More Than Likely That is Not the Title…
But you get the idea. I’m going to start a series of posts here that will turn into a short book at some point about the fight we all wage against Critical Voice (with echoes and dread horror/slasher/music.)
And I hope to give a bunch of advice on how to beat back critical voice as well and get the fun back into your writing.
So here with go with a short introduction first. Then I’ll go from there over the next weeks. I have sixty-seven books to put out this year. This will be one of them. But I want to write it here first, right out in the open.
By the very nature of the word “critical,” critical voice is a negative thing. Can’t be anything else.
Critical means finding fault, finding errors, finding problems. You know, people like book or movie critics. The critical people often also exists inside our own families. Or friends who want to hold us back without realizing that is what they are doing. And so on and so on.
In the human condition, the critical voice in trained into our heads to save most of us from doing really stupid things. It is, in other words, a survival mechanism. Don’t jump off that ledge. Don’t run in front of that car. Obvious ones, taught to us by our parents.
We all have thousands of them. Don’t run naked down the street (unless you were a streaker in the 1960s.) Don’t insult someone with a gun. Don’t jump out of perfectly good airplanes. (Wait, I did that more than once.) Don’t jump off cliffs. (Wait, I did that more than once at well, a couple times on skis, a couple times with hang gliders.)
I need to stop before I start realizing I am lucky to be alive. But you get the idea. Obvious things our critical voices should stop us from doing every day.
And then there are the not-so-obvious examples that show up as self-esteem issues. I’m not capable of (blank) because (blank). We all have them in one area or another.
Then there is the political or religious critical voice about how some other person or belief is not as good as your own. Just look at our world right now and you see people dying over that little manifestation of poor critical training.
We had no critical voice when we were born.
It is all trained. Every bit of it, from the not walking in front of a car to self-loathing to hatred and bigotry. All critical voice, all taught and trained, often into belief status.
When it comes to writing, the training came from small comments from family or friends, from a book, from classes in schools. We absorbed and were trained in the teachers’ belief systems. Most of the time we have no idea where we learned something or why we even internalized it.
And that critical voice belief system, for the most part, is that fiction writing can’t be done.
That’s right, it is a belief system. And even though you will have gotten past it and are writing, you will hear it constantly from everyone around you. Often in small ways, but sometimes in pretty blatant examples.
So right from the start with fiction writing, we are in a battle with the world around us and ourselves. I could spend an entire chapter listing all the crap we all were trained about fiction writing. I did some of it in books called Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. All of us took in most of that crap in in one form or another.
You know. From things like: “You can’t make a living writing fiction.”
And then there is the big one: “You must rewrite everything.”
(I bet that hit a few belief systems right there. Taught belief systems.)
We all learned chapters full of silly stuff that actually has nothing to do with the creative process in fiction writing.
Our critical voices absorbed it all. Some bits just ended up surface knowledge, easy to shed, other parts ended up as a belief so deep as to be like breathing, impossible to stop.
So here we are… fiction writers with the job to sit alone in a room and make stuff up.
We have the door closed, the computer on, a mug of black tee beside our keyboard, a white screen in front of us. No one is in the room.
Yet all those people who taught us critical stuff about writing are all there, like ghosts with bad breath, floating in and out and stopping the writing cold. Or worse yet, making you write safe, careful stuff that is perfectly polished with no voice. Stuff that is same because same is safe.
And boring and dull. Sameness never sells.
Our job is to kick all those stinky ghosts from our training all out of the office, then let our two-year-old who hasn’t been trained yet by all the critical nature of our world out to play on that white screen. The two-year-old lives in all of us.
I call it the creative voice.
And over the years that creative voice has learned story, has learned more writing skills than you can ever imagine consciously that you know. Why? Because that creative voice has been absorbing story almost from day one.
But our critical voice has one job and that is to make up stuff that could go wrong and control the creative voice, not let it use stuff that the critical voice doesn’t yet know. Because that might be dangerous.
So there is a constant battle for most writers starting out. And for early writers, the critical voice always wins.
For long-time professionals, the creative voice always wins.
See the battle there? The path you need to travel?
The creative voice is where all our art lives. And it likes to play. It doesn’t like rules. Have you ever been around a two-year-old child? They challenge everything. Parents’ job to be the critical voice, to train that child in the ways of society.
So one of the best paths to becoming a long-term fiction writer is learn to control the critical voice, shut it out of all writing decisions, and let the creative voice out to play.
And that is what this book is about.
You might not even know that something you are doing is critical-voice based and is stopping or hurting your art. With luck, this book will point some of that out.
More than anything, this is a book about learning how to get out of our own way and just tell a story and have fun with the storytelling.
But to do that, the battle is between a two-year-old child and a big evil dictator with an army behind him of people who taught you all the information you need to now ignore.
The two-year-old creative voice must win.
See why there are so few long-term fiction writers? But it is possible for the creative voice to win the battle and in this book I hope to give you and your creative voice some weapons to fight with.
Onward into the battle.