Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smother the Inner Critic and Listen to the Smart Ones

I’m my own worst critic. I know that. I’ve always known that. But I’ve devoted a good deal of time nurturing a voice that stifles the critic or at least drowns it out. They really go at it some days:

  • Critic: You’re not that great a writer.
  • Champion: You’re a GREAT writer.
  • Critic: You’ll never make a living at it.
  • Champion: You can achieve anything you want.
  • Critic: Get a sensible job.
  • Champion: Do what you love.

You can see why I feel a bit schizophrenic at times. My goal is to completely smother the critic voice one day but I’m realistic. That voice will always be there. However, I choose to surround myself with people who support me and my dreams without judgment, but who can offer positive criticism on my writing.

During the writer’s retreat I attended in August, I signed up for 30 minutes with a literary agent. She read 10 pages of my novel-in-progress and gave me her first impressions…which weren’t very positive. I didn’t cry, or panic and throw out the novel. I gave myself some time to process the comments and then I emailed my friends for support.

My dear friend Katrina in Mississippi (who regularly reads and critiques my work) wrote back: “F*** her! She’s wrong! Your writing makes me weep! It will find a home somewhere!” Then she calmed down and wrote: "Sometimes critics who have 99% of it wrong have the 1% right that can be pivotal." She’s so smart.

The writing life entails rejection. The trick is to be open to the criticism and not shut down. Let’s ferret out the nuggets of truth that will help us become better at our craft. More importantly, let’s not allow our own fears and judgments to sabotage our efforts.

P.S. Irene, a writer I met at the retreat, said she places her rejection letters in a file titled “Not Yet.” What a great outlook to have.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the inner critic - Wow, mine really likes to chat in my head!! I'm reading a Brenda Ueland book on writing....and I've read others...that say to ignore the inner critic, and let your imagination go!! Easier said than done, but it's doable, and I'm slowly getting there.

    Thanks for the words of wisdom. It always helps to hear it from other writers!!