Your internal writing critic, and one way to overcome it

Paul tackles the topics of your internal critic and creativity and writing in a number of his books. You can read about the books available online at paullima.com/books/.

Writing is considered an art by most fiction writers, one that involves a great deal of creative thought. For the rest of us—those who write business documents, articles, case studies, media releases, blog posts, social media content, web content and even non-fiction books—writing is a craft. However, even crafts involve at least a modicum of creative thinking, some types of non-fiction writing more than others, admittedly. Technical competency and understanding the structure of the document you are producing are important; however, unless you are producing a price list, it is difficult to imagine writing without a degree of creative ability. But before we look at creativity and writing, let’s look at something that can interfere with creativity, or what I call your internal critic or censor.

Writing seems to be painful in some way for almost everyone. For instance, when it comes to spelling and grammar, English is a convoluted and inconsistent language. For many of us, including me, spelling and grammar—let alone stringing words together in coherent sentences—can be frustrating. If you’re my age, that frustration might include some early memories of grade school teachers who seemed to relish slashing thick red marks through your earnest writing efforts. For me, that would be Mr. Conron, the grade five teacher whom you met in chapter one. As confusing as the rules are, having a teacher crush your work under the weight of red slashes can make the act of facing the blank page an intimidating endeavour.

My internal critic/censor, Mr. Conron, would not give me a pen in grade five, the year students graduated from pencil to pen. Instead, he made me use a pencil all year because I could not spell well or write neatly enough to earn my ink, so to speak.

But there was a reason for this.

Writing, to me, was complicated. All those rules and exceptions to them. Who could keep track? Maybe you, but not me.
It is “i” before “e” except after “c,” isn’t it? Oh, unless the word has an “aye” sound as in neighbour. If that is the case, how do you account for “weird”? When it comes to writing rules, that word is just … well, weird. So my writing was messy because I could not spell! When you don’t know if it’s “i” before “e” or “e” before “i” you make a chubby “i” and a skinny “e” and put the dot right in the middle, hoping to fool the teacher, which I seldom did.

Mr. Conron wielded his red marker like the sword of Zorro, gleefully cutting huge red gashes across my mistakes. He never once commented on content or creativity. He just slashed at mistakes, as if perfect spelling and grammar are what writing is all about. There was no room for art or craft, just correct spelling and grammar. Oh, and neatness.

I battle Mr. Conron whenever I attempt to master the creative art of writing. When he rears his ugly head, I say, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” 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 something about writing: writing is a process. First, you create, and then you correct. Mr. Conron (and Word’s automatic grammar and spell check) be damned!

Even before you create, there are steps you need to take to become a more effective and efficient writer. However, before we look at the writing process in detail (in antoher blog past), answer me this: You, too, have an internal censor. Who is it? Take a moment. Identify your critic/censor. Name him or her. Give him/her a nickname (like Satan). Place your thumb on the tip of your nose and wiggle your fingers at him/her. Go on. Do it. Say your critic’s name (or names!) out loud and thumb your nose at your Mr. Conron … There! Doesn’t that feel better?

Now … pick up a pen. Find a sheet of paper. And write about your internal censor/critic, and what impact he or she had (or didn’t have) on your writing. Write without stopping or correcting yourself. Screw spelling, grammar and neatness. Just write, write, write. Write as if you were freefalling—falling from an airplane without a parachute. Nothing can stop you. Not grammar. Not spelling. Not Mr. Conron. Take five or ten minutes and write, write, write … . Doesn’t matter what you write or where you go. Just write…. Don’t censor yourself. Consider this for your eyes only. Abandon your internal censor, and… On your mark … Get set … Write!

Write about your internal censor for 5 minute or so and see where it takes you. In subsequent blog posts, we will look at ways of overcoming your Mr. Conron. For now, enjoy thumbing your nose at him or her.

Read about Paul Lima’s books on writing online at www.paullima.com/books.

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2 thoughts on “Your internal writing critic, and one way to overcome it

  1. Pingback: Clustering or brainstorming your way to writing success | Everything You Wanted to Know about Freelance Writing

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