The Inner Critic is a constant companion to most writers. Exaggerating faults, making you feel like you shouldn't hold a pen at all. Nagging with each word you write in the back of your mind, giving you doubts. While sometimes, the inner critic can be a help during the second or third drafts of your novel, or even during the editing stage, the inner critic is always a massive detriment to writers when they just need to get the story out of their soul onto paper. So today, we're going to talk about the Inner Critic, and why you need to learn how to work with it properly today.
Why You Need to Eliminate Your Inner Critic on Your First Draft:
1. You will be able to write the story properly. You might be thinking, how will getting rid of my inner critic actually help me write the story better? Well, let's do a run-down on first drafts. The biggest and most important point to stress here is they are not about polish and perfection. First drafts are all about getting the idea from your heart and mind onto the page, about letting your story just flow naturally. The goal is to capture the story. Its essence, the main plot, and the bones of the book. It's definitely not going to be some award-winning manuscript after the first draft--that's why we have the revision and editing stages. But if you allow your inner critic to jump in during the beginning stages of your book, you're going to find your book will barely crawl along and you will lose a lot of the rawness the first draft needs. You'll be able to write a better draft of your book without the inner critic's presence, simply because your words and ideas will be able to get out there without being hampered by critiques and editing. The first stages are all about the story, not the style.
2. It will help you stay motivated to finish the first draft. Have you ever tried writing something with someone looking over your shoulder constantly-- trying to correct you, point out where you're going wrong, or change things? That's what it's like writing with an inner critic. Before long helpful editing changes you might think were great turn into you beating yourself up because you're not "good enough". You can get swamped in all the stuff you have to fix that the details overshadow the story and you start feeling like you'll never get there. When this happens, steam usually runs out and a writer will find themselves looking at a partially finished novel with a lot of overwhelm and very little enthusiasm. Don't let your first wild, exciting idea leave your side as you write, and tell your inner critic there's no room for their kind of negativity right now.
3. In the long run, the book will turn out better. If you write the first draft without an inner critic, let it sit for a week or two (or more) and then return to it with your handy-dandy red pen and your inner critic ready to evaluate fairly. You're going to be able to look at your novel without the brain-fog of attempted perfection hanging over you. It will already be acknowledged this is a flawed draft, and so you will be able to embrace the messiness as you go forward and polish it up. With such an open perspective, you'll be able to catch mistakes much easier. Not only that, but you'll be able to see all the good points of your book much better too! This provides for a more even, fair evaluation of your book, better revising and editing, and so, therefore...a better story. Balance is always key, and there is a place even for the inner critic. So if you do everything in order, you'll find you have a book that is polished and well-written but also grasps the raw magic of the first idea.
That's all wonderful, but perhaps you're wondering now how to do this inner critic elimination? Look no further: Here are five tips to get your inner critic to work with you instead of against you.
1. Recognize that fear, doubts, and critical thoughts are just part of the game. You know what? Everybody deals with this. You're not the first creative who has been hard on themselves, and you won't be the last. So don't be discouraged. Instead, acknowledge these are thoughts and feelings that are going to come up, and then tell yourself they don't dictate how you write. Tell them to take the back seat, and every time you feel self-doubt or something similar start to creep in, remind yourself that even though you feel it, it doesn't make it true, and it's time to keep the focus on your book. Don't be afraid of your inner critic-- just remember you are the one who gets to say when it does and doesn't come forward.
2. Freewrite. If you follow this blog, you've heard us promote freewriting before, but we're going to do it again. If you find you're really struggling to sit down and write without your inner critic getting in the way, then set a timer, pick a prompt, and just do a word dump. It can be incredibly freeing and such exercises always allow your imagination to start flowing better while also silencing your inner critic. This may be partially because of jump-starting yourself into what we like to call "the flow", but I also believe when you consciously permit imperfections as just part of the process, you're banishing your inner critic-- because how can you critique something meant to be messy and flawed on purpose? There are several ways to do the freewriting exercise, and we cover all in this in-depth post!
