Hush The Inner Critic
By Nancy Allen
“Your inner voice whispers, but speaks the loudest.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo
I have been hearing voices in my head and those voices have a name, Inner Critic. My Inner Critic fills me with uncertainty by shouting about my writing failures or tells me I don’t have enough talent to finish the book. Sometimes the know-it-all tells me I’m wasting my time because the manuscript will be rejected. Another name for the Inner Critic is Self-Doubt. I’m up to his tricks (or is it a her?) of trying to erode my confidence. Usually, I don’t have a problem with the first draft or even when I’m revising. Inner Critic pays a visit when I have a request for a rewrite from an editor, especially when the directions are vague, such as I need to feel more emotion from the character or when the revision notes are multi-paged, single spaced. What? That much of the story doesn’t work, yet the editor is still interested.
The first thing I do is read through the notes once, maybe twice. Then I do what comes naturally: I walk away from the notes and the computer. My Inner Critic is yakking. Who are you kidding? You can’t do this. What if you do all that work and she decides to pass on the manuscript? That’s a lot of time to invest.
Inner Critic is an emotional barometer that most writers deal with. We can either let it drown us in fear to the point that we quit writing or we can use it as a motivator to gear up for a challenge. If all else fails, I feed it chocolate to shut it up; then we’re both happy. After I read the editorial notes and allow my Inner Critic to shut me down for the day, I usually don’t reread the ideas and suggestions, but I think about them. Ponder, I call it. Some comments will stick out in my mind, and I figure out a way to work through them. If I can figure out a way to work through one, I begin to relax. One at a time—the refrain that bounces around in my head.
The next day, I read through the notes again. This time, I force myself to concentrate on what the editor has to say. If Inner Critic shouts or even whispers, I force my thoughts to analyze the notes. Usually there is a, A-HA! Moment and I think, Oh, I get it. But as I read on, there are often other suggestions that I’ll have to give much more thought to. That’s okay. One at a time.
I close the notes and reread the manuscript. As I read I figure out where some of the changes can be made…and how. I make notes, flagging sections that need revision.
At this point I tackle the revision and invite Inner Critic to join me. As I change and tweak, Inner Critic tells me if it’s not working. In AMAGING GRACE: A KENTUCKY GIRL WITH GUMPTION DURING WWII, I had to extract several chapters and rewrite. I outlined the new chapters. An outline allows me to figure out what will happen and in what order. If I have a plan in place, I can hush my Inner Critic. Inner Critics do not have to be all negative. Harness that negative pickiness and force it to become an Inner Editor by not settling on mediocre writing. Use it to your advantage to see your work through an editor’s eyes and make the story sparkle. Then the Inner Critic becomes a friend.