Critique, Humor, Writing

A dialogue with my inner critic

We all have inner critics. Some manage them better than others do. All too often, I tremble under the tyranny of mine. She’s not cute and harmless. Not at all. Think She Devil, like this:

I’ll give you an example of how she works. A writer friend emailed me the other day to ask if I’d considered offering editing services to increase my income. She said, “Your writing is so precise and careful.” and indicated she felt I could be of benefit to other writers. All well and good, right?

The next day, while doing some mind-numbing work, I thought about the email again. Suddenly, my inner critic offered a different interpretation.

Inner Critic: Precise and careful, huh?

Me: Yeah, so?

Inner Critic: Sounds to me like she thinks your writing is a bore.

Me: No … I don’t think so.

Inner Critic: Textbooks are precise and careful.

Me: But … I’m pretty sure she meant that as a compliment.

Inner Critic: Ha!

Me: What did she mean, then?

Inner Critic: There’s an old saying: Those who can, write; those who can’t, edit.

In typical She Devil fashion, she poofed away, her cackle echoing in her wake, leaving me to question my worth as a writer … or an editor. She’s pure evil, is my inner critic. Next time she pops in, I’ll slap her with a wet fish.

Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Writing

Silencing the voices

I’m used to dealing with my inner editor and critic’s voices, but now that I’m pressed to get busy writing my next book, I’ve discovered a new voice—the marketer’s . It told me to consider my publishing “brand.” What sort of book would readers expect from me? That new voice wrapped up my muse like a mummy.

I second-guessed everything I’d already written. I’ve struggled to write another word since. For a minute—just one—I regretted making the decision to publish. In the privacy of my mind, I’m free to write whatever I want. If some sentimental little story begs life, I write it. If a dark tale of revenge takes my fancy, I write it. If a quiet little tale of self-discovery pops into my brain, I write it.

Ah-ha, a common denominator—I am the writer.

Some fiction authors are branded as writers of mystery, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or they write only for teens or children. They have restrictions I don’t have. I write general fiction. I have the freedom to explore, to take many paths.

So, shut-up, new voice! All I want my readers to expect is a well-crafted story, as good as or better than the last one. That’s my obligation to them. That’s my brand. I can write the story that comes to me. The question should be, how best can I tell the story, not do I have permission to write the story?

What do you hear from those “helpful” voices in your head?

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Critique, Doubt, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Writing

Ooo … ooo … I know this one!

Let’s play a little game, shall we?

Linda: I’ll take felicitous discoveries for a thousand.

Alex: I do have writing talent. Linda?

Linda: What is … What did I discover while editing?

Alex: Correct!

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I suffer from a lack of confidence in my writing ability. It’s largely self-inflicted. My inner critic prides herself in perfectionism. To make matters worse, she’s an expert at rationalizing away any praise that comes my way.

I think most of us lack confidence to some degree. We play that comparison game and believe we’ll never measure up. We get one tiny bit of negative feedback and blow it out of proportion until we see every word we’ve written as garbage. (Or is that just me?)

Today, as I edited my novel, I found myself smiling—grinning, to be honest. Not at any particular “darling” as in, My god, has there ever been a more brilliant metaphor?! No, I was happy because I could honestly say, “This is good writing.”

That may sound like I’m full of myself, but I’m not. What I discovered today is I suffer doubt most when I don’t read my work. When I set aside a work, whatever faults I know it has magnify in my mind until I convince myself I’m hopeless as a writer. I’m discouraged from even starting something new because, well—I can’t write!

When I finally open that file and start to read I see it’s not perfect. I find weak verbs, flabby sentences, bad syntax, but I also find decent writing as a whole. It’s never as bad as I imagined it to be. Yet I’ve allowed my doubt to waste time, fuel jealousy, and even downright depress me.

Why do we writers do this to ourselves?


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Doubt, Dream, Tuesday Topic, Writing

Are you in the wrong house?

I had started writing a post on a completely different topic for today, but last night I had a dream. Yesterday, I confessed to someone that my faith in my writing ability has waned. In my dream, a person in my life who is hypercritical of me said something that hurt my feelings. I hid my reaction and walked casually out of the room. But then, I continued on out the back door.

houses With a heavy heart and fighting back tears, I walked down the street toward my house. I entered the house next door to mine instead. I remember thinking that it was fine to do this, I could live there and no one would mind. Maybe no one would even notice. When I entered the empty house, I knew instantly I wouldn’t be happy there, but felt trapped by my decision.

Then, the person in my life who has a most generous heart and always makes me feel better about myself came to the door, smiling at me through the glass. Even though I had triple-locked the door, she easily opened it, and I knew that I was free to leave.

Once again, my subconscious had spoken to a captive audience. It told me to quit listening to that inner critic that locks me into a substitute self. A self that believes she can’t write. A self that would be unhappy if she didn’t write. So today, I’m going to smile lovingly at myself and move back into my own house. There are words to be written.

Do you ever take up residence in the wrong house?