Overcoming your inner critic when writing

[Excerpt from Harness the Business Writing Process by Paul Lima — http://www.paullima.com/books%5D

We all have an internal critic harping at us to get our writing right. At the same time, it’s just so darned difficult to remember all the picayune and inconsistent rules of English.

My internal critic is Mr. C, my grade five teacher. Mr. C took his task of teaching me perfect spelling and grammar seriously by wielding his red marker like the sword of Zorro, forcefully cutting huge red gashes across my mistakes. …

In grade five, students were supposed to graduate from pencil to pen during the year—as their spelling, grammar, and penmanship improved. But Mr. C made me use a pencil all year because I could not spell well or write neatly. I only received my pen on the last day of class. Mr. C tossed it at me and said, “Here, Lima, you’ll need this next year. Good luck!”

Of course, Mr. C was right. My writing was messy. For whatever reason, I could not remember most of the rules, and when I did manage to remember some of them, I could not remember the exceptions. When you can’t spell well, you try to hide the fact, which is why my penmanship was so poor. For instance, when you don’t know if it’s i before e, you make a chubby i and a skinny e and put the dot right in the middle and hope to fool the teacher!

Battling Mr. C
I battle Mr. C when I attempt to master the art and craft of writing—even when writing business documents. Today, however, when he rears his fearsome head, I say, “Get thee behind me!” And I keep on writing through typos and grammatical errors. Through incomplete sentences and incorrect words. I write until I have finished an error-filled first draft, and then I laugh in his face. Because I have learned that writing is a process.

If you look at the process, you will see that in the first step, you prepare to write. Then you conduct your research—internal and/or external, depending on the scope of the project, your readers’ expectations, and your knowledge or mastery of the topic. Then you get organized. Only then do you write. And while you are writing, you do not need to revise, edit, or proofread.

In other words, it is okay to make mistakes when you write because the process allows you to correct them when you finish your first draft. 

If you do not follow the process, Mr. C will trip you up every time. He will get you revising and editing when you should be creating. He will cause you to waste time proofreading work that is not even at the first draft stage. He will have you feeling inadequate because you are planning instead of actually writing something—as if it were illegal, immoral, or unethical to think before you write. In short, if you allow your internal critic to dominate you, you will feel frustrated and your writing will suffer.

Read an overview of the writing process here:

[Paul Lima is a freelance writer, business-writing trainer and the author of a dozen books on business and promotional writing, self-publishing and the business of freelance writing. Learn more about Paul, or read about his books, at http://www.paullima.com.]

One thought on “Overcoming your inner critic when writing

  1. Pingback: No Time To Write | Phenweb Publishing

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