Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Inner Critic

This past week Kathy and I were swapping compliments and agreeing that we both feel as if we view our writing very differently than others see it. Perhaps this is true of many or even most artists. An artist I know won't sell any of her work because she feels that she can't put a value on it. Though she doesn't think it is very good, she feel like it would be like giving her children away. She has a shed full of art because she is torn between the feeling that they are worthless and no one would want them and that they are so valuable that she can't part with them.

I believe that we all have internal voices that lift us up, criticize us, or settle us down. In fact, my inner voice is often Jean's voice telling me to, "Settle my a** down!" Over the years it is something that she has told me many, many, many times. I often hear my mom's voice telling me to lower my voice or not to laugh so loud. My mom liked peace and quiet; unfortunately, I am neither peaceful or quiet very often. I sometimes feel as if my daddy's voice is telling me that I can do it. Whatever it is, I just think my way through it. Daddy is a great believer in logic.

The inner critic for my writing talent doesn't really have a person's voice attached to it but it usually makes me feel as if I am a hard working poser. Sort of like the fact that I belong to the Jasper Track Club so that I can go to their cool parties but I don't really run. I go to the races and help at the registration table so that I can free up a real runner to run. I often feel like a worker bee who helps out so that the rest of you talented writers can have more time or fewer responsibilities so that you all have more time to write. Jean tells me all the time that I am a full fledged partner and some days I believe her.

What does your inner critic tell you?


  1. I've been working hard on strangling my inner critic. I call myself a delusional masochist with optimistic dreams. Any rate, I have my days where I think I'm a cr*^ writer, and who am I kidding? Usually these days occur after contest comments arrive (which have gotten very bizarre and have me questioning entering any of them except the GH). But then something good will happen (like a request for a full) and I'll be like, okay, you can write well enough to get a request.

    I tend to force myself past that inner critic. Bulldoze her. But I also recently learned that I wasn't allowing myself to believe I deserved the brass ring. It was a personal ah ha moment for me at the workshop we attended in Georgia. When Michael Hauge said "I'll do anything to be X except for X cause that's just like me." I filled in the blank and realized that the old tapes from long ago were still running in my head. The ones that said I didn't deserve my successes because I had help.

    Well, I ripped that dang tape out of my head (the person who started that reel to reel is kept under strict quarantine) and have actively been recording a new one. The one that says, "You deserve this because you worked hard, you asked for help when you needed it, you took chances, you helped your organization, you sat down and wrote your stories. You deserve this and when you get it you will go out there and work hard to sell your stories."

    Great post.

  2. Oh and I meant to write--that is just NOT like me. LOL.

  3. My inner critic tells me to quit lately. Sigh... I've already had one successful career why bother? I am like Christine - I want to strangle that critic and tell her to leave me alone. Guess we're all a little stressed lately.

  4. Oh man, that inner critic. She gets us ALL. You might think "What the hell is Lynn doing here? She's living the dream! She's a USA Today bestselling author! She can't possibly think she's not good enough!"

    I do every day. Every day that conniving little voice pops up and tells me that though I may be published, it was probably an accident and I'm the worst HP writer out there. The worst, bar none. That my books will come in last in every line up, that the critics hate me, and that it's only a matter of time before the powers that be figure it out and stop offering me contracts.

    I can get through a book -- I don't doubt that anymore -- but is it any good? Are they just publishing me because they have a slot open and my work is readable? I'll never get a RITA nomination, I'll never win any "best of" contests, and sites like DA, SBTB, and AAR will always hate, hate, hate my work. Oh, and I got my agent on a fluke and she only puts up with me because I have contracts. It goes on and on, the crap the critic tells me.

    So why do I bother? Why don't I just quit and put all the angst behind me? I ask myself that too sometimes, when I'm really depressed about it all, but the truth is I can't quit. I'll keep at it until they fail to offer me that next contract. And then I'll keep at it until no one else will.

    So if I've got that horrible voice inside, and I look successful to you, then you really truly can't quit either, now can you?

