Friday, November 18, 2016

Best of the Archives: A Word From Your Inner Critic

What a stupid story idea..- You can’t plot your way out of a paper bag.

.You write too slow to write to a publisher’s deadline..

- Great idea, but you’ll never do it justice.

.Your heroine is too stupid to live and your hero is a wimp.
.- Finish this book? Ha! In your dreams, honey.

.I can’t believe your pacing stinks almost as much as your dialogue.

.- This book will disappoint your agent. Your editor. Your readers.

.You didn’t meet your word count today and you won’t meet it tomorrow.

.- You’ll never be good enough. You’re gonna mess up.

.You actually think God’s called you to write? Get real.

Sound familiar? Recognize that voice? You know, the one that whispers in your ear: “If you can’t do it perfectly, why even try?”
That’s ME, I’m proud to say, creeping around in the dark corners of your mind. Your Inner Critic.

.Yeah, I know criticism from a contest judge, editor, agent, reader or even a friend or family member wounds deep. But it’s ME, your friendly neighborhood Inner Critic, who most often succeeds at shutting down your creativity, causes you to sit staring at a blank screen, even makes you give up your high-flyin’ hopes and dreams altogether.

But I’m doing it for your own good! Honest!

I want to protect you. To keep you from failing. From getting hurt. From being humiliated. You creative types are sitting ducks for disappointment and discouragement because you risk so much of yourself when you share your writing with the world. I hate to see you cry, lose sleep, be embarrassed, get dejected. So I’M here to look after you, to guard you and make sure you’re not victimized by taking your own hopes and dreams too far into the danger zone. See? I’m a good guy!
Don’t believe me? Well, what if you garner enough courage to enter that contest--only to get feedback that makes you cringe? You may feel gut-kicked for days. That doesn’t sound like fun to me, so why risk it? Then when you crawl out of that pit, hope reviving, you’ll spend hours, days, and weeks revising the silly thing. Ugh. Besides, if you WIN that contest what a potential chamber of horrors that holds--you could trip in front of hundreds of staring people as you go onstage to collect your Genesis or Carol or Golden Heart or RITA. See the mental and emotional anguish I’m saving you from?

.You think you want to start a new book? Hey, don’t you remember how bad it was out in the muddled middle of your last one? How you hated the plot? Hated the characters? How deeply you despaired? Didn’t think you’d ever write “the end,” did you? And you want to go through that AGAIN? Can you not see how passionate I am about your well-being? How much I CARE about you?

.Not convinced? What if you finish the book and you can’t sell it? Hmm? That will break your heart, won’t it? Then you’ll have to start from scratch and write another one. I hate to see that happen. And what if you DO sell it? You’ll be expected to write another one then, too! I’m exhausted even thinking about it and will do my utmost to spare you from such a fate.

.I’m told the Bible says something like “as a man thinks, so shall he be.” I’m the champion of self-talk. Ever notice how so-called “negative” thoughts flash more often through your brain than “positive” ones?

There’s method to my madness--I’m trying to help you! Most of the time I’m subtle. After all, I’m a pretty clever guy. I gradually feed little thoughts and impressions into your brain. Let them play softly tune-like in the background. Over and over. You subconsciously latch onto them, start to hum along. And the next thing you know, the lyrics are coming out your mouth and funneling back into your brain through your very own ears. All I have to do is sit back, listen to the melody, and let you do all the work!
Yes, I admit my job can be a rewarding one. Guardian. Defender. Dragon slayer. Your very own hero, saving you from unspeakable harm and anguish with just a few timely, well-chosen words. I hope you’re beginning to realize I only want what’s best for you. To protect you from what you think you want. From what you think God wants you to do.

.WHEW! I can't tell you how good it feels to finally get all this off my chest. You have no idea what a bad rap an Inner Critic gets. Misunderstood. Totally. So I want to thank Seeker Glynna Kaye for inviting me here today to publically defend myself and set the record straight. To tell my side of the story.

.BUT...(I should have known there was a catch) now she’s insisting that in all fairness I tell you how to proceed should you not be convinced of my sincere and good intentions--and prefer to show me the door. I thought this blog was going to be all about me, but I can see I’ve been duped. And while I’m not much into playing fair, in the cooperative spirit of Seekerville, here goes.

