Not liking your work is more common than you think—even pros hate their own work sometimes! These feelings can happen for a variety of reasons, so let’s look at them, as well as what you can do about it if you hate your writing!
Why do you hate your writing?
Everyone is different, so the reason you hate your writing can change depending on your writing and your own personality. Sometimes it will be because the story has actual issues that keep it from being a great story—but sometimes it’s just brain goblins (aka impostor syndrome) messing with us. You could also find yourself writing something you don’t actually want to write, in which case the best option is to just drop that story and start a new one (but you should avoid dropping stories as much as you can, as we’ll talk about in the next section!).
You might be surprised, but hating your writing is actually a good sign in some cases! I know, this sounds counterintuitive, but stay with me here. When we hate something, we do so because we have a good example to compare it to. In your case, you’re a writer because you like good stories—and these stories are the standard you’re comparing your writing with. And because you’re a better writer than you think, you can feel that a story doesn’t work even if you can’t point out exactly why that is. So it’s not that you hate your writing because you’re a bad writer—you’re actually a good enough writer to hate your own story!
How to NOT hate your writing!
We’ve established that hating your writing can be a good sign in some cases, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing! If you hate everything you write, your motivation to write will drop, and that’s not something you want to happen. So let’s look at five ways to stop hating your writing!
1. Follow a schedule and be disciplined about it
You’ve probably heard this advice before to help you get more words down—write even when you don’t feel like it. But this can also help you if you hate your writing! There are two main ways this helps:
- If you don’t write, you might feel bad and even hate yourself for not being productive. This will make your motivation decrease and stop you from writing. It’s a vicious cycle!
- Writing more will improve your writing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like what you’re putting down on paper, or if you’re not inspired. It’s still writing, and you will learn from that experience.
This is why it’s very important that you keep going and finish what you start, even when you get to the hard parts! By writing these parts you’ll learn and next time they’ll be easier. And it’s always a good idea to know your strengths and weaknesses so you can plot your story in a way that will favor your strengths!
Now, not everyone is fortunate enough to set an hour aside every day for writing. If that’s your case, you can use whatever free time you have to jot down quick notes or scenes, or even use voice notes on your phone. For example, you could use your lunch break and a short time just after waking up or going to bed. If you’re a World Anvil user, the notebook is perfect for this. It’s mobile-friendly and great for writing down quick notes and ideas where you can easily find them again later!
2. Take a step back from the story
Although you should try to write every day, sometimes it’s okay to stop for a while if something about your story is bothering you. Sometimes it’s because you’re just tired of the story, but often it’s because there’s something wrong with it and you can’t figure out what it is. When the happens, store that story away and don’t look at it for a week or so. This will not only help you prevent burnout, but it will also let you look at the story with fresh eyes and a fresh mind! When you get back to it, you’ll probably feel more motivated and, because you haven’t been obsessing over it for the past few days, it will be easier for you to identify and fix the problems with the story.
But what’s the difference between stopping to take a break and just skipping your schedule? To ensure you aren’t using breaks as an excuse to skip your writing time, plan your break in advance. Instead of deciding that you don’t want to write just as you’re about to start writing, do it when your writing session ends or when you wake up in the morning (we all have slow days). This will ensure it’s a decision you take yourself, not influenced by lack of motivation or outright laziness. Additionally, I highly recommend you don’t stop writing—just switch to a different project! You could try writing a short story, or even random disconnected scenes, to keep your creative juices flowing.
Make sure you’re reading!
While you’re taking a break from writing, give more of your time to the books you’re reading! Getting inspiration from other great writers—not just reading but focusing on how they use their craft to tell amazing stories—is a sure way to improve your writing! And sometimes, spotting what they might have done wrong, or what was clumsy, can make you feel a little bit better. After all, if really great writers make mistakes, then it’s ok for you too!