  5. Ah, my inner critic has multiple personalities. The dominant personality of late leaves me wanting to annihilate said inner critic. Often a perfectionist, that critic has proven quite discouraging, telling me that I should just stick with the day job and skip the writing because obviously I don't have time to pursue both. I can finish a book, yes, but it just takes so long. What was I thinking? Live the dream? Bah, humbug!

    Yeah, that inner critic--she's fun. Thankfully I don't listen to her all the time. I've learned to pick through her line of crap until I find the real pearls of wisdom. Granted those have been rather difficult to find lately, but they're there. I just have to keep forging ahead.

    You're right, Lynn--I can't quit either.

  6. I sometimes think, "Who are you kidding?" You just aren't that clever. But I can't quit. It's what I do.

    But I can't think about that now. I have to get the GH entry ready.

    Christine--Stephanie and I are off most contests. Grew tired of having correct punctuation corrected. Grew tired of the the 98, 94, and 13. We weren't resentful or mad. It just takes too much energy for feedback from unidentified people. We'd rather be writing.

  7. Holy Muse Buster! You hit the nail right on the head, Stephanie! This is exactly what we were talking about and I fall into this easily. I fight against the railing voices questioning my historical research and whether or not I make sense when I write. The big one: does anyone else but me get this? LOL!

    By the by, I've read what you and Jean have written. Your voice reflects through the pages too. You and Jean have a fantastic partnership that I greatly admire! :D

    Christine, you certainly know how to be agressive with your inner-critic. I must employ your tactics next time, which would be right about now. ;)

    Cheryl, don't listen to your inner-critic. I've read your writing and you are a fabulous writer! Never let anyone tell you differently. Your progress is slow right now because of your hand. Hang in there, girl. In no time at all, you'll be doing some dangerous judo chops on your inner-critic. ;)

    Wow, Lynn! Are you saying we never escape that inner-critic and it will haunt us forever? Yikes! What a horrible prospect. But upon further thought, maybe our inner-critics help in some ways. Perhaps that nagging voice is what keeps us on our toes, makes our writing grow and flourish, so that our writing doesn't grow stale. If that's the case, I'd rather have an inner-critic to give me that nudge even when I rebel against it. What an awesome discovery!

    Crystal, I'm a perfectionist. It has taken me years to overcome the fear of sending my work out there. What I've learned is that if you don't send your ship out, it will never be able to return to you. I know you've been dealing with this a little and I encourage you to send out your book. I've read yours too, and I KNOW it's ready. ;)

  8. Jean, even Jesus asks why. ;)

    (Jean can explain this inside joke.)

  9. Wow, Stephanie, if there's a topic to resonate with women, it's this one! After years in academia, it's become pretty clear to me that for some reason we women are apt to tear ourselves apart based upon our inadequacy than to place the blame for failure on external factors (as men often do). And then there's the success with similar tearing apart--like Lynn mentioned--in which we make a turnabout and *do* credit external forces. I cannot tell you how many times I explained away my pretty major successes in academia by being at the right place at the right time, or knowing the right person... giving credit to anything but my actual talent and hard work!

    Even though I'm much more at home in the romance writing world than academia, unfortunately changing careers didn't change me. The other day my editor sent me a congratulatory email that my debut had been nominated for Best First Historical Romance by RT Book Reviews. After the first flush of joy, do you know what I thought? "Well she'd probably be happier if it'd been Best Historical Romance over all" (not just First). I'm not kidding. UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn't be dishonest enough with myself to pretend I'm unhappy with the nomination, but I did project a total falsity onto my editor just so I could downgrade the accomplishment. It's hardwired into me.

    So, do you know what I did? I laughed. Out loud. Really loud. I just tore that hard-wiring apart with that laugh. Then I printed out my editor's message and pasted it in front of my desk so that I could laugh at myself every day when that nasty knee-jerk reaction pops up.

    Yay to you ladies who laugh at that inner critic and keep creating and striving and loving what we do in the face of momentary setbacks as well as serious failures. And yay for friends who make it easier to do so. :)

  10. Thanks to all of you who shared your inner critics and how you deal with them. Great ideas for that here.

    Christine-Congrats on the break through but please keep that bulldozer handy some of the rest of us may need.

