Thursday, April 21, 2011

Writer Vs. Internal Critic

Writer Vs. Internal Critic
(Or, One on Each Shoulder)

1. My friend, Anita Howard, wrote about turning off your internal editor while you read for pleasure. So…yanno…you can find pleasure in reading instead of thinking, “wow, why did this author do xyz here?” 

2. My other friend, Mary Frame, mentioned being in a writing slump, but has been doing a fantastic blog series on how to raise stakes, embrace pain, and make your WiP sparkle.

3. My first critiquerly interviewee, INTERN, just did posted her frightful confession about comparing herself to others and going through torturous, self-deprecating thoughts.


Using several principles of math known only to ninja scientists and too complicated to describe in this post, I've added the above points together and I've come up with an exponential result.

I’d also been in a slump (ended a month ago). For months, I’d been meaning to work on my WiP. I printed it out. I started to chart the chapters in an excel spreadsheet to find gaps or opportunities or whatever it was I should correct. For weeks and weeks, I kept the file open at the bottom of my screen out of guilt so I could see it and it would remind me to work on it.

But I didn’t.

Here’s my excuse theory: my Internal Editor overtook me. Pinned me to the floor. Instead of being the helpful, oopsie-that’s-passive-tense kind of editor, it flipped over to the wow-you-suck-you-shouldn’t-write-anymore kind of critic. I liken it to the angel/devil on each shoulder. The angel represents my muse, but she's sometimes knocked into the dirt by my devilish critic.

Something that usually brings the worst side of my internal critic to the surface is when I’ve realized something new as a writer that I hadn’t paid attention to before, and I freeze up because I’m not sure if I can do what I need to do to become better. This realization, though, is growth, and normally comes from an outside critique which is then incorporated into my internal critic’s list of whip-lashes no-nos.

Anita told me about another friend of hers who uses a stuffed animal to represents their Internal Editor. This friend puts the stuffed toy into a drawer every time they need to write. Brilliant.

When you write, listen to your muse. When you edit, listen to your critic.

The amount of time it takes to get over a slump is different for everyone. Mary Kole describes it as a crisis of self-confidence. If you’re experiencing a slump, try to figure out the positive message from your Internal Editor. Because maybe? Slumps are good for you. 

So, embrace your devil. And then? 

Turn your head the other way and kiss your muse.

11 comments:

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

So happy to know I'm not the only one to go through loooong writing slumps. Thank goodness I write fast when I finally sit down, so my average looks like I write every day.

Thanks for the post.

Anita said...

Ahhh! I loved this and SO needed to hear it today! I've been in a slump for MONTHS on end, and it's time for it to STOP. Those last two lines are golden, girl. :) Loved them!

And thanks for the shout out, BTW. :) Now I'm off to read the other links you posted. This really hit the spot.

Marybk said...

Hi, Lesli: You are not alone! Thanks for stopping in.

Anita: Thanks for YOUR post. Loved it. Wouldn't it sound great if instead of saying we're in a slump, we can say we're going through a writer's growth spurt? Ha!

Marewolf said...

Haha! Love it. I'm not just going to embrace my devil, I'm going to lick his face off!

Thanks for mentioning me! I think you (and your blog) are fantastic! :)

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

I say embrace your writing slump. There are so many published authors out there who say they wish they had taken it slower during the pre-agented/pre-published days because your time is your own at this point. No deadlines, no emails asking where you are with your latest ms or revisions. Becca Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Leavitt have both said they wished they'd enjoyed this time, rather than stressing about not being published. So I'm going to enjoy it!! (Ha! Easier said than done)

Trekelny said...

And all this time I thought I was just being lazy. Who knew I could blame a demonic, so-called inner demon? Actually, Kronk is one of my favorite animated characters, and his scenes with the angel and devil are always worth stopping fot.

I somewhat agree with Kierah about embracing the "slump". I hate not writing every day: had a terrific stretch last fall when I nailed myself to two pages a day for three months. But now I'm not doing nearly as much, and only wrote a few words today after almost a month off.

But I AM still writing. Because I can feel the thoughts settling in, ideas forming, and stuff. It's like some of my lovely wife's cooking- she assembles it cold, and some dishes she puts in the fridge overnight. That's necessary- and it tastes better.

Last week I realized that an unnamed minor character has a name- it makes perfect sense for him to be this character I had in other stories but now residing in this different place. I shouted aloud for joy! But I still didn't go off to write it up. More settling.

Or maybe I'm just lazy.

Marybk said...

Marewolf: <3 <3

Kierah: You bet...enjoy it! I'm sure it won't be long for you. :)

Will: I don't think it's laziness if it's an honest internal struggle. Love the analogy to your wife's cooking. Chili is much more flavorful on day 2. Congrats on finding your minor character a home!

Jenn Marie said...

Love this. I've been combatting my slump by, frankly, giving myself easier goals, and then trumpeting reaching them. I'm down to a goal of "7 consecutive days in which I write SOMETHING." Once that's reached, I'll ratchet up the goal a bit - and if I feel defeated, I'll go back to "7 days." Eventually, something will take shape! :) And when the critic pipes up, I try to think "Good idea! You're absolutely right. I'll make a note of that when I'm editing."

Marybk said...

Jenn...fantastic on reaching your goals. Yep, that cantakerous Internal Critic is only there to help. Like the American Idol judges. :p

Perri said...

Beautiful Post! I try to tell myself that my slumps are my subconscious telling me to pay more attention to the other stuff: kids, house, work. They are sort of adaptive. Then I can return with fresh eyes and no guilt at being away.

Marybk said...

Thank you, Perry! Yes, that could be another thing a slump-demon is trying to tell you: balance your life. Good point.

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