Sharing a Desk With My Inner Critic

In case you haven’t heard, November is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to get the novel that’s in your head onto the page by cranking out 50,000 words (regardless of their quality) between November 1 and November 30. Write now, revise later.

I’m insanely jealous of writers who can put together that many words in one month—even if it’s total garbage—because I can’t. The desire to go back and revise becomes so overwhelming that I can’t move forward. I end up doing most of my revising as I write, which is good in its own way I suppose (less revising later), but it takes so long to reach the finish line.

Image courtesy Ambro:

One of the first things you hear as a writer is that you need to turn off your internal editor and just let the creativity flow. Worry about making it pretty later. I tried to ignore my internal editor—my inner critic—but I couldn’t. Silencing my inner critic also silenced my muse. So, with a heavy sigh, I brushed off the corner of my desk and let my inner critic have her spot back.

She groaned in despair. She insulted my muse’s intelligence. She threw herself down on the desk and said she might as well die if she had to be subjected to the kind of garbage I called fiction. She’s such a drama queen.

But eventually I learned to trust her. Why? Because she refuses to settle for okay or good enough. She makes me dig deeper into my characters. She forces me play out scenes in my head again and again so I can absorb every detail. She insists I search for the perfect word and that I listen to the rhythm of each sentence and paragraph. She helped me find my voice—my writing identity—and that, my friends, makes all of her drama worthwhile. Voice can make or break a fiction writer.

We’ve finally figured out how to work together, my inner critic and I. We’ve found a balance between her obsessive perfectionism and my desperation to get something done.

For those of you who participate in NaNoWriMo, I applaud you. I envy your productivity and your NaNoWriMo website badges. But I know it’s not for me, and I’m okay that. I’ve learned how to share a desk with my inner critic.

©2012 Kim Vandel

10 thoughts on “Sharing a Desk With My Inner Critic

  1. I’m so happy I stopped by today Kim! I write the SAME way. My inner editor is there to stay, and I’m happy for it. So many people have told me that it’s “wrong” to write the way I do. “Just get the words out and revise later.”

    Ha. My inner editor says, “Fat chance. You clean this garbage up before you’re allowed to charge forward.” And know what? I’m GLAD, because I think I’d give up writing if I had to do those huge rewrites and revising that I hear some of my friends do. Sure I have to go back and edit, but usually all the big problems have been rooted out before “the end.”

    I’ve learned to ignore when other writers advise me to “turn off the editor” – I figure some are panters and others are plotters just as much as some are edit during and edit at the enders. 🙂

    1. I’m happy you stopped by too, and I think you’re right. I suspect there are a lot of writers out there who are doing it “wrong.” But every writer is different. We’re individuals, so we need to use the method that works best for us!

  2. It’s hard for me to understand those who wage war with their inner critics or relegate them to the nether reaches. As boring as it sounds, I’ve always been at peace with my inner critic, But then, I’m grateful for anyone willing to save me from myself, drama queen or no.

    1. You’re a wise woman to recognize the value of your inner critic so soon. It took me a while to figure it out and accept my writing style. (Of course, it might have something to do with the fact I don’t like being bossed around.)

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