Evaluate what I’m saying. You might actually find a speck of truth in there. Or a lot. Maybe your hero is a wimp. Your dialogue does stink. But I suppose (SIGH) that it just means you fix it.

Change the channel. Okay, so you’ve heard my whisperings. Forced yourself to take whatever helpful tidbit you could glean from my words and turned it into positive action--brushing up on the writing craft and applying it to your work in progress. So when the whisperings persist, move on. Change the channel. Don’t continue to dwell on what I say, allowing it to nag at you when you’re tired and vulnerable.

Challenge me. Keep a notebook filled with “Good Things” that people have said about your writing and review it frequently. Read those glowing judge’s or editor’s or agent’s comments--or a happy reader letter--aloud. Throw it in my face.

Don’t get hung up on one book. I love it when you work on the same book for years--decades even--trying to perfect it. But in all honesty, I can’t actually say I’ve ever read a perfect book, not even on the New York Times bestseller list. Or one of Oprah’s picks. Move on to something else and apply what you’ve learned so far to something fresh. With each new book under your belt, the more you’ll improve in the craft and as a storyteller. Then should it ever suit you, you can always go back and revise that earlier work with the expertise you’ve gained from the others.

Forgive yourself for being imperfect. I hate this one, ‘cause the more I can get you to beat yourself up the more likely you are to turn to me to protect you. But while I personally don’t want you moving forth into the big bad literary world until your writing is flawless (I want to keep you from getting hurt, remember?), one of the beauties of writing (or so I’ve been told) is that you can keep getting better and better. Don’t like your hero’s GMC? You can change it. Dialogue sounds wooden? Ditto. So you didn’t meet your word count goal today? You’ll do better tomorrow. But only if you cut yourself some slack--and don’t give up. Strive for improvement, not perfection.

.Stop living in fear. Fear is one of my favorite tactics. What if? What if? What if? Man, that's a blast watching you turn yourself inside out over everything I’ve whispered to you. But Bible teacher Joyce Meyer says much of what you’re afraid of is all in your head (that’s ME!) and never comes to pass. She says you can psyche yourself out with what she calls False Evidence Appearing Real. Which leads to the next point Glynna wants me to, is she ever bossy. (SIGH)

Pray about it--then just say NO. Pray that you’ll recognize my first seductive whispers. You know, before you subconsciously start to roll them around in your head and then off your tongue and back into your ears. Tell me to back off. Out loud. Shake your fist and stomp your foot if that’s what it takes. Drag me kicking and screaming out of the shadows. Even though I have an ego bigger than Texas, I hate being recognized. Caught red-handed.

Well, I’m feeling a little grumpy now that you know all my secrets. I’m hanging on to the hope that at least a few of you will recognize my good intentions. I mean, you know I’m on YOUR side, right?

I’ve also been advised that I now need to ask you to think about what YOU do to shut out my “incessant chatter.” Incessant, indeed! Where’d Glynna get such a big, fancy word? Wouldn’t nonstop do? Or maybe never-ending? Unremitting? Relentless? 

This post first appeared in Seekerville on May 26th, 2010. Comments are closed today so you can ignore the inner critic and get more reading and writing done.

GLYNNA KAYE treasures memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns--and vacations spent with the Texan side of the family. She traces her love of storytelling to the times a houseful of great-aunts and great-uncles gathered with her grandma to share candid, heartwarming, poignant and often humorous tales of their youth and young adulthood. Her Love Inspired books--Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday--won first and second place, respectively, in the 2015 RWA Faith, Hope and Love Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards. Her November 2016 release, The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship, is available now (click here)!

 Her Holiday Homecoming 

Jodi Thorpe's childhood vacation cabin seems the perfect place for her to heal her broken heart…and avoid Christmas cheer. After twelve years, nothing in Hunter Ridge has changed—except Garrett McCrae. The bad boy who was once her secret crush is now the town minister. And Garrett won't let her miss out on all the hope and joy the holiday brings. With every day he's drawn to the vulnerable woman Jodi's become, even as he's about to leave for a mission halfway around the world. But as they grow closer, their plans begin to change. Can Garrett make it a season to remember, with a love they can't forget?