    Cheryl-Hang in there. I am sure better days are coming and in the mean time just remember you've always got Cam. :-)

    Lynn-Thanks for sharing with us from a different perspective. It is always interest to see that no matter where one is on the ladder of success some of the struggles stay the same so we might as well learn to deal with them now. Oh, and your agent was LUCKY to get you!

    Kathy-You are very kind and wise.

    Katharine-Thanks for sharing that great story about your agent and your inner critic. I love that laughter can bust that innter critic down to its place. And you are right friends make it easier!

    Crystal-I have read your writing and you definately need to hang in there. When your construction is over it will get better!

    Jean-You are that clever!!!

  11. I've got the bulldozer parked out back. I'll be happy to pulverize that inner critic for all of you any time!!

    And you're right--is this more of a woman thing? I don't know. It's like "we're not worthy." Well gosh darn it, WE ARE WORTHY!

  12. This post resonated with me, so I had to comment.

    My inner critic is a vicious little troll who pulls no punches. It tells me that I am worthless, that I have OTHER things I need to focus on, and why bother? Its just entertainment, a hobby....no real worth.

    I have to admit sometimes it wins. At the moment its lobbying heartily to hinder me from finishing my full to send off.

    But I refuse to let it take over. This is a battle I wage daily. Sometimes I'm able to smack that Troll down. Othertimes...it gets sneaky.

    I have learned that if I give up, than I only have myself to blame. I haven't worked this hard to let that dastardly critical inner voice win.

    I am going to keep writing.

    So three cheers to everyone overcoming the inner critic! :-)

  13. My inner critic is a logic-spouting pessimist, with the voice of a chain-smoking, bitter old woman. ...maybe that's why I find those Maxine comics a little eerie. >.>

    I've figured out recently that I don't have to -completely- shut her up, I just have to gag her while I'm trying to get something accomplished.(Her constant reminders of the statistical probability of my failure aren't conducive to the completion of anything.) Once I have something to work with and still have my motivation intact, I let her have a limited go at my work when I'm in the refining phase. I might as well get something useful out of her if she's going to take up space in my head. >.<

  14. Ha! You made me laugh Angela!
    Very clever. :) Maybe we can let our nasty inner critics get together and send them on a long vacation. I hear Siberia is perfect this time of year.
    We and the rest of our writing friends can find a nice spa in the south of Italy to write. Or a blustery castle for the rest of us....LOL :)
    What about the rest of you? You in?

  15. I think I am in--great line Angela! Love that idea of putting her to good use LOL.

    Send her to me as I am doing revisions.


  16. Katharine, thanks for putting an interesting spin on this discusion with examples of your inner-critic. Using your philosophy, I'm trying to laugh today. Got some contest scores back and they have put me in a mood. LOL! Hardee Har Har! :D (Laughing through the pain... a good thing. ;)

    Mary, I think your Troll has moved under my house. Or at least sent his twin. ;)

    RedPeril, I can get a good visual of Maxine. Those comics don't sit well with me either. Maybe because that's how I view mayself. LOL! Gagging the inner-critic... who knew?

    I would dearly love to shanghai my inner critic and send her to Siberia, Mary. Perhaps after spending a year or two in exile, I'll get more respect upon her return. :D

  17. You ladies are wonderful! I am laughing as the images of the various inner critics parade through my mind.

  18. Katharine: contest comments and scores are bizarre. I'm almost at the point where I won't enter them anymore. But not quite. Guess my inner critic likes food for negative thought every once in a while.


  19. Stephanie, wow, can I relate to this! I just come up with excuses not to paint. Health issues, vacation, holidays, rake leaves, clean house, etc. When I count up, however, I have sold a large percentage of my artwork! So - they all have not found a home - many have! It's like I have to give myself 'permission' to do something that I find enjoyable, especially if there is 'work' around the house to be done. You and Jean are a wonderful partnership!

  20. Christine, I'm there with you. I mean, "Even Jesus asked why!"

    Michelle, selling your own artwork... that's a fabulous thing! You must have amazing talent!