Monday, April 27, 2009

Being Stuck--Ideas on How to Work with Your Inner Critic

A reader wrote: "I'm sure you hear this often--I'm stuck! I am great at first drafts, in fact I'm submerged in them. They never get anywhere. I found your site online and performed the "Ophra" asks exercise and it helped. I would love to attend your classes however geography does not permit. The internet may. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks so far--it worked."
Being stuck. How familiar that feeling is. Like trying to pass through a high-walled canyon. No way to travel easily.
It happens to most of us, no matter how many books we write. I've published 13, and I still run into the frustration of writer's block with every new project. The difference is: I know it's happening. I prepare for it. I have a bag of tricks.

Inner Critic
In each stage of writing your book, you’ll meet a most unsavory part of yourself: the Inner Critic. Single-handedly, the Inner Critic causes more cases of "I'm stuck!" than anything else.

Some find themselves stuck in too much structuring, too tight a focus, and the book journey loses freedom. Others are stuck in the opposite arena--too much writing and no way to organize it. As you explore and plan your book, the Critic can even help you worry that you don’t have a good enough idea--so your writing never even gets started. Later on, it will hint you are seriously lacking in the skills to pull it into a book.

And here's another one: As you write your book and form the chapters, it will convince you the draft is definitely good enough to show your best friend—right now, today! (This, of course, is a not-so-subtle sabotage attempt, made real when your friend asks about missing parts and you crumble with the realization that you have omitted half your story.)

Even as you revise, the Critic will get bored with your book's inner story, theme, pacing--those essential fine-tuning steps each book writer must implement. It will begin to say things like, "Edit out this part; all your friends and relations will shun you when they read them."

I'm at the final stages of the book journey with my novel which will be published in August. I'm still facing this Inner Critic. Now the message is: Everyone will know what your life is like, what you are! Hide now!

Writers beware. Get to know your own particular Inner Critic and how it delivers its sabotaging self-talk. Learn to feel the fear and write anyway.

Here's a first step. Write a letter to the Inner Critic. Get to know it, what guise the Critic takes, how it stops you. Name it, describe it. Make a sketch of it. We'll tackle more Inner Critic tools in future posts. But let me know how this one worked for you.