“The Secret Uncertainties of a Writer”

You know something? The inner critic is mean.
It loves to play on existing insecurities and drill into them as if debriding an open wound. It digs and hacks away at the flesh in those weakest parts of ourselves, and then, sensing the blood already drawn, circles and attacks in lancing strikes until we’re tempted to whimper in a corner, defeated.

The key as a writer is to armour ourselves against these abuses. As writers, we must harden ourselves against our own doubts and trust in ourselves and the work we are producing. (Tweet this!)

Today, as I was editing a scene from Birth of the Sacred Motherthe inner critic was picking on my grammar and sentence structure. I have a habit of doing interesting things with what might be considered a comma splice. Grammatically in the strict, academic sense, it’s WRONG. But the truth is, when the inner critic gets out of my way and my creative, playful self is allowed into my writing the inner me LOVES how I play with sentences like this. It likes the technique I use, and it thinks the reader will have no trouble understanding the sentence so why change what is ultimately a part of my writer’s voice or style in the hope of making it more ‘correct’.

But it’s an insecurity, because as I’ve told people to reassure them traditional education is not necessary for a writer, I failed ninth grade English and never really learned all the rules and intricacies of grammar. What I do know, I’ve learned through experience or self-taught with thanks to wonders like Grammar Girl, Strunk and White, and Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I know grammar is one of my weaknesses as a writer, and the inner critic knows I know it. It’s an open wound and that dark voice inside loves to work on it in the most vicious and cruel ways.

The trouble is, if we let these uncertainties fuel the inner critic it can tear us down and get in the way of creation. These doubts lead to writer’s block and as much as some professional writers decry the very existence of writer’s block I believe this is the root of it. At least it has been for me. That voice inside torments and ridicules the inner child that is our writer self. And like a child, if we have trouble standing up for ourselves against the bullies, we might shut down, run away, cower and hide. That leads to words not getting written.

In my case, there are ways to strengthen myself against the critique. Obviously, since I know grammar is a weakness I should do further study until I’m confident I know the rules enough that when I break them I can feel comfortable telling the inner critic with logic and reasoning why I’m doing it rather than responding emotionally. And that’s the thing; Every time the inner critic digs into an insecurity, it’s an opportunity to look at how you can strengthen yourself. (Tweet this!) Perhaps that’s why those professional writers decry the existence of writer’s block, they’ve had years to build their defences against the inner critic and no longer cower from the bully. They stand tall, even against the inner doubt, and find the words regardless of the criticism their inner critic tries to heap upon them. I’m not there yet, but I’m in it for the long haul and I’m learning, and building my defences. Are you?

Which of your open wounds does your inner critic debride? And what can you do to strengthen yourself against the beration so that you’re creating a defence that keeps the bully from standing between you and getting words on the page?

–Visdit Rebecca @ http://www.craftingfiction.com/

Rebecca Laffar-Smith

About Rebecca Laffar-Smith