about tonight, but it definitely exists, like a lot. So just be aware of it. And then while you’re in that stage of okay, it’s really hard, and it’s not as good as I thought it was going to be like my idea was so great, but now my ravdratch has been, oh, shiny new idea.

And this is exactly what we’re talking about. It’s going to strike you while you are vulnerable in that. What if I don’t do it right? Phase. So, yeah, just make some educated decisions.

Keep write that idea down. It’s not going to get lost. Write it down. You can work on it concurrently or work on it later or whatever, but just don’t just always start new things. Sometimes you got to finish some stuff.

All right. So then we’re moving on. We get a little bit deeper into the project. We’re actually making good progress. We are getting rough draft, we’re getting words down.

And for me, this is usually somewhere. Depending on the project, it will be at 30% or it’ll be a 70%. It usually hits later. For me. I hear from a lot of other writers that it hits earlier at the 30% Mark.

For me, it’s usually 50% to 70%. But whatever time it comes, this is the very next. I can absolutely count on this. I know it will happen part of the project, and it is the IH everything.

And like I said for me, usually this is 70% in, and this is a stupid idea. Why did I do this is dumb. Like, none of this is even plausible. This is terrible. Nobody would like this.

I don’t like these characters. I don’t like the story. It was a nice premise, but now it’s awful and blah, blah, blah. And I’m really glad that at this point I know it’s coming socking along in my manuscript, and then I just open it up and I stare at the screen. I’m like, I hate you.

I hate your mother. I hate the English language. I hate everything. And I’m like, oh, now we’re here. Okay.

And again, if I know that’s what’s going on, I just work through it, and it’s so much easier to work through it now because I know it is just an emotional phase, and it will be gone later. It’s going to come. It’s going to be there. It’s going to leave. And I can just let it sit around at my desk while I work, and eventually it’ll go away.

Now I’m open to some talk back here because I thought this was like a normal thing that humans could do, like being aware that they were having a mood. That just is the thing that I just thought everybody knew that they were having a happy mood or a sad mood. But I was talking with somebody a while back and she asked something about she hadn’t seen me online that day, and I was like, oh, yeah. I said I was mad about some stuff, so I knew I was in a bad mood.

So I didn’t want to get on social media because I knew somebody would say something dumb, and then I would say something mean.

So I just figured it was smarter not to get on social media that day. Guys, this has been 20, 20, 20, 21. You know what I feel? And she said, oh, she goes, That’s really interesting that you could do that. I’m like, what I could choose not to get on social media.

She’s like, no, that you knew that you were in a mood that you might snap at somebody. And I’m like, doesn’t everybody know when they’re in a grumpy mood? She’s like, no, what? So I am completely boggled by this concept that people don’t know. They’re having moods.

They’re just reacting, but they don’t know why. And that I don’t know. Is that normal? Am I the weird one? Is that the weird?

I don’t understand how this works.

I’m totally boggled by that. But, yeah, just be aware if you are capable of recognizing that you are having a good mood or a bad mood, please apply that knowledge in this case. And here for me, it’s the. Oh, I hate everything. This project is dumb.

This is stupid. What was I thinking starting it. Nobody’s going to like this. I just know at this point it’s coming. And especially with the novels, it hits even harder than the short stories, and I just know.

And then I’m like, oh, that’s here now. So I just have to make a conscious decision to continue to work on the project despite this mood. And then eventually that mood will leave. And I just know and it’s going to hit me usually about 70% into the project occasionally earlier. But I hear from a lot of other people that hits much earlier in the project.

Okay. Kate says, I don’t think you’re the weird one. You’re not alone anyway. Okay, that’s good. That’s totally Vogue.

She’s like, yeah, most people don’t know they’re having a particular mood. They’re just in it. And I’m like, honestly, that’s terrifying to me that you would just be reacting because of a bunch of random chemicals in your head that mostly have to do with how recently you made a stickers and not know it and not know why. That’s like, my personal horror film right there. Anyway, Grace, some days I can tell some not so much, but, yeah, it happens.

Okay. All right. So whatever it is, if you’re good at checking in or if you need to put a little Postit note on your monitor that says, Is this a mood? Yes. No, whatever.

Understand that it’s just a mood and you can work through it. Okay. So then we work through the I hate everything phase. I’m starting to like it again, but Taira is good at reminding me that those stages exist. Ask me how I learned this, Kate.

Yeah. All right.

Okay. So I’m starting to like this project again, and maybe it’s getting a little bit raw. I’m putting a lot of myself into it. Maybe I’ve taken some risks with the storytelling. I’ve got something that’s stretched.

I’m out of my comfort zone, but it’s probably okay and I kind of like how it’s turning out, but it is really out of my comfort zone. And then, oh, gosh, what if somebody reads it and that hits? And then I’m like, oh, yeah. That actually was the point when I wrote this. Now let me make a real quick statement.

I’m speaking as a person who is writing professionally for a career of writing. If you are a hobby writer, then great. That doesn’t make you less of a writer. Okay. You’re not a commercial writer.

You’re writing for yourself. That’s still writing. But then it might not be true that the whole point of the enterprise was for other people to read it. If you’ve been writing it for yourself, and now you’re considering whether or not to let other people read it, which case, you’ll have a slightly different spin on this. But I just want to acknowledge that both of those places exist.

That where you might be viewing this mood from. But yeah, for me, I’m like, yeah, Laura, you wrote this as a novel to publish and share with people. What do you mean, what if somebody reads this? But you’re still going to hit that point because I am always kind of trying to stretch into I don’t want to stay and write the same thing every time. Right?

I want to stretch a little bit, Jon, my comfort and zone. I want to get better at something. I want to try new things. I want to experiment. And what if I experimented and then other people see it?

And so that’s the thing that again, I just have to be aware of, and then the one that comes close after that, and it might come at the same time. Or it might be a totally separate phase. But I think they’re a little bit related, which is what if it fails? So I did write this. I did stretch.

I thought it was really good, and I’m