With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to make excuses not to write. There’s shopping to be done for Christmas and Hanukkah presents, trees to be decorated, cards to be mailed and office chocolates to be eaten. But wrapping presents at the last minute isn’t the real reason I’m not working on my novel right now. Instead it’s a nagging voice I know all too well. My inner critic.
This voice inside my head is trying to stop me from creating. I’m nearly three-quarters into my novel, but all of a sudden the critic has started whispering in my ear. She says things like, “Everything you write is crap. Who wants to read this anyway?”
It doesn’t seem logical. I’m almost there, past the halfway mark. But having reached the “crisis” stage, I feel like I can’t move forward. What if the high energy crisis scene is ridiculous, melodramatic or poorly written? What if the climax is even worse? My inner critic has convinced me when I sit down to pitch my novel at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, agents are going to laugh.
I’m still reading The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, using it as a tool on my writing journey. Martha writes, “Writers typically reach a crisis point about three-quarters of the way through writing a novel, memoir or screenplay…you feel ready to cry and throw up your hands. Deep creases on either side of your mouth sag all the way down to your chin.”
Normally these excerpts from the book comparing the writer’s life to the protagonist’s life cause me to roll my eyes, because I think it’s a bunch of baloney. But Martha may be onto something. In the past two days, I’ve gotten the stomach flu (resulting in 5 hours of non-stop vomiting) and received a medical bill higher than my monthly salary, not covered by my insurance. Blue Shield is definitely the Grinch who stole Christmas.
It feels easy to go into a tailspin, plummeting towards depression. But Martha has a few words of encouragement. She writes, “A story is about the protagonist reclaiming her own personal power. The same thing applies to you on your writer’s journey…Know your part in the breakdown and you will see it in your story, too. Take back your power.”
My inner critic tells me I don’t blog often enough, my story isn’t good enough and I should have read the fine print of my insurance plan. I’m trying to shut that voice out. Right now I need support more than ever. I’m lucky to have loving friends and family, a cat who snuggles with me when I’m sick, and a goal worth pursuing.
Granted, accomplishing this goal won’t be easy-but life never is. Rather than becoming a victim and giving up, I will continue moving forward. And the only way to do that is to tell my inner critic to be quiet. I know this won’t happen right away. But I’m hoping with some practice, that nagging voice will be barely audible.
Let’s hope this weekend I can drown it out with some Christmas carols. Happy Holidays!