The Writing Process · Writer's Block

Bullied by your Inner Critic?

I’ll make a confession: I haven’t worked on my novel for ten days. I’ve written over 60,000 words – which is about two thirds of the book, but I’m scared.

Scared.

Every time I open the folder in Evernote, my Inner Critic starts singing that song to me: “It’s got to be-ee-ee-ee, perfect!”

And I know I can’t write perfectly – or even just to the best of my ability – on my first draft. So I decide that the laundry needs to be done. Or the bookshelves dusted. Or the teaspoons all aligned in the cutlery drawer.

And ten days turn into eleven… Then twelve.

Am I alone in this…? Does anyone else recognise this perfection-led paralysis? This bullying Inner Critic which is so harsh it stops you writing anything at all?

I envy those people – NaNoWriMo winners – who can sit down and just churn out their words. Just let them flow, without hindrance, onto the screen. Just where are their inner critics, hmm? Have these prolific writers got their critics bound and gagged in some dank cellar? Is there, in fact, a jail purpose-built for writers’ inner critics?

Just a moment…

*Googles*

Well if there is such a jail, I can’t find it.

So…

I’ve written some “permissions” for myself – permission to do all the things my Inner Critic hates – for my first draft. Just while I get the rough content of the story on the page. Because if I can’t get the story down in the first place, there’s nothing to edit, and as editor Rebecca Heyman says, “First drafts are all about putting sand in the sandbox; you come back to build a castle later.”

This is what I wrote:

I give myself permission to be:

  • Free to write as many adverbs as I like.
  • Free to write as many adjectives as I like.
  • Free to write as much dialogue as I like.
  • Free to write as many thoughts in italics as I like.
  • Free to write as much as I like about people’s appearance, clothes, mannerisms.
  • Free to write as much scene description as I like.
  • Free to TELL instead of showing as much as I like (feel scared to even include this one)
  • Free to repeat myself as much as I like. As much as I like.
  • Free to skip scene setups and jump straight into the scene by writing “Agnes is now at work.”
  • Free to skip the dull or difficult parts to write, or the bits I don’t feel inspired about at the moment.
  • Free to write CHEESE.
  • FREE TO WRITE CHEESE.
  • FREE TO WRITE CHEESE. 

cheese3

 Now, let us go forth and pasturise.
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9 thoughts on “Bullied by your Inner Critic?

  1. On my new OU course (yes, I am a learning junkie!) the author Andrew Cowan justifies his habit of procrastination by saying that, for him, it’s part of the process. Staring out of the window, according to Cowan, is a way to allow ideas to develop and mature. Interesting, eh?

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    1. Oh I agree! But while I stare out of the window my inner critic is yelling “You lazy cow! Get writing!” *rolls eyes*

      Which OU course are you doing? I’m starting a new short free course from them – OpenLearn – on “Writing what you see”.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, JPC, that’s a good quote! I hope they work for you. They help me with writing short stories, but not my novel. I’m still stuck with that… Looking at inner child self-therapy now because this block won’t shift.

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