Silencing the inner critc can be a full time job

I started writing again last week. This feels like something of an odd statement since I’ve been blogging almost daily for years. My archives can attest to how much writing I’ve done in that time. Yet my brain subdivides my writing so that blogging is accounted for differently than writing which is focused on a project. I have sometimes wrestled with that distinction, arguing with myself about how this devalues my blogging in unfair ways. Lately I’ve just accepted that my brain has these two categories and that both kinds of writing have intrinsic value.

The writing I started again last week was project writing. I frequently put down project oriented writing for extended periods of time. This time it was six months. At times I get emotionally tangled about how much idle time my projects receive. This is when I feel like I’m a dilettante and that lack of practice means that I will never be able to make my projects what I want them to be. Most especially it feels like they will never be finished. This insecurity has at times been compounded by the fact that many of my good friends are multiple-book-per-year writers. At this point I am demonstrably not that kind of a writer. Other times (like now) I am much more forgiving of my methods. It is not like my projects lay idle because I was being lazy. I had to put them down because my life was insanely busy. I believe I made the right choices all along, even if those choices mean I’ve been working on one book for almost three years.

I’ve been trying to do some project writing every day. Sometimes it flows, other times it trudges. Sometimes I walk away happy, others I shut my computer grumpily. Always I feel satisfied and good that I worked on it. Now is the time to be working on this and I hope I can get it done before the spaces in my life fill up again. One of the hardest things, and I know I’m just discovering what many a writer has experience before, is the critical voice in my head. It tells me that what I’m doing isn’t any good. It tells me that no one will want to read. Then contrarywise it tells me that if I do sell the book that I will be buried in hurtful criticism. These voices lurk in the oddest corners of thought, waiting to ambush me. I’ve developed a mantra of sorts to consciously silence them. “It doesn’t matter if it isn’t good, I can revise. It doesn’t matter if no one reads it, writing it is still important. I have no control over the criticism, and it is irrelevant. Writing this book is what I need to do.”

It is interesting to note that in addition to my inner critic I also have an inner editor. The critic always spouts discouragement. The editor tips her head an tells me “this isn’t working.” I have to silence the editor as well, not because she’s wrong, but because I can’t make it perfect on the first draft.

So far the process is working. I’m getting to watch the word count grow, which is oddly satisfying. Most of the trouble I’m having right now is that I’m trying to create a book long narrative using individual essays. Some times the needs of the narrative compete with the needs of the essays. Then I have to wrestle with it for awhile. Although on at least one occasion I decided to just leave a problem to be fixed in revision. There will be revisions a plenty and that is when my inner editor will help me fix stuff.

And now that I’ve written an entire blog entry about writing, my inner critic wants me to know that this meta-writing is probably boring to anyone who is not a writer. I silence the critic and write anyway, because that is what a writer does.