That lingering doubt you feel, you know, the one that creeps up when you’ve worked so hard on something? Yeah, it has a name. Several in fact. Some refer to it as the inner critic or perfectionist, judging their work and demanding perfection despite its impossibility by very definition. To others, it’s simply the muse, a force of creativity sparked by their subconscious. But don’t be fooled. Though it might whisper sweet nothings in your ear and guide you to small improvements you can make, it’ll just as quickly derail you and hinder your process if you aren’t careful.
It’s that little devil sitting on your right shoulder telling you that you shouldn’t be writing; that you’re wasting your time, and you pretty much suck at life (like the jerkface it is!) The problem, the big problem at least, is that your inner critic knows you well. Really well, actually. And he’s very good at picking up on the things you don’t like about yourself and using them against you.
The voice feeds on doubt, and the more doubt you feed it, the stronger and louder it becomes. You may think it’ll go away eventually, that some measure of success will silence him/her but it never does. Sorry, SPOILER ALERT: (S)HE isn’t going anywhere. It’s easy to find yourself in denial regarding your inner critic. Maybe the work just doesn’t feel quite finished, or maybe it doesn’t feel right at all. The fact is: our doubt plants the seeds of fear, and if we give into that fear, we will never share our gift with the world. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. I’ve been writing for 3 years now and only recently decided to take back the fear by doing that which I fear (more on that in a post to follow).
But there is some good news here! The critic has only a handful of tactics in his/her repertoire and they’re all the same regardless of whether you’re writing a first draft, editing or even just outlining. Understanding is the key and once you do that, you can get that dirt off your shoulder as the wise and all knowing Jay Z once said. Hell, you may even laugh it off when the snake tries to spit venom all over your confidence on some days.
Here’s how you can distinguish the inner critic’s methods:
- Badgering about perfection. These attacks are rooted in the desire to be perfect, which obviously no one is. But that won’t stop the critic from pointing it out. To deal with this, just shoot for improvement each day.
- Telling you that no one likes you, or your work for that matter! We want people like like our work, to enjoy our writing and hopefully take something from it on a deeper level. This attack involves a fear of being laughed at or mocked. The voice will tell you, as if reading over your shoulder, “Is that the best you can do? You think that is clever?! That’s lame as hell!” Well news flash, not everyone will like your work. Everyone is different and has different tastes. Accept this. It’s okay if some people don’t like your novels. Again, we’re shooting for improvement here.
- Overwhelming the shit out of you! This is a personal favorite of my inner critic. He really likes to point out the full picture of a project and highlight all the problems it has with a BIG ASS MARKER! And if there’s something I haven’t figured out yet? Oh yeah, you can bet I’ll hear plenty about that, too, along with any plot holes I haven’t patched yet. If he does this to you, tell him to shove it up his judgmental ass! You’re only one man/woman! Take things one step at a time and you’ll get there. Trust me.
- Got an inferiority complex? You can bet he’ll target that! The critic loves this one. Everything you write, no matter how rough an idea, will immediately get compared to all the great masterpieces of literature. And he’ll remind you every chance he gets that you can’t write, and ask “why don’t you just give up already?” When this happens, look no further than J.K. Rowling’s words to aspiring writers: write write write, and throw it all away, and keep writing until finally you write something that isn’t worthy of the rubbish bin. You have to learn how to write. It’s a process. A skill to develop. Remember that and learn to walk before you run.
Do you know of other tricks of the nefarious trickster? How do you deal with self doubt? Comment below and the best tips will be added with the author cited.