3. Try some writing challenges. It can be overwhelming once you start reading too many articles or how-to's, but some writing blogs have excellent tips to strengthen your writing with writing exercises to go along with them. One of my favorite websites for this kind of thing is The Write Practice. A recent blog post of theirs with a great writing challenge is all about 5 writing style tips to make your writing stronger. While it is about style, the writing challenge itself is really great to get your words flowing.
4. Use a distraction-free writing app. Sometimes what you need to do is just sit down and write without letting yourself go back and edit anything. If you're a perfectionist, though, you know this can seem almost impossible to do! Say hello to apps specifically designed for this problem. Here are a few we've tried and found useful!
Write or Die: There is a premium (paid) version of this with lots of different settings you can tinker with, but I'm going to focus on the free version. You can adjust by time or word count, then pick out of three different types of "Modes". Stimulus mode plays nice background ambience as you type, but if you stop, the page gradually darkens from white to red and the ambience ends--prompting you to get back to writing. This mode is a gentle way to keep you typing. Consequence mode is similar, only you don't have the background ambience, and when your screen turns red, an alarm goes off until you start typing again. Kamikaze mode is the one with the most at stake--when you stop typing not only does the screen turn red but slowly letters start disappearing from what you've already typed--and continue to disappear until you start typing again. This is one you don't want to stop on because you'll never retrieve those deleted letters.
Freewriter: This website is a great help for people trying to get their words written. Once you set up a free account, you can set a daily word count goal, and then you are taken to your dashboard. There are several modes you can choose from: Stealth writer fades your words so you can't see what you're writing as you type, Chromotherapy is great when you're stuck (it changes the colors of your page to stimulate your brain), Audio feedback mode plays ambiance music as you type, and then there's a mode that locks your backspace key so you can't delete anything but have to keep going. The great thing about Freewriter is you can find what works for you, or even jump between modes as you go. It's a great way to start a habit of a daily word count. They also provide motivational quotes for whenever you need them built into your dashboard, as well as the ability to go full screen.
Draft: This is actually a place where you can save documents as you work on them, and even edit, but for the purpose of this post, we're going to focus on their Hemingway mode in the drafting process. This one is definitely not as intense as the Write or Die modes, so if that stresses you out, you might like Draft. The caveat with this app is once you start writing in the Hemingway mode the delete key is no longer functional until you finish. While this is a lot like one of the modes on Freewriter, Draft is nice because you can choose your draft type (Document, transcription, or presentation), you can import documents if need be, there are stats and analytics you can track of your writing, you can create folders of various projects, and Draft works incredibly well for collaborations. It's also really good for comparing different versions of your drafts over time, and it can be a great tool not only for getting the early drafting stages done but also for editing stages.
Highland 2: If you're a screenwriter, then this one is for you. While it does have in-app purchases, this is an amazing program for getting the words written, screenwriter style. If you've written scripts before, you know how easy it is to get hung up on the formatting-- and this cuts out all of that so you can focus on the story itself.
5. Learn To Embrace the Process: If there's one thing the inner critic does, it's that it likes to steal the joy of the process. The truth is, every part of writing is amazing-- from the messy rough drafts down to the book launch. Your inner critic likes to join you along the whole way, prompting dissatisfaction and disillusion. Don't let that happen. The imperfect first drafts are beautiful, the editing stages are incredible. Think about it: You're creating entire worlds and characters and thoughts out of thin air. You're spinning words into pictures and then polishing it like a fine gemstone. Your inner critic has no place to be telling you that you're failing or you're not good enough, because guess what? It's all a learning process, and if you're willing to grow in your craft and enjoy every moment, then each stage is perfect just the way it is. Embracing the process is essentially telling your inner critic that its voice has no sway on what you do.
So there you have it!
Tell me: what do you do when your inner critic tries to take control?
