Sunday, October 02, 2016

Defeating Monster Fears and Relentless Self-Criticism

Let’s face it, negative self-talk can be a crippling experience for writers. I suspect that it’s an inevitable part of being human. I also suspect that the problem’s compounded when writers face internal or external pressure to write well and quickly in order to earn a living from their words. It’s a wonderful goal, but it’s often sabotaged by all kinds of thing, including ourselves.

Fear and self-criticism have been on my mind lately, as I grapple with my first foray into fantasy writing, a genre I love and read widely. I’ve outlined only up to a point and I’m now winging it, which is both exhilarating and scary.

While I work on the book every day, it’s only perhaps for forty minutes before heading out to the day job. I’m also trying to finish up other writing projects. The deeper I go with the fantasy, though, the more uncertainty I’m feeling. I’m nearly 200 pages into the story, and I’m beginning to forget what I wrote in the first 100 pages which is worrisome.

I find myself thinking that completing this novel to be publication-ready will difficult and take much longer than I thought. This isn’t helpful self-talk, but I’m working on more of a can-do, it will get done approach. The thing is, it all boils down to a fear of failure, right?

You’ll understand why I’ve been drawn to two blogs from writers who have thoughts about fear and self-criticism. The first is a short piece by ToddBrison who found freedom from fear through six words, nobody cares what you are doing. For him, this was a freeing experience that allowed him to get back to writing.

The second blog is by Maria Popova and is more of a dense essay, but an interesting one that discusses the important difference between critical thinking and critical complaint, which she also refers to merciless self-criticism. There’s plenty of food for thought in this piece.

I expect that writers will never banish self-criticism, and perhaps we shouldn’t, but the danger is in taking things to an irrational realm that destroys potential. I have no intention of letting that happen. I’d rather try and make mistakes—even big ones—then be too paralyzed by fear to try at all. As mentioned, though, paralysis lurks in my conscience these days. I can feel it waiting to strike, and that’s the monster I plan to defeat.

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