March 19, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Fighting the Inner Critic

Hello, Misfiteers! Today for Writing Club Wednesday, I'd like to talk about that little beast that lurks within all of us--the inner critic!

One of the hardest things for me as a writer is fighting off my own self-criticism. As someone that tends to be a little too hard on myself, it's easy for me to prevent myself from making progress in a manuscript by thinking things like: "Did that last paragraph I wrote even make sense?" "Will anyone even be able to relate with this character?" "Is my writing even up-to-par with a project like this?"

Sometimes the self-doubt is so strong that there have been times where I stopped pursuing a project all together, or otherwise delayed myself from making much progress. All things considered, it's a miracle how I get any writing done in the first place! But thankfully, after years of trying, I've come up with various methods that help me get over my self-doubt and actually get those words on paper. Here are a few:

1.) Music. Music, music, music. I can't stress how important writing is to my writing process--it's so important that I sometimes compile playlists for my projects months before I start actually writing because often times, the music that immerses me into the emotions/thoughts of my characters or otherwise reminds me of the world is the only thing that keeps me from giving up on a project. At the end of the day, there are many times when music is the force that enables me to fall in love with a story or a character all over again.

2.) An outline. I am what I like to call a "reformed pantser." After struggling for months to write one of my most recent projects (CROWNFALL), I sat myself down to write an outline, not really thinking it would make much of a difference. So imagine my surprise when, after spending over five months trying to make it past the first chapter, I finished the first draft in less than a week with an outlineHaving a visual reminder of where to go next and being able to reassure myself that I actually DID know what I was doing in a way that got me excited about my ideas again proved to be immensely helpful in my writing process. That being said, I know that, in terms of pantsing vs plotting,  we all have different things that work for us. This is just something that tremendously helped me.

4.) Programs like Write-or-Die. There's nothing like the panicked fear of setting off the alarm/flashing red lights in Write or Die that keeps my fingers flying across the keyboard.  I've been able to write some of my more difficult scenes through apps like WoD, which would literally force me to write in such a frantic, time-constrained state that I'd forget to even think about criticizing my own writing. Although I do usually end up having to heavily revise whatever I write using that app, having something on the page to work with is better than having nothing at all.

5.) Beta-readers or just an additional pair of eyes. I often call on my closest friends (who read a lot of YA books and whom I can trust to be honest but not as disparagingly as I often am to myself) to give their impressions on certain scene(s) while I'm writing. Of course, my friends don't always say my writing is good (and they shouldn't!), but when they do, it's enough a boost that lasts me for a substantial part of the project.

6.) Tell yourself, "Whatever."  Sometimes, when my self-criticism rises to laughably high amounts, I simply tell myself, "Whatever," and keep writing anyway even though my writing may seem really horrible. I'm a firm believer that having words, any words, no matter how bad they are, on the page is better than not writing at all, since revising/working with things that already exist in text is easier than trying to conjure them up in the first place. That's how I get a lot of my writing done (especially all those boring academic essays that I have to write for my classes). Even though a lot of times, the stuff I write are nothing more than strings of consciousness, it gives me a visual to work with and shape into something that is worth keeping.

7.) A break. When all else fails, I take a break. This may not seem productive, but I personally find it very helpful to take a break for weeks (or in really bad situations, months) to reground myself in the project and work out a few things in my head before I start writing again. Giving me time to mull about various aspects of the project is usually enough to dispel some of the doubts I may have toward the project (i.e.: it's a great way to get rid of seemingly insurmountable plot holes) and just spending a lot of time thinking about the project often gets me excited about it again in a way that convinces myself that a project is worth writing, after all. Admittedly, this method delays my writing a lot but taking a break once in a while is better than stopping altogether.

Well, those are some of the methods that I use to get rid of my inner-critic. What are some of yours? Feel free to share them if you have any of your own--who knows, by sharing, you might be able to help other people battle their own inner-critics as well!

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