The Inner Critic

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I am a writer. I have been writing stories since I learned how to put a sentence together. As I have aged, my writing has evolved. From the first story I remember writing to the pieces I work on now, they have grown with me. My perspective has changed as I matured, and I like to believe that I have gotten better at telling a story but sometimes I wonder.

I always wrote for myself. My ideas managed to do the same thing reading provided, escapism. I wrote, following the adventures of my characters, their tangled lives, their triumphs and troubles. I created worlds and destroyed civilizations. It was bliss. I never really worried about what others thought. It wasn’t until I started taking submitting my stories seriously that a beast awoke within me. Or rather a cranky, bleak, little, squawking crow. The inner critic.

“What are doing?” She cried, ruffling her ebony feathers in indignation.

“Writing.”

“No one will want to read that,” she cawed.

or

“That’s a bit strange, not interesting really, but strange.”

or the dreaded,

“That’s not going to work, you know. They’ll see right through that.”

At first, I ignored her. I finished my story, gave it a read through, liked what I had written and submitted it. I waited eagerly for a reply, soaring high on the dream of receiving a acceptance but only a rejection came.

“See, I told you,” she said, sounding too pleased with herself. I tried harder. I read more, I researched subjects to get a better understanding of what I wanted to write, and started revising. I began submitting again. Another rejection arrived, and another. Each letter proof that I was still not good enough.

I pushed myself harder. Focusing on other people’s opinions of what makes a good story, what they expected to read and I listened to that inner critic telling me that I could never hold a candle to everyone else’s talent. She pecked at me, her sharp beak poking holes in my confidence. Soon, I noticed that I was growing frustrated. Nothing was working, all my ideas ended abruptly and I couldn’t even think my way out a wet paper bag. I could no longer concentrate as well as I used to and my stories, although (if I may say so) having streaks of solid writing, suffered. They were like a rotted floor in an old house. Step on the wrong board and you would fall through. I found myself blocked, creatively. I was too concerned with other’s opinions and I restricted myself to what I thought I “should” write. Strangled and bound while rejection after rejection fell into my inbox, I seriously considered giving writing up, or at least submitting anything ever again.

I think, and for me personally this has been true, as writers we grow. I am constantly learning, and I like being enlightened. And I am learning to cope with the inner critic as well because she won’t be leaving me any time soon, though I try not to listen when she crows, spewing negativity because she is only an echo of my own doubts. And we have come to an understanding. She stays quiet while I write the first draft and I will allow her to have reign over the revisions. That seems to appease her. When a rejection comes,  I pick myself, dust myself off and I get right back up on that horse.

I’ll get to my point. There is a time when it is okay to doubt. But there is also a time when you need believe in your work. The key is to not let the doubts overwhelm you.  If they do, try to remember why you started writing. I write because there is nothing out there like it. I have to write, I love to write. Despite her dark predictions and naysaying, my inner critic did help. She pushed me to be better and she set this space cadet’s feet on the ground. I learned the importance of revision, research, and how to take a rejection. But I also learned that I should write for myself first. I’ll have the chance to go back through the story and fix it later.

Thank you and please feel free to add your experiences with your own inner critic.

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2 responses »

  1. Wonderful post! I love the image of the little crow cawing with all her opinions. It’s definitely hard to ignore the inner critic when we’re in the process of writing a story. You make a great point that at times, the inner critic can teach us a lot, pushing us to be better writers. But it’s also wise to remember that wonderful quote by Anne Lamott: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor…”

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