Royal by Galia Alena
In one of my early posts, I wrote that writing is that odd game where your only adversary is yourself. This conclusion was simple enough to reach because over the years I noted that it does not really matter whether you are at the receiving end of third-party criticism or not. There will always be one person who, when all is hunky-dory in your writing life, will invariably plant a fresh seed of doubt in your mind as big as your fist; that person is yourself.
A friend of mine told me about the impostor syndrome a few years back and I think that all writers suffer from it; some will be as paranoid as to fear a passing compliment, while others may be able to grit their teeth through it and accept it gracefully, except for a private, ‘yes, but what does she know?’ chanted with raised eyebrows and a sinking stomach as soon as the polite exchange is over.
For the sake of honesty I must tell you that I am just as paranoid as the next writer, I too a victim of my own vicious inner critic long before I find myself at the mercy of others. And I must warn you dear reader because, while you always, eventually, forget about outer critics (time really is one heck of a healer), you are unlikely to succeed in putting your own little devil to sleep. Acknowledging the impostor within you is your first step towards an improved relationship where you will learn to identify your own over-reactions and act accordingly and swiftly.
Ugly problem areas sprouting out of your head like zombies from the ground are:
You’ve stopped writing and don’t know how to get the mojo back: very common situation, often referred to as block, except we’ve said that block is nothing other than resistance, an excuse of sorts. I completely agree with Julia Cameron on this one: the quicker you tackle it and the sooner it goes. If you find yourself muddled in this manner too often, get yourself out of the house and transmute your observations of art, things, people and life in general into writing inspiration.
You’re bored by the process of writing or by what you are writing: also common, this usually happens when we are dealing with the same project for extensive periods of time. Postgraduate students are faced with this on a regular basis, as are novel writers and non-fiction authors. Ask yourself this: would it be more painful to kill the project off than to finish it? This is always an easy one to tackle: if you can abandon your creative child without remorse, by all means walk into the sunshine with a renewed sense of purpose but... if you can't... I'm afraid you're going to have to work through it.
You’re censoring yourself: you wish you could say things as you see them, but a little squeaky voice inside you says that it's better not, in case you upset or offend someone. Ask yourself this: unless you are being libelous, why are you worried that your writing may not please everyone? It never will, and this we know for sure. Remember that you're writing, first and foremost, for yourself. Pleasing your audience isn't something that should dictate what you produce; the second it does, you have lost the mojo for sure.
You don’t know where you are going or where you started from: this is something that your inner censor likes to throw back in your face. You're worthless, aren't you? A real writer has all the answers, beginning-to-end, and does not falter on the same chapter as you have been doing for weeks! Frankly, that's crap dear reader. Any writer faces stalling, but you don't have to be the writer who uses stops-and-starts as excuses to dwell on difficulties for months or years. Imagine you're Danielle Steel working to deadline: would she whine for months and miss the delivery of her manuscript? No, she'd pin herself to the desk and make herself do the work. Remember that editing feels much easier than writing from scratch (at least for the first twenty minutes anyway).
You’re unfocused: the allure of multiple projects is sweet music to my wandering mind. When I feel that I am shooting off in all directions I often tell myself, 'Yes, and didn't Leonardo do the same? And isn't Leonardo considered a genius?'. Ehrm, yeah, that's true, but I ain't any way near Leonardo and recognising my creative limits is the sure way to create more quality and far less dross. Trying one's hand at different projects is fun but, as my PhD supervisor always used to say, you can only do one thing really well at any one time, maybe two, but only if you're exceptional. I don't know any writer who writes four novels or two PhDs at the same time: do you?
You don’t even know where the problem is, you just know there is one: oh woe me! Did I tell you I am a bit of a hypochondriac? A spot isn't just a spot, but the beginning of skin cancer. A subtle feeling of uneasiness isn't just a cold creeping on me but an unheard-of virus which will certainly lead me to my early grave. My inner censor whispers about an overall 'uneasiness' about my writing at every turn, for any excuse is good enough to slow me right down until I am kicking myself for lost ground. But this is madness, for I am not likely to die of a cold, am I? Well, neither should my work dry out because of 'something being wrong'. Nothing is wrong.
The moral of the story dear reader is two-fold: don't delay working when working feels painful and work with renewed purpose when your inner critic is at its fiercest. The longer you leave it and the more difficult your return to writing will be and remember that the only way to hear less of the little devil within you is to drown its pathetic cries by typing furiously through them. If you're stuck, have a look at the Try This exercises and work your way through something new. Which writing issues have you encountered? How do you deal with them?