By Elizabeth Chanye
Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Chanye, All Rights Reserved
Life would be easy if all
you had to deal with was criticism from other people. "They just don't
understand me," you tell yourself, shaking your head. "No, they just
don't understand art."
But what can you say when
the little imp inside your head starts acting up?
Most writers know the imp
well; he's the one who says the things you don't want to hear. "Who's
going to read this? This is trash!" "Call yourself a writer? Who are you
Having inner voices is
nothing to worry about. It's how to deal with them that's the problem.
Trying to quell them with logic is close to impossible; about as
efficient as smashing your head against a brick wall.
Here's a list of the various
anti-muses you'll probably encounter during your writing life, with tips
on how to get along with them:
This is the guy who houses all your insecurities, constantly reminding
you that you're not a writer, that your work is horrible, and that you
can't make it in an industry with so many talented competitors. The
eternal pessimist, the Doubter can bring on writing blues in extremely
short amounts of time. When the Doubter appears, the best thing to do is
ignore him. Like younger kids throwing tantrums, the Doubter craves
attention, and once you stop to pass the time of day, he'll take you in
a downward spiral of self-doubt you can't escape from. Remind yourself
of past publications or great pieces that received a lot of praise. You
are a writer, and if not a fantastic one, at least a fairly good one.
You'll find the less you listen to the Doubter, the less he'll pop up.
Unlike the Doubter, the Obsessesor doesn't actively try to stop you from
writing. Instead, he takes the route of insisting on every single detail
non-writing-wise being a certain way. You have to use that special lucky
pen; the color of your notebook has to be just right; and your writing
desk should be spotless before you can begin to think about
writing. Writers can be pretty superstitious folks. Because you wrote a
wonderful story with a fountain pen on handmade paper in a hotel on the
other side of the world, you may think recreating the scene will produce
another good story. Admittedly, it can happen, but half the time you'll
be stuck, wondering what you got wrong this time. Be prepared for the
Obsessesor. If you prefer to use a certain type of pen, buy a dozen of
them so you won't have to waste time looking for pens when you should be
writing. Ditto notebooks and other writing tools. As to the expensive,
impractical things that the Obsessesor demands (like a castle to write
in), either buy postcards to put up by your desk, or find out the reason
behind the obsession. That one-of-a-kind-pen your great-aunt sent from
overseas is, when all is said and done, just a pen. Try to figure out
why you like it so much: is it the way the pen seems to "grip" to your
hand, or the way the words glide onto the paper so easily? Next time you
buy a pen, you'll know what to look for.
Also known as "What will my mom/grandparents/friends think?", the Censor
is the one who shows up when you're writing stuff "nice" people
"shouldn't" write about. When writing a murder mystery, for example, the
Censor might say, "When your friends read this, they'll think you're a
MURDERER!" Writing about things you "shouldn't" is nothing to be
ashamed of. It doesn't mean anything other than the fact that you're a
writer. Other writers have written about the "nasty" subjects, and the
act of writing doesn't turn them into weirdos. Some, like Stephen King,
even get famous for it! Keep in mind, you don't have to show your work
to anyone, and you can opt to publish under a pen name. So give the
Censor a push, smile, wave, and move on.
This is the one who always pops up to remind you of the tasks you should
be doing. "Mow the lawn," orders the Slacker. "And after that, wash the
car, clean the house, and spend more time with your neighbors." There is
no end to the jobs the Slacker can remember for you. If you get
distracted, that's exactly what the Slacker wants. There are writers who
believe everything the Slacker asks them to do is somehow unbearably
urgent. You feel as if you can't wait to mow the lawn because it might
rain later, or your friends might come over. So you abandon your writing
and go off to mow the lawn. The thing is, most of the tasks the Slacker
comes up with aren't at all urgent. Mostly, they're just mundane
everyday chores. Remind yourself how important your writing is to you,
make a note of the chores you have to do, and schedule time around your
writing to do them. Don't overestimate the time a task can take. Nobody
needs a whole day to dust a room; twenty minutes should be more than
adequate. The rest of the day can be used for writing.
Obviously, there are plenty
of other voices that may show up from time to time, and the best way to
deal with them is simply to go on writing.
As a friend of mine once
said, "It's like planning a trip. Before you go, you worry about
everything from the weather to losing your passport, but once you get
started, all the worrying whispers fade away and you just enjoy the
So, just write. Maybe the
piece you're working on will turn out to be horrible, but everything can
be rewritten. All you have to do is take that first step.