IWSG - The Yin-Yang of Writing

Hey, gang! Time for the July Insecure Writer's Support Group. What is the IWSG? Basically, it's a monthly blogging circle of writer folk who sit around the virtual campfire and share our fears, encouragement, and all of the other 'feels' that come with the writing life.

If you'd like to take part, or just learn more, click the button below.

And speaking of encouragement, there are a couple of folks in our community who could really use some this week. If you get a second, please hop over and share some with Shelly and Misha

The Yin-Yang of Writing  

Writing is a struggle. But the word struggle doesn't have to be a negative. It's just an active process requiring a lot of effort to attain something we desire.

We struggle with lots of worthwhile things in this world. Being a parent is a struggle at times. A career (both getting there and maintaining it) is a struggle. Falling in love and finding the right partner is often a struggle.

If something is important to you, you'll endure a lot of grief to get it. Writing is no different for those of us who dive into its murky waters. We know it's hard. We know it will be painful. Yet, we still do it anyway.

I love this Goerge Orwell quote, and think it summarizes the desire nicely:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

I believe there is a certain harmony to it all. Some of the things in writing that are THE most difficult to me are also at the root of my greatest joy and accomplishment. (Sounds a lot like life, doesn't it?)

When things get tough, sometimes it's helpful to look at the flip side of the coin for a little perspective. Here are a few things in writing that are real negatives when I'm struggling with them, but eventually become some of my favorite aspects.

Opening Line/Paragraph

Yin/Negative - Making a good first impression on a reader is HUGE. We know it. They know it. Which is why there is so much pressure to nail the opening of a story. Doesn't seem fair at all when you've written 90k damn good words after it.

Yang/Positive - When you finally get it exactly right, the rest of the story takes on a showroom shine. For me, it's THE moment when I fall in love with my own work--which is something I resist doing throughout the process of drafting. I'm just naturally a self-loather, and it's hard for me to see the positive in my own stuff. So it's a huge deal for my overall confidence.


Yin - It really sucks to have your flaws pointed out. Sucks. Hard. And we actually ask people to do it! It doesn't make it any less painful, even when you know it's the only way you're story is going to be as good as you want it to be. 

Yang - After the initial sting has worn off, I really enjoy wading through feedback from critters and editors. Mostly because there's invariably something I did right that I had no idea I'd done right. Plus, it's the beginning of the final plan to make the story great. Once I've identified what's wrong with a story and my writing from several different perspectives, I can get very concrete about how to fix it. Before I get feedback, I have no real idea of a story's potential.


Yin - The process of actually fixing it can be torturous. Some projects feel as though you've got more bad than good going on. (Those usually turn into rewrites for me...) Plus, when you're faced with repairing all of the little things you've screwed up for days and weeks at a time, it can take a serious toll on your confidence. Revisions just have a way of turning into a black hole you think you'll never get out of.

Yang - When I finally see the light, and I know I've improved my story exponentially, there's a certain bulletproof feeling that sweeps over me. I know it's maybe not perfect, but I start to believe it'll hold up to just about anything or anyone. What was once a source of major insecurity turns into something close to pride. When I've properly executed a revision plan I'm as high on the mountain as I'll get in the pre-publication phase.

Those are just three yin-yang areas for me, but I have many more. (Reviews! Naming characters! ...) What about you? Do you have any areas in your writing that you struggle with but ultimately lead you to the greatest accomplishment?



  1. Writing the first draft, because that leads to the editing phase which I really enjoy. And that's when I start to like my story.
    Crap, haven't visited Shelly yet. I'll go there next.

    1. Drafting is usually the easy part for me--so long as I'm not on a deadline! LOL But I really never think of it as much at that point. It's not until I start getting feedback that things really start to take shape.

  2. This sure is a timely post! I have experienced all of those negatives, and all of those positives, too. Feedback is always stressful for me, and revisions aren't much fun either, but both of those help me to make my story even better than it was. :)

  3. It's much easier to focus on the negative when a simple flipping of perspective can make things feel much more productive. Thanks for that.

    Moody Writing

  4. Great point on the yang with the revisions - that is such a good feeling.
    And I feel so sad for Shelly. I love Sir Poops. And can't believe what Misha is going through. Sweet of you to give them both a shout-out.

  5. Thanks for visiting, Sir Poops. And I know all about your points on writing.

  6. I'm lousy at starting a story. By the time I've finished writing the entire book, I still usually hate the beginning. It takes me forever to get it right, but when I do, I know and it's exactly what I wanted. So why did it take so long?

  7. The yin of knowing you have to get out and promote your book. The Yang of discovering just how much fun it is to do that!

  8. Feedback? Of course hard but helpful. I enjoy editing.

  9. Great reminders EJ. We really are glutton for punishment, aren't we? And as much as I cringe to read some feedback, after a day or two to sit on it (and drink heavily) I can't wait to get in there and fix stuff. ;)

  10. Revision is tough for me too, especially because I always write too much and I want to keep all my pages. I know I can't, though. I heard an author say something about an "extras" file that he kept on his computer where he put all the material that he cut; he figured that he could use it again someday. That's something I've done too.

  11. I don't get my opening paragraph just right until most or all of the book is written. Getting started is the hardest part - the rest just flows. Constructive feedback is always a blessing - a day or two later.

  12. I'm at the revising stage and it seems I wince every time I move to the next paragraph. *sigh* At least there is the Yang side of things.

  13. That is a great quote, and this is an awesome post!

    I struggle with beginnings, and with transition scenes, too. I think crit advice stings for all of us. But the sense of accomplishment we get when we finally polish our story wouldn't be nearly as sweet without the struggle.

    Definitely sharing...

  14. Great post! Definitely writing has its ups and downs. :) I prefer drafting and editing is not as fun for me- but I do feel really good when the story is all cleaned up.

  15. Oh man, I know what you mean. For every up there's a down, and you really have to focus on the positive and keep going. My difficulty right now is the use of energy: spend time on/with the family, pour myself into writing and promoting. I think that's a constant, but as long as everything is balanced, life is good, eh?


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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