Is it just me, or do you ever berate your creative writing process?
You’re sitting in front of words on a page when all of a sudden a sandstorm of criticism whooshes in leaving everything you’ve worked so hard on covered in muck.
“This isn’t good enough. Everybody’s going to hate this. Oh my God, my writing is humiliating. Why did I even start? I’m not a real writer.”
Sometimes we derive a false sense of security by being our own worst critic, but actually judgment is the most painful part of the creative writing process. And yet I’ve barely met anyone that makes it through unscathed.
The big fallacy is that this makes your writing better. It doesn’t. It sets off a downward spiral that blocks you off completely. It prohibits you from taking risks which makes writing unique and valuable. It sucks all the joy out of the process which leaves you with something bland and lifeless.
As far as I’m concerned judgment is the opposite of inspiration.
The trick to letting go of a bad habit is not stopping cold turkey. It’s far more effective to replace a bad habit with a positive one.
In the case of my coaching clients I help them replace judgment with clarity. Clarity is usually hiding behind that anxious emotional buzz of judgment. It allows you acknowledge the truth of where you’re at with your writing, and envision the road ahead.
For instance a judgmental statement might sound something like this: “Nobody’s going to like this.”
Now compare it to this very clear statement, “I should listen to feedback from beta readers if I want to connect with an audience.”
Another example: “This isn’t good enough.”
Change it to “This is going to need another edit for publishing.”
And finally a counterproductive, yet surprisingly common thought: “I’m not a real writer.”
Try this on for size: “I’m getting started and although I may not have many readers yet, all of the writers I’ve admired kept at it and were in it for the long haul.”
I’d like to challenge you to take your meanest judgmental thoughts and hare the clarified version below. Furthermore if you have a friend or family member who tends to be overly harsh with themselves, feel free to share this with them via e-mail. This simple habit shift from judgment to clarity can provide major pain relief and a far more productive and creative writing process.