Let’s face it. This writing business is a battlefield of broken dreams.
The reception of our stories, the sales, the opinions of the editors, agents, competition panelists; just about anything that influences our “success” is completely out of our control. We choose to put our imagination on the front lines, give everything we can into climbing the wall, writing as much as we can.
When our hard work fails to pay off time and time again, it’s hard to keep the self-doubt from crawling into your head.
Is the story not good enough?
Am I not a good writer?
Will this new idea end up the same way?
It’s so easy for that inner critic – one so helpful in picking our work apart- to turn its eye from the writing onto us, our habits, our actions. Soon enough, the wall we try so hard to climb gets fortified by the bastard. He leers at you, tells you your story isn’t good enough, that you’ll never climb the wall again and reach the heights you long for.
What can we keep the hope alive? How can we shut up the critic and focus on the words? Every writer will be different in their approach to their critic. But for me, I use this:
When I sit at my desk to write, I make sure to bring this little fella with me. I’ll write – I’ll hesitate. I’ll feel the critic start to scold me and quickly open the cover. Inside, I’ve divided the pages into three columns: What am I worrying about? Is this a practical worry (one which I can do something about) or a hypothetical worry (one which I cannot control)? And, most importantly, can I do anything about it now?
As I write this blog post – with my third cup of tea and endless to-do list lingering at the edge of the table – I worry that no one will want to read this. It’s boring. It’s dumb. No one will understand. I’m wasting my time on this when I could be doing something more useful.
It can be easy to get angry at the voice. I know I have. After all, no one wants to be told they are wasting their time.
But try and listen to the critic. Humour him, for a minute. Figure out what his problem is and write a concise sentence describing the concern.
Is this a tangible issue? Can I drag my readers into their chairs? Can I force them to like this post?
Answer: No. Not really. I can edit this post to the best of my ability – much how we all edit our work as best as we can – but at the end of the day, I can’t control who will read it or what they will think. It’s something entirely out of my hands.
Thus, it’s a hypothetical worry.
Lastly, I ask myself what I can do right now to alleviate this worry. Once the post goes out, I have no idea what my readers will think – but, if I push myself to finish it, I can put it onto my blog. I can encourage people to read it on my Twitter feed. I will have time to work on other projects on my list.
I can’t control what you will think – but the writing is always in my hands. So I’d best get on with it.
This diary is how I get my writing over the wall. Whether you will find this useful, I cannot say. But if there’s anything I want you to take away from this, it’s this:
The writing is always in your hands.