Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lies We Tell Ourselves

You're not good enough...You have nothing to say...You'll never finish this, because you never finish anything...You lack what it takes to follow through...You should give up now because you're wasting your time...No one will ever read this...

And so on.

Vicious, nasty inner critics that have paralyzed my writing for days, weeks, sometimes even years.  All based on one thing:  Fear.  Fear I'll never get published; fear that I will.  Fear no one will read it; fear someone will.  Fear it will be bad; fear it will be good.  You name the inner conflict, I've felt it.  And apparently, I'm not alone.

I've just finished reading a book on overcoming writer's block by Karen Peterson called "Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period."  In it, she promotes the idea that the left and right sides of our brains put out conflicting information when we're afraid of something, and gives some exercises to help figure out how to get around that, such as writing and answering certain questions using first our dominant hand, then the non-dominant hand to see where the conflict might lie.  She also gave lists of things to check off, using alternating hands.

I really didn't expect to see different answers for the questions, but was astounded when I did the exercises: my left hand really didn't know what my right hand was doing!

For example, for months I've been plagued by the thought that I have nothing to say, therefore, I shouldn't write (not even blog - that's a big reason why my blogging has been so sporadic.)  But when I checked off the lists of questions that included "I have nothing to say" and "I have so much to say I don't know where to start" I actually checked both - each with a different hand, and didn't realize it.

Using more information from the book, I delved a little deeper into that conflict, and realized that in fact, I have a LOT to say, but have been terrified of saying it; which is why for almost a year, I haven't said much of anything.  I also realized where the source of that fear came from and have been able to smack it down.

It was quite an interesting exercise.  I have a way to go yet, but found it helpful.

Meanwhile, to deal with that critic who keeps telling me I can never finish anything, I also took a long look through my hard drive. Yes, I did find 22 incomplete manuscripts.  But I also found 11 completed.  "Hah! Take THAT, inner critic!"  Obviously, I can write a story from beginning to end.

Then on to the next lie: "You'll never get published and no one will ever read/like what you've written."  For some reason, that's been a persistent belief, until I realized that I've only ever submitted 3 stories, and all three were published, and all three had strangers write to say they enjoyed them.

So, roll up your sleeves, it's time for the inner critic smackdown!  Kick those doubters to the curb!  What lies has your inner critic told you that you were able to prove wrong?  And didn't you feel like Rocky when you knocked them out? :)


  1. Kate, good for you! I'm so happy that you're back in the game. And how cool that you've published every story that you sent out.

    I have that inner critic, too, but I also believe in myself. So I keep writing despite that nasty critic.

  2. About time you kicked some ass on the inner critic. Congrats! :)

  3. EDIE - Thanks. I've been reminding myself that having the only three I sent out published is an accomplishment I shouldn't sneeze at. Which isn't to say I didn't experience rejection - Managing Maggie was rejected by three different publishers before finding a home. (Hmm... I'm seeing a pattern with the number 3) :)

    And I'm glad you believe in yourself, Edie - the world just got several great books added because of it. :)

    CHARLES - thanks! :)

  4. I have to check out that book! I'm formatting a nonfiction book that's really helped me with that same right/left brain problem.

  5. Good for you! I have several finished short stories and one finished novella that have never been submitted and probably need re-writing. Perhaps I should focus on those and push them out the door.

    Dang inner critic kicks back really hard and he's bigger than me!

    But, I did recently send my unfinished manuscript to a new writing friend in a manuscript exchange. I offered my thoughts on her finished project and she is looking at my stumped project. It was a scary thing to hit the send button on that email, but I did it.

    Maybe I'm not such a big chicken writer after all.

  6. NATASHA - that sounds interesting. I'd like to hear more. (And thanks for stopping by - good to see you out and about!) :)

    TRAVIS - Good for you! Sometimes it's hard to remember that what we might consider are small accomplishments are ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Don't let that big bully critic get you down - you really are stronger than he is; he's just got the bluff on you now and it's time to call him on it. :)


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