Woe is Me, a Writer I Will Not Be

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literature.jpgWARNING: This entry contains ominous themes related to writers' woe which may be too disturbing for the faint at heart. Due to the distressing nature of the following material, viewer discretion is advised.

On any given day I find it necessary to hit the snooze on my alarm more than twice, I know I have my work cut out for me. Today was one such day, but I promise this will not be a rant (well, perhaps a little ranting, but NO whining).  Today I allowed my inner critic to have her way with me - and she was cruel, pulled out all the dirty stops.  Today words felt too vague, too simple, too bland, as though they themselves were in cahoots with my critic and elected to give me the cold shoulder. 

My fellow writers who've went a few rounds with their critic and lost can probably relate to this defeated feeling.  But I've found my second wind, albeit at a late hour, and I will write this blog entry.  Even if it sucks. Even if I hate doing it.  Even if no one wants to read it because it sucks. EVEN IF.... You get the point, right?

So, did anyone notice the picture of Master Shakespeare above?

To write or not to write- that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of writers' woe,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them.

You'll notice I've taken liberty with Shakespeare's words, but it's okay, I'm allowed. He died in 1616, so copyright infringement laws have expired (hopefully similar is true for the image I borrowed). My quick adaptation is an ode to all writers - take arms against the critic! It is so easy to fall into the I'll-never-be-good-enough-to-be-a-writer slump.  I confess I struggle with it. Don't feel bad for me. I bet many of you do too, whether you'd like to admit as much or not. As English students we sit in a classroom reading classic (and non) texts by brilliant writers.  How can we not be tempted to make a comparison that leads to some degree of inferiority complex?

A better question: How can we trick the inner critic into doing what we want?  The critic's role is an important one that has its place within the writing process, when it's not trying to pummel your self-esteem. The critic is not something isolated to writers, either.  So even if you're not a writer, you're not exempt.  Anytime you've self-edited before speaking that was the critic.  I've stumbled across inventive suggestions on how to subdue the critic.  The most interesting proposed naming your critic.  (This particular writer chose to name his Fred.) The idea is that by naming your critic you take away its power and assert control. Freddy seems slightly less daunting than "The Critic." I wonder if this is why natural disasters are given names like Hurricane Earl and Fiona. Hmm.... Best not to go off on a tangent. Back on point.

I don't see myself formally addressing my writing woes by name, especially not out loud.  Though, I see value in such creative solutions. What do you think? Do you have your own method for fighting off the fatigue so characteristic of writers?  



Kayla Lesko said:

Oh yes, battling your inner critic is a hassle. I find that talking with another person about my writing helps out a lot in the sense that I'm getting input from a human being. Naming your inner critic just sounds... bizarre to me. It's kind of like you just made yourself another personality.

April M. Minerd said:

Thanks for commenting, Kayla.
It does seem a bit absurd, but what I thought good about the seperate identity aspect of it was the possibility that it could help us distinguish our writing from our feelings about our writing, if that makes sense. On the contrary, I don't incourage people to develop multiple personalities in the attempt to become better writers.

Emily A. Wierszewski said:

My favorite book ever on writing advice and the "critic" is Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones (http://amzn.to/bumFuH). She offers a Buddhist/Zen perspective on the writing process that's really illuminating (and calming, often).

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