My internal Critic.
October 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
This sucks, and I’m a terrible writer. I can’t ever seem to get the ideas in my subconscious to come out in any sort of logical, interesting way. Even this little exercise about how I’m writing about how I’m a terrible writer is plagued by my internal critic. I can’t even write about writing about bad writing in a way that doesn’t suck. I obsess over every word. Do my ideas connect? They probably aren’t even interesting. I bet that I’m leaving out something totally obvious. Or someone else has already done this before and they have done it better. Way better. I shouldn’t even bother trying, because after all, someone else has already done it, and they have done it better. If I put something out there it will just waste people’s time. And what about the idea that isn’t already out there? Why don’t I write about that you ask? Well my internal critic has an answer for that too: Someone else can probably do it better, and when they do it will make your work look so terrible that you will be shamed forever. So it’s better to not even try because that way you won’t have to feel bad when people laugh at you. True, you’ll never actually accomplish anything, but at least this way you won’t get made fun of.
That’s what it sounds like in my head, pretty much all of the time. My internal critic has been with me all of my life. At one point, he was my imaginary friend. When I was little I don’t remember him being this much of a jerk–in fact, I have vague memories that we even got along and had fun together. We’d go on imaginary adventures and explore the deep recesses of my mind, making up new and exciting worlds, and creating new and amazing experiences. I don’t know when my imaginary friend turned in to my internal editor. I would guess sometime around the 7th grade, when I started getting my first real ‘do something creative’ assignments that didn’t involve paste, construction paper, or glitter. (I’m not knocking those materials as a viable art medium, I’m just saying that it’s pretty difficult for my internal editor to criticize elementary school level creations.)
Anyway, the reason I talk about my internal editor as being a transformation of my imaginary friend is because to me, the editor is almost like a real person. Just like the imaginary friend is to a child, the editor exists. He sits beside me, looking over my shoulder, talks to me, hangs out with me all the time, etc. The difference between him and normal imaginary friends is, well, he’s a dick. He never has anything positive to say. Often times he will interrupt a perfectly good train of thought to say, “That’s stupid,” or “You really are just the worst.” And I talk right back. Out loud. Sometimes in a mumbled whisper, but more often than not in a normal speaking voice. Sometimes I even yell at him. There have been times that I will be at work thinking about how I need to do X,Y, and Z, and that I should do them in various orders, and my internal editor-jerk-face will say something like, “that’s a really stupid way of doing things,” and I will find myself justifying my decisions, out loud. It gets really awkward when I realize that not only am I talking to him out loud, but that there are other people right next to me, looking at me like I’m crazy. The worst is when I’m casually talking to myself and I’m walking up the stairs, or around the corner in a hallway, and suddenly someone will be standing there and I’ll have to think really hard to figure out if I was just talking out loud or if it was just in my head. I always hope that it was just in my head, but judging by the looks on their faces, I’m usually not.
You know what? My internal editor needs a name. For now, let’s call him….Richard. You know, ‘cause it can be shortened to Dick.
Anyway, Richard and I have a pretty stressful relationship. He never lets up. Ever. Never ever ever never. Ever. He criticizes and mocks everything I do. I am constantly having to justify my actions to him. Even if it’s something as mundane as how I choose to tie my shoes, he’s there, ready with a snide remark. It can be very tiring.
I’m trying to learn how to quiet him, or at least, ignore him. I still don’t know how. He always manages to get the best of me in the end. It’s just something I need to keep at I guess. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time not doing something (like writing creatively) because Richard will tell me that it’s a stupid idea and is a waste of time so why bother.
Having such a strong internal editor isn’t all bad though. It has taught me how to justify my thoughts and actions. For the things that I am absolutely sure about, I can usually win the argument without much fuss, and it makes it so that if a real person in real life asks me to justify my actions then I am able to do that.
My problem is learning how to strike a balance. I don’t want to get rid of him forever, but it would be nice if I could figure out a way to turn him off, at least during the first draft. Once the first draft is finished, then Dick can come around and tell me all the things that are wrong with it. But at least by then I’ll have a better idea of the overall picture so I’ll be able to tell him why I think he’s wrong.
I’m really hoping that the upcoming NaNoWriMo project will be a great help for this. In order to get 50,000 words down in a month I’m going to have to turn him off. For a whole month no less! I’m worried that I won’t be able to do it. I ‘m worried that I will get so bogged down in what Richard has to say to me that I won’t be able to make it past 5,000 words. Or even 500. Or even 5.
Nevertheless, I am going to try. So, wish me luck.
[Insert clever sign off phrase here]
My wife stumbled across your Blog last night and sent me a link. Great Post! And I know *exactly* how you feel.
Remember: even Shakespeare doubted himself from time to time, so keep ’em flyin’.
Hope NaNoWriMo is going well for you this year…
[…] and foremost is the problem of ol’ Dick. (Go read this post to find out more about my internal critic.) Forcing myself to just write without worrying about […]