When I write, I am not alone.
My inner critic is right by my side telling me just how awful that last sentence was.
Then it tells me to delete 90% of what I have written, before I have got to the end, and rewrite it all. It tells me my style is wrong and that my readers will totally hate this piece of work.
This is the trouble with us writers. Sometimes we struggle to tame the inner critic.
I don’t know why writers, myself included, are consumed with so much self-doubt when it comes to writing.
Perhaps because writing is something that is so close to our heart. Indeed we write from the soul. So if your writing is criticised, its easy to think that criticism is a direct criticism of you.
But what if we were instead fearless writers? How would your writing differ then?
I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. – Joss Whedon.
Annie Dillard talks about how we should be fearless writers. This means turning up to the page and giving it all you got. Don’t hold back. Don’t save the best sentences for the end. Just get it out there.
One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.― Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
The problem when we ‘save’ things is that we are not living from a state of abundance. We lack belief in ourselves, thinking this is all we have.
But what if you exhausted all your imagination and efforts every time you sat down to write? What if you gave it all you got each time?
When I go to the gym, I know I will only be there for 30 minutes. And I usually tackle the worst part of my workout first. Why? Because I want to completely exhaust myself. I want to give it all I got in those 30 minutes. I don’t save my energy or efforts till I get to a particular gym equipment. Instead I give it all I have for that full 30 minutes. And you know what happens?
I reach new limits I didn’t know existed within myself.
I learn new things I didn’t know I was capable of.
And I know when I come back tomorrow, I will repeat the process and somehow somewhere, I will have the energy to do it all over again.
And what happens over time is growth. I grow as a person, I grow in strength. I grow in discipline.
And this is exactly the approach we must take to our writing or any other creative effort you are in.
Don’t operate from a place of scarcity. Live from a place of abundance and that in itself will propel you to surpass the limits of today.
Empty yourself onto the page until you have nothing else to give for that day. And I can promise you that the following day, you will come back refilled and energised, with renewed energy.
A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.’’ – Junot Diaz, Professor of Writing (Winning of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2008).