My Inner Critic Is Trying To Kill Me

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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.

c.b. 2011

21 thoughts on “My Inner Critic Is Trying To Kill Me

  1. Just picture those little eye brows and smile. No writer has ever been able to ignore that inner critic completely. When you have an agent and a publisher you will have an editor. That’s their job! You wrote the book and now you have another one to do.
    Hugs.

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  2. Dear Ms Wentworth. What you fail to see is you have already won the battle in your book writing adventure. You finished what you set out to do, your goal was to write a book, period. If your goal was to sell a million copies would you have had the confidence in your writing skills to finish it? Probably not. Steven King’s ‘Carrie’ manuscript was fetched out of the trash for goodness sakes, and it’s a fair bet to say Stephanie Meyers hadn’t a clue she was writing her way to fame. C.B. Wentworth my dear, your dedication and passion for writing already speaks of who you are – your inner critic is merely testing what your made of.
    amy elizabeth, author

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  3. I would have to agree with Amy. I have a hard time believing that inner critics, as you described yours, speak to benefit the writer. They are tyrants and frauds; foul-smelling deodorant salesman. Pay them no mind. Your manuscript deserves to be read.

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  4. I feel like I am reading my own words here – I felt the exact same way after I finished my 1st novel! And a few days ago I finished my 2nd… and felt it again! I don’t know if this nasty inner critic ever goes away, but we probably learn to ignore it the further we go. So, I’m curious… what will you do now? Do you have plans/are you submitting to an agent? Considering self publishing? It’s all very intimidating stuff, isn’t it?

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    • It’s terrifying! After a couple days of thinking, it looks like I’m going to find a few readers to get feedback and begin working on a synopsis. After those two things are done, I think I’ll have a better idea of my next step.

      (It’s nice to know I’m not alone!)

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      • Definitely not alone! 🙂 I’m excited to keep up with your blog, it really is nice to know there are others feeling the same out there. And I just handed my first manuscript over to a friend as well… I’m biting my nails off just waiting to hear what she thought. gulp…

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  5. Bonnie,

    I’m looking forward to checking in on your blog, too. We seem to be going through the same things at the same time and it helps to have someone out there who “gets it.” 🙂 Good luck with your manuscript – I’m sure your friend will love it. (Let us know how it goes!)

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  6. Looks like you’re a few steps ahead of me in the novel-crafting journey. Great to meet someone else on the same river. : )

    The inner critic is so difficult to deal with. I hope, like Bonnie said, it lessens/is more easily ignored as time goes on. Sometimes it’s perfectly stifling.

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    • The inner critic can be so unpredictable. Sometimes she can’t touch me and other days I can’t escape. It helps so much to be in a community of writers so we can save each other from our own worst enemy.

      Good luck on your novel – I’ll be keeping up with your blog. You write wonderful posts!

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    • She has been banished, (at least for now). This post and the conversation that follows it has been so cathartic. Writers need each other to keep that inner critic at bay! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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  7. Unfortunately, that inner critic seems to badger every creative or artistic outlet. We just need to find the “Off” switch before it has us beat down too much.

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    • Sometimes I think she hides the “off” switch. Lol. Like all things, there are hills and valleys – I went a long while without hearing a peep from my inner critic, but she’s been getting active again over the last couple of days. Hopefully, my muse and I can shut her down.

      Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

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