Saturday, June 22, 2013

That Old Inner Critic...

I find myself at an odd junction in my writing life as I alternate between the almost finished draft (second pass pages for Revolutionary are soon to arrive in the mail) and a very rough draft of a new piece.

In the past, particularly when I have worked on short pieces, I will stick with a draft, work it through several phases, then push it aside to let it stew for a while before coming back to work on the final edits.

I've never had to work simultaneously on something that is polished and something that is barely emerging.

And the challenge...

Well, it is to hold up the standards on both ends.  On the one hand, the need to be super-picky and minutely focused with that copyediting.  On the other hand, the need to just write, without caring about pickiness, in the early draft.  To switch from one gear to the other is tough.

I find that I'm giving myself the same advice I give my beginning fiction students: turn off the inner critic!  It is easy for me to be super-picky (I have lots of practice as an English teacher... plus, that's just the way I am.) but it is hard for me to let go of that attention to detail and just let the writing flow.

How does one turn off that inner critic?  I've been giving the advice for years, and in my normal drafting process, I have little trouble doing so automatically.  But now, I have to coach myself -- whenever I find my pen pausing over the page, worrying about a word, I draw little brackets around a blank space and tell myself: move on! 

It is particularly tough when I step away from the rough draft (and back to the final draft of the novel).  Immediately, my mind wants to compare and suggest: that other stuff is crap!  Just ditch it! The key is to reply to that voice and remind myself that without rough drafts, there is no final draft.

Perhaps some of you are familiar with this feeling from the reading/writing comparison.  Ever worked on your own piece, then taken a break to read a "professional" short story or novel?  It can lead to feelings of inadequacy!

But it is so important to come to the page (or the screen) with the feeling that the work -- even though it's rough... no, even because it's rough -- is important.  Speak back to your inner critic.  Believe that the process is important, that nothing gets to a refined state without first going through some ugly stages.

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