Turn Off Your Inner Critic

I had a friend who was a fantastic writer. Really. She was great, except for one thing. She had the worst inner critic of anyone I’ve ever known. She would write and erase lines constantly. When she did finish her work, it never saw the light of day. I went to a reading of hers, and as soon as she started, she grew quiet, monotone, and ruined a fantastic story with her own self-depreciation.

Nothing kills writing like a mean inner critic. I know mine can be awful. It tells me that what  I’m writing is cheesy, that it’s worthless and everyone is going to see that I’m a fraud. Yeah, it’s mean. When writing, I have to turn it off. I have to silence the thoughts as soon as they start.

Okay, it’s easier said than done. Certainly there are some days when the voices are louder, and take longer to silence, but it’s nearly impossible to write with the voices telling you that it’s awful.

So write. Don’t care if it’s good. Don’t care if you’re a charlatan and no one will like it. If you make mistakes, then keep going and catch them in the rewrite. Make notes for yourself on what you want to change rather than going back all the time. If it’s a long piece, have lots of notes ready for your rewrite. Your first draft may indeed be sub-par, but that’s cool. That’s what rewrites are for.

A professor once told me to cultivate a high level of mediocrity. What she meant was that on days when you’re feeling uninspired keep writing. Maybe it won’t be your best day, but write anyway, work so that it’s passable even on a bad day. Then, on your good days, your genius will shine through. When you’re editing, or daydreaming about it before you fall asleep, or walking the dog, and that genius idea strikes, you can go back and change things, and the rest will still be all right. Not every sentence is going to be fantastic. Some just move the plot along. It’s all right that they aren’t all perfect.

And that inner critic is wrong. There is greatness in you. Put it on paper.

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