Last week, I finished the third and final draft of my first novel. After three years of toiling over the characters, the story, and every single word, it was finally done! My inner critic, however, refuses to let me celebrate. She reminds me that I have no idea what I’m doing. Worse still, she can back up that statement by bringing up the three prior false starts that can only be described as epic failures.
I remember how my pulse shot up for a brief moment as I reconfigured the last line one more time. I had only a few seconds of excitement before it all turned surreal. Now that it was done, what was I supposed to do next? I could almost hear the witch cackle of my inner critic as she started to toy with my confidence. The next natural step, of course, is to let people read your work and then brace yourself for the feedback. In the back of my mind that cruel little voice started whispering, “It sucks, you know.” “There are thousands of writers who can write better than you.” “There are mistakes on every page – stupid mistakes that should not be there.” “No one wants to read this piece of crap. What were you thinking?” “Everyone is going to hate it.” I wasn’t kidding when I said she was trying to kill me. She’s mean.
It doesn’t matter that I can scan through random pages and find nothing to fix. There is that constant sense that I’m missing something or that what I’ve done is too simple or too complicated, or completely ridiculous. I keep second-guessing myself and its spiraling out of control. The little brat even launches guerilla attacks when I’m reading a good book. Right in the middle of a paragraph, she’ll blurt, “You could never write like that.” Even if it’s a badly written piece she’ll still find a way to throw out a jab, “They are published and you are not. What does that say about your talent?” I swear she’s worse than the bullies that ripped on me in high school.
For now, my novel is safely tucked into my hard drive while I work things out with my inner critic. There is part of me ready to fight back and truly believe this is nothing more than a bad case of What Now Syndrome. Its hard to let go of something that has consumed my life for so long, but I can’t decide if the difficulty lies in reluctance, fear, or the constant bashing from a poisoned-tongue alter ego. Like most things in life, I suppose its about mustering the courage to simply let go and stop antagonizing myself. Most importantly, I have to decide that I want people to read what I’ve written. Having a little faith that its better than I think wouldn’t hurt either.