Writing through the inner critic

Image: Calum MacAulay

The term ‘writer’s block’ didn’t enter our culture until the 1940’s. In the 1800’s, people just… wrote. They carried notebooks and started journals and wrote because they felt like jotting their thoughts down.

But then, all of a sudden, writing became a big, shiny profession. It could make us famous. We could be like Ernest Hemingway or Harper Lee. But of course we’re not qualified like these people, RIGHT?

If we could only find out what kind of pencil Stephen King uses, we’d be set. We could get that pencil — heck, that’s no problem. Maybe he uses a large, plain, black, ruled, hardcover Moleskine. We can grab that too and we could pop off effortless prose just like he does.

I remember reading Stephen King’s, On Writing. These were the answers. As I read his process, I was thinking — wow, this is like cheating. Here’s one of the world’s most famous authors giving me his secrets. I could picture myself sitting in his study thinking what he thought and doing just what he did when he wrote.

Here was the step-by-step to writing acclaim. Fame and fortune would surely follow!

And then I sat down to write…

Shit.

There, right in front of me, again, was that beast that faces all of us writers — the internal critic.

“You’re gonna write about that?” it snorted. “No one’s gonna read it. Why are you wasting your time? Go back and read how Stephen King does it again — he’d never write that slop.”

The inner critic has been an all too familiar voice along this journey.

Just as I sat to write this post, it spoke up. And it didn’t really let up until I was a few paragraphs deep when it knew I was obviously ignoring it.

When the inner-critic shows up, I know I’m on the right track.

I may not ever be able to silence it. But I won’t let it block me. Ever.

Why? Because I write. Sure, I want to be famous. Sure, I wish I was getting paid boat loads of money to write this piece. But that isn’t going to stop me from setting fingers to keyboard and expressing myself right damn now.

And that’s what I’ll do. In spite of the bastard.


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