Do you struggle to fight off voices of insecurity as you write?
From my conversations with fellow writers and creatives, I know I’m not alone in this. These whispers of inadequacy can stop the flow of words and ideas into our first drafts and can undermine our effort to editing and revise and polish are stories. They can make it harder to distinguish between helpful and harmful critiques. If we heed them, they may keep us from ever submitting stories, or submitting them to the best possible markets.
I’m fighting those voices, that inner-critic in a big way as I write this post. I think to myself, this post sucks. There’s nothing here that anyone cares about, that will help other writers. You’re being too personal, and not professional enough. You’re too wordy. etc., etc., etc.
If I reach back far enough, I can trace much of this inner critic to paternally and religiously-induced guilt and perfectionism that I’ve internalized over the decades. I remember, in particular, my dad encouraging me to write an autobiography when I was nine. When I finally presented to him the first few pages, he seemed disappointed, and said nothing to praise my efforts. The project died. I had a similar experience when I presented one of my first sketching experiences. “The nose is too long, out of proportion,” he said.
I’ve had to work hard to not pass this on to my children. I think I’ve been successful there. Just recently, I’ve had the absolute delight to hear about the from my teenage son about his progress on his novel. I get updates every week, and I’m glad that he considers me a safe place to share his thoughts. At some point, he’ll need an editor, as we all do. But right now, his ideas are flowing like a fast mountain stream, and I refuse to stop that clear current.
I’m trying to extend the same sense of nurturing to the creative-child within me. To this end, I’ve done the following:
1) I connect with writers and artists and readers who sustain and support me as a creative. When they offer criticism, it’s to improve me as an artist and to build on my existing strengths, and not to tear me down, or to create me in their image. Social media and conventions are great for this.
2) I tend to minimize my interactions with those who drain my creative energy. Perhaps this is selfish and uncharitable, but I know the limits of my emotional reserves and I protect what I have.
3) I try to diminish my sense of perfectionism. I remind myself that the greatest paintings, sculptures, films and architectural marvels began as messy thumbnail sketches and studies. The words I put down now don’t have to be the ones I submit to editors.
4) I do my best to try nurture and support other creatives. It’s one of the main reasons I’m an Inkpunk.
So, those are a few of my strategies. I’d love to hear from you all. What are the critical voices in your past or in your present life that undermine your creativity? What strategies do you have to silence or subvert them?