3. Learn to accept criticism…
As we talked about before, if you hate your writing it might be because you’re seeing problems with it. So, if you fix them, you’ll stop hating it! I know it’s easier said than done, but we have to start somewhere—and while your story will never be perfect (no one’s is), the better it is, the more you’ll like it. So, start by making a list of the problems you have with the story, and write down solutions in a notebook separate from your story. Writing the solution down in an abstract way will help you better understand it before putting it into practice! Then, if the solutions require big rewrites, implement them in a separate copy of your story. This way you’ll be able to roll back to the previous version without losing any of your work if you don’t like how the solutions turned out!
Of course, it’s hard to see problems in your own work, so I recommend asking someone else instead. Don’t just ask a close friend—ask someone who you know will be able to speak to you honestly and will be able to identify problems with the story. The best-case scenario is that you can ask a writer or an editor! But if you can’t, an avid reader will be able to provide good insight too. Be prepared to deal with criticism and make sure that when you read it you’re in a positive headspace that lets you look at it objectively. Even if it feels bad to see so many problems, in the long term it will make everything better! You’ll learn from it, so your writing will be better and you’ll have fewer reasons to hate it.
…And edit your work!
The process of editing and rewriting is often where we really learn to focus on our craft. It’s where we can reconsider the point of view, choose stronger verbs to make our prose more dynamic, and add extra sensory information to make our stories more immersive. First drafts often miss these important things, and by rewriting, you can get a sense of your own weaknesses, the things you might miss, or the things that need reworking—and aim to improve them!
4. Don’t doubt yourself—squash those brain goblins!
That may sound obvious, but if you doubt your own abilities, the opinion you have about your stories will drop—even if they’re great! And yes, this is a bit difficult to control, but here are some things you can try to stop your brain from sabotaging itself:
- Name your successes: spend some time thinking exclusively about everything you have achieved. Are you proud of a specific scene you wrote yesterday (even if everything else sucked)? Did someone tell you they enjoyed your writing? Did you manage to complete a milestone (like finishing a chapter or even a full story)? Make sure your brain knows about this!
- Find a supportive community: sometimes we need other people to remind us how awesome we are, which is why it’s essential to find a supportive community that shares your passion for writing! If you’re looking for one, I suggest World Anvil’s Discord server or Facebook group!
- Write affirmations: that’s similar to naming your successes, but rather than thinking about them or speaking them out loud, write them down! Then, when you’re feeling unmotivated you can go back and read them to see how far you’ve come.
- Keep a journal: yes, I’m telling you that writing is a good way to get the motivation to write! If you get into the habit of writing your thoughts, insecurities, and experiences about your life (and about your writing specifically), you’ll be able to identify any core problems you might be going through. You don’t need to do it every day, and you definitely shouldn’t treat it as serious writing—if you start hating your journal writing, that will stop being a productive method!
Not all of these methods will work for you, and you might find one that’s not on this list! If so, share it in the comments so other people can learn from your experience! We also have a full blog post about impostor syndrome and how it tricks your brain to hate your writing. Check it out for more tips and tricks to deal with brain goblins!
5. Go back to your origins
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’ve been writing for a while! Go back to your previous work and read it. Yes, it’s cringy, but it’s also helpful! There are two main reasons why this will help you:
- The first story you wrote sucked. Sure, the idea might have been cool and you were excited about it, but compare it with what you’re writing today and you’ll see how much you’ve improved! And if you’ve improved since then, that means that you’re still improving. It’s hard to notice sometimes, so it’s good to be reminded!
- Even if Old You was a worse writer than Current You, there might be things you can reuse! We can’t remember all the cool scenes and turns of phrase we come up with (that’s why we invented writing!). So read your old stories, laugh at the bad parts, and write down the good ones.
Sometimes we get so caught up with our current problems that we forget where we come from—and that even when our writing was worse, there were still really cool things!
For a friendly community filled with fellow writers who are more than happy to discuss your story and ideas, join our Discord server or our Facebook group to find a community of fellow writers and worldbuilders!
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A wise man I know once said, “You can fix bad writing.”