I knew I was a writer from a very early age. I analyzed my Saturday morning cartoons and pondered my comic book characters’ motives. When I began reading, plentiful images sailed across the seas of my mind and birthed some truly amazing literary ideas (at least, I thought so). All I knew was that I really wanted to write my own stories. To expand on the ideas those cartoons, comics, and books left within me. Only, while I explored an ocean’s worth of creativity, something else floated up from the depths. It was after I reviewed my first work in my teens that the monster of my Inner Critic reared its ugly head.
Do you hear that? It sounds like you (but terrible), talks like you (but destructive), and laughs at you like how you imagine everyone else might… Everyone’s Inner Critic is different and manifests unique to the person it curses. It keeps us Creatives from our work by feeding us the usual lies: you will never be good enough, your writing isn’t perfect yet (it isn’t worth it), you will never be as good as those published, etc… This is a bald-faced lie to yourself. A toxic revelry to distract you from your potential. It is my hope that the tips and tricks I am about to share with you will help you overcome the voice in the deep recesses of your mind.
Many have had to bear their own negative self-talk for a long time now. It may have even gotten to a point where you put your writing down in favor of something more enticing. Only then had you realized, that you had done it again and procrastinated; gave up. But THAT’S OK! You will falter sometimes in your work and you know what? That is perfectly okay, and normal even! You are entitled to your feelings and emotions (especially about your own work). Own and give yourself time to process them, but never give up on your goals.
I wanted to be published by the time I was 20, and I still have not finished beating myself up about it at 30. My younger self had to realize that his standards were unattainable. There was a lot of growing to do before that youngster could produce great literary work.
My tip for you: Create a personal document for your eyes only. Here, you can write out your feelings as frazzled as they may come. Feel what they stir inside you and process them. Try not to waste time editing because this is just for you. Allow yourself five minutes to write your thoughts out and stick to that threshold. Once the time is up, no more negative criticism! File it away in your document until the next time you need a five-minute moment.
Though you may stumble and need a moment, take it but move on and do not dwell. Let the past be just that and not define you because it doesn’t and never will.
I used to define the low end of my success as being published and hitting the Best Sellers list as the pinnacle. I believed my gold standard should be set by my readers and not by what I wanted for my stories. My inner critic belligerently called out that I was not doing enough properly and in a timely way. But wasn’t I? Where did all these standards come from? Your literary success should not be measured solely by beautifully produced prose but in the labor and diligence of everyday life and how one manages it.
You have succeeded in many ways without even noticing it.
My tip for you: Count your successes, no matter how small. Write them out in as long of a list as you can muster. See the quantified tally of what you have accomplished and revel in it! But most of all, understand that each success took up a single line.
Going to school? Count all the work you have to undertake to learn.
Parenting? Every day is a battle that you win every time!
Have a day job? You put in a 9-5 on top of your writing!
And this doesn’t even include all the daily things you do to keep yourself going: housework, appointments, health and wellness, hygiene, etc. People forget that life isn’t like a movie where you only see progress. It’s an iceberg that only floats because of all the stuff submerged behind the scenes.
During those times when your inner critic is winning and you feel a fraud or like you will amount to nothing, remember that you are not alone. Imposter syndrome is never far from my mind. I thought that I knew I was supposed to be an author but I also feel like I will never make it as one (damn critic). I felt like I was insulting those who had put the work in and got published. Little did I know that they themselves (more times than naught) had felt the exact same way.
When it comes to one’s work, even the professionals feel like they do not know what they are doing at times.
My tip to you: Remind yourself of the good company you are in. You are not alone in these thoughts. Google imposter syndrome and/or negative introspection and you will find a variety of information on great authors who even to this day, suffer from their own negative introspection. Accept and process your feelings (as we have already talked about) but then take solace in the fact that you are among a community with similar struggles and obstacles to overcome.
Have I mentioned yet how awesome my group of friends is in the Motley Writer’s Guild? Well, to start off, they are more than just friends. They are confidantes, coaches, editors, jokesters, conversationalists, and even researchers at times. I do not know where I would be in my writing journey without this group! And that brings me to the next tip.
My tip for you: Surround yourself with a group of people who will build you up and support your writing. It goes without saying that we are social creatures. Breaking problems into smaller pieces to easily overcome them is much easier with the context and perspective of a trusted outside source.
However, this is easier said than done. Us introverts out there are notorious for shying away from social anything. A night in beats the bar every time. But I encourage you to reach out! Join a writing forum, a discord group, or even an online book club. This safe digital interaction is still enough to get out there where you can learn and grow with others in your craft.
Truth be told, our fearless leader was the one who gave me a swift kick in the $%# and insisted I take my writing goals to the next level. I realize that I am a very lucky person to have such a friend base but we writers are a welcoming bunch. Get out there and have fun!
Cliche? Yes. Relevant? Completely. Your story is worthy of being heard and shared with those who want to read it. Far too often a fledgling writer, or even a novice, will convince themselves that their work is not good enough to be shared. Do not let yourself be self-deceived. Though it will be a lot of work (and just as much faith) your work can be produced and your vision shared.
My final tip for you: Do not give up on your work! See it through to completion because you are worth the time and effort it takes to produce your story. Most of all, do it in your own way and time. This work is not just for your future readers, but also for you. It has to be yours to own and appreciate.
I chose this as one of my points because it was what I needed to hear. My inner critic was so close to making me give up on writing altogether, but I could not let my stories go. I am positive that I will refine them and have them published for whoever will read them.
I truly hope that the tips I proposed will help you in your writing journey and quash that Inner Critic of yours! Though all of our writing processes will be unique, I think the critic will rear its ugly face from time to time. Break the surface of your sea of dreams and try to slander your creativity. Take these tips with you and mold them to suit your unique style:
- Accept your feelings, process them, and then carry on.
- Realize your successes no matter how small.
- Recognize the good company you are in – you are not alone.
- Surround yourself with supportive people.
- Don’t give up on and keep going!
Everyone’s stories deserve to be heard. Negative retrospection and inflated expectation will affect most of us throughout our lives but it does not have to be the end. It can be a positive experience. When you notice it happening, utilize these tools to push through and one day your ideas will be on a bookshelf in someone’s home, or even in a store’s front display waiting to be purchased.
Regardless of how your work will culminate, may your critic be proven wrong.
– M.C. Beckett of The Motley Writers Guild
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