Writing Without the Voices

Today’s guest blogger is Stacy Lipson, a writer-friend I met (where else?) on Twitter. You may remember that I mentioned Stacy in my Writing Tip #3 post. She had written a very moving essay about her experiences with being bullied as a child. Today, Stacy shares her thoughts on writing through doubt, a favorite pastime (ha!) of mine and, I’m sure, many other writers.

Writing can be a difficult process for even the most talented writer. From rough drafts, to final edits, the process can take a toll on your emotional health.

Take me, for instance. As a professional writer, the process begins long before I open up my flashing Microsoft Word. I will craft out a sentence, only to cross it out two minutes later.  Through the writing process, I will hear my inner critic screaming in my head: “This is awful. Awful. What made you think you could be a writer? You’re just a hack, and one day everyone is going to realize it. You know that McDonald’s you passed by on your drive in? You might want to memorize some customer greetings.”

Me to my Inner Critic: “Hey, lay off! I’m doing my best here.”

Inner Critic: “Your best isn’t good enough.”

Me: “That’s not fair!”

Inner Critic: “Go back and keep editing.”

Yes, my Inner Critic can be a pain in the neck. So for the first time last week, I attempted to write just for the sake of writing.  At first, I found the process to be unusual, and even challenging.

“This is terrible,” I grumbled under my breath to my laptop. “What kind of writer am I?”

After thirty minutes of free writing, my mind began to clear. I found that the words began to flow and eventually form into something that resembled a piece of work.

The more I write, the more I realize that writing is a changing process. As a writer, your work will change drastically over the years, and often, for the better.

So, go ahead. Give yourself a break. It may be the best resolution you make. By turning off your inner critic, you can reconnect with your unique voice in your writing.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind through the writing process:

  • Write it down on paper. If you find yourself struggling with your words, take a ten-minute break, and return to the old-fashioned method of pen and paper.
  • Embrace your imperfections. Not everything you write will win a Pulitzer Prize, and that’s OK. Tell your inner perfectionist to take a back seat as you work through the writing process.
  • Monitor your thoughts. If your thoughts turn negative, gently remind yourself that you are human. While some self-criticism can be helpful, continuous self-hatred can lead to depression, or even anxiety.
  • Stop being a people pleaser. At the end of the day, the only person you should be worried about pleasing is yourself. While you toss and turn in your bed at night about an editor or agent’s reaction to your latest manuscript, the rest of the world will be sleeping soundly.

Stacy Lipson is an independent journalist who has written for national and regional publications. For more information, please see her website.

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2 thoughts on “Writing Without the Voices

  1. I think I identify with the second one the most. Sometimes you just have to forget about being perfect and write the story anyway. That’s what makes NaNoWriMo so great. You don’t have time to be perfect, so you can say, “Aw screw it, I’ll fix it later.”
    Great Post.

  2. Stacy,

    It took me to age 47 to get serious about writing, largely because of your last point. I didn’t think what I wanted to write, in my favorite genre, would please anyone but me. Now I’m writing in that genre to please myself, and I plan to e-publish it and try not to care if anyone else likes it or not.

    The NaNoWriMo event helped me learn to tell my inner critic to STFU.

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