Almost every writer has what’s called an inner critic – a voice inside their heads that ridicules their work, tells them they’re not good enough, and generally makes their writing lives a living hell. It’s like your high school bully took up residence inside your head, where it’s really easy for him to figure out which buttons to push.
I don’t buy it.
The word “critic” implies that this jerk has some kind of actual, factual basis he uses for critiquing my work.
Mine doesn’t – he’s just an asshole.
This week, I’m diving into the second draft (or the fourth draft for some parts of the WIP, but that’s a different story) of the Tharassas trilogy, and boy is he there for it.
“Are you fucking kidding me? You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re doing, do you? Look at this phrase. It’s overwrought and stupid too – no wonder all those agents rejected you. You think that line’s funny? You’re too old for this shit, you’re not clever, and you can’t even keep your characters straight. Go back to writing short stories. Or better yet, quit writing altogether and save the rest of us from your stupid little stories. You’re a hack and no one wants to read your crap.”
Like I said, he’s a grade-A asshole.
I know it, and yet still I listen to him. Especially when I’m hit with a cascade of query rejections, or a particularly painful one that hits me where it hurts.
He’s always ready for those, whispering in my ear:
“See? Everyone else thinks you suck too.”
Yeah, he’s not particularly pithy or all that smart. But he knows how to get to me.
Now it’s my turn to dish it out. I’m sick of his abuse, and I’m not gonna take it any more.
“Are you fucking kidding me? I’ve been writing since I was in fourth grade. I’ve written eleven–count ’em–eleven novels, and another thirty novellas and short stories. I’ve won awards, hit the top one-hundred on Amazon, and made people cry with my words. What have you ever written? What’s that? You’re goddamned right–absolutely nothing. So sit down and shut the fuck up, and let me write. Anything else you wanna say? I didn’t think so.
I gotta be honest, that felt really really good.
Will it last? Probably not. But for today, he’s finally shut up.
That’s the thing about bullies – as they say in Texas, they’re all hat and no cattle. Stand up to them, and they’ll usually fold like a house of cards, ’cause you’re no longer an easy mark.
At some point, we all have to learn to stand up for ourselves, even if it’s against ourselves.
You’re a writer. You have written beautiful things, searing things, things that have ripped out your readers’ emotional guts and made them come back for more. So when your inner asshole dares to show his, her, or their face, let them have it. Own your successes.
And remind your asshole (and yourself) why you became a writer in the first place.
To my writer friends, how do you deal with your inner asshole?