I always try to write, but sometimes my progress comes to a grinding halt. Usually this happens when I allow my inner critic too much volume in my head and she drowns out my inner cheerleader. She’s really a bitch. Here are the most common things she says, and how I shut her up.
- This is taking forever/I’m too slow.
This is a classic example of comparing to other people and is a major downer. Time is always relative, and everyone does things at their own pace. Sometimes I’m slow, and it seems like everyone else is just skipping through their books. But ultimately, I have to write at my own pace. I’ll get there when I get there. Each word is one step closer to the end. And at worst, I just say what they said on the Titanic: It’ll all be over soon.
- I’m not good enough (or this isn’t as good as the last thing I read/wrote)
Another comparison mistake and also a very subjective one. I often lament that I can’t write a twist ending like this person, or a love scene like that person, or imagine a dystopian/sci-fi/fantasy universe as well as those people. But you know what? I’m pretty fucking good at some other stuff. I can think of at least one thing I do well and concentrate on that. And really, just writing helps solve this problem. Not good at twists? Keep writing. Then write some more. The more I write, the better it gets. Eventually, I won’t have to worry about being good enough, because I’ll just have words on the page, typing like a boss. Next thing I know, I’m too busy writing them down to worry about whether or not they’re good enough. Besides, I can let someone else decide that.
- I don’t have enough experience
I look at the oeuvre of someone like Suzanne Collins or Stephen King and think, I could never do that. That’s a ton of books. How did they write all those books? I can’t do that. I don’t know anything about writing books. But the thing is, writing is experience. Everyone has to start at zero. Every lawyer has a first case, every doctor has a first patient. And every writer has a first word, first sentence, first paragraph, and first book. I just have to resist the urge to throw up my hands and give up because I don’t have years of experience and dozens of books under my belt. Ol’ Steve and Suzy had to start with one word at a time too. The only difference between them and me is that they’ve been doing it longer. Which means I still have my youth. So I guess I’m up on them for that.
- No one is reading my work (I.e. No one cares)
Lordy, this one gets me. It feels like I’ve been spinning my wheels, writing like crazy, and not a single damn person knows or cares. Okay, time to pack up the pity party. Stow the waterworks, and get back to writing. This is the reality check I give myself: Was that really why you started? To make people care about you? Since when is everything about you? You know those folks who stand outside supermarkets handing out flyers? How many times have you walked by them without taking one? Do you see them crying about it? No. They just keep on sharing with the next person, and the next, and the next, until someone takes one. Then they go on to the next person. Eventually, they are out of flyers and have to reload. You need to do the same. Just keep putting words on the page, pages in the world. And sooner or later, someone will read it. Then someone else. And before you know it, I’m sharing! Additionally, there is something to be said for making my mistakes while no one is paying any attention. Hopefully, by the time people are paying attention, I’ll really have my shit together, and my writing will be seen by tons of people.
- This character sucks. My ideas suck. I’m not original.
This is the height of self-loathing. I’m really good at this one, and it requires a full on pep talk. For one, originality is a myth, and subjective. For two, ideas are just ideas. Two people could take the same idea and do something completely different with it. This is a wall that you throw up out of fear and nothing else. If you really think your idea/character sucks, at least see it through to the end. I’ve had to struggle through some really crappy points in my stories, and getting through to the other side is the hardest part. Many things can change in that time. And when it’s all on the page, I keep what works and chuck the rest. But there’s no point in abandoning my baby until I’ve finished it and seen it fully formed. Respect the process, respect the work, and respect yourself.