Whether you realize it or not, being an indie author -- or indie creative in general-- is hard work! It's not easy to get ahead, and it can be pretty discouraging at times. That said, most people don't know how exactly to help or encourage indies. That's why I'm here! I'm going to cover 4 categories of Independent Creatives in this post: Indie Authors, Indie Designers/ photographers/artists, Indie Bloggers/online business owners, and young creatives. So let's jump right in!
Purchase Books. Ok, this one is kind of a no-brainer. But seriously, do a nice turn and buy a copy of the author's books. I'm all for book sales and freebies, believe me, but at the same time, let's not forget the value of things. Not only did someone pour in hours of their time, lots of love, and probably tears, most indie authors have to invest some quantity of money so you could have the book. As an indie author, though, the only payback we get in return is a percentage of the selling price. Whether they own their own business and their printer takes a percentage of their selling price, or they go through a vanity press (which costs a lot), authors never really get the number you see as purchasing price.
Let's put this into perspective. Say an ebook is $2.99. Instead of complaining about three dollars, realize that most likely, the author is only getting around two of those three dollars. Now think about what it takes to write a book: Hours and hours of writing time, hours more of editing, perhaps hundreds of dollars spent for cover design, proofreading services, the hefty cost of an ISBN number (the barcode on the back), and plenty more hidden costs-- ebook formatting, copyright fees, book launch giveaway costs, etc, etc. That's just to publish a book and doesn't even take into consideration the costs of keeping a blog running, purchasing necessary programs or equipment, and so on. So think of buying an indie author's book as an investment-- a couple of dollars or maybe $10-- to help out an indie immensely. Money is definitely not everything, but when you buy an indie author's books, it can at least help provide them with the needed funds to publish the next one.
Leave Reviews. Whether it's on Amazon or Goodreads or both, reviews can mean everything. Not only is it encouraging and exciting to read as an author, but it can really help potential readers know whether they should get the book or not. We all check reviews, and the more there are, the better. People trust readers like you to give them an honest opinion, and if you enjoyed a book, consider it sharing some love and write up a quick review. It's not hard. A simple star rating and stating what you liked about the book works. It doesn't have to be gushy, and it doesn't have to be long. But the more reviews there are, the more it helps potential readers and therefore helps the indie.
As a side note: Amazon rankings rely heavily on reviews. That means if there are only a couple of reviews, the book might not even rank in Amazon's huge marketplace, which means that potential readers won't even see it. That means that often, reviews = not only more credibility to possible new readers, but also more visibility to help them find the book in the first place.
Follow Blogs or Social Media. Your favorite indie author has a blog? Go sign up for their email list! YouTube channel? Subscribe! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? If you're on the platform, go follow them, or like their page, or whatever. Basically when you do this you're saying "I support you", which is really encouraging. Besides that, though, you'll have a better chance of keeping up with them and their upcoming books, new releases, and maybe even lots of fun extras like behind the scenes or giveaways or free stories. The truth is, it takes a lot of work to keep up a blog or a social media feed, so it's nice to know people care. And if you want to go even a step further, be active about commenting and liking their posts and videos.
Share with Friends. If you liked a book, tell your friends or share about it with someone you think would enjoy it too. We do it with movies, songs, articles, restaurants, businesses...so let's do it with books too. You might end up recommending someone their new favorite author, and they might forever be grateful to you! Another idea is that if you really enjoyed the book, post about it yourself on social media. This not only shows your support and lets your friends know about a great book, but it helps increase visibility for the author.
Let the Author Know You Liked the Book. In the days of the internet, there's really no excuse for not doing this. If you liked the book, tell them! You probably appreciate it when folks let you know they enjoyed something you created. It's uplifting and sometimes gives that extra boost they need to keep on creating. When people neglect to let the author know they enjoyed the book, the author is left unsure of the reception, and it can get really discouraging. Sometimes, it's so discouraging feeling invisible, that the author might feel like giving up altogether. Be an encourager.
Support Them. Remember back up at point one, where I talked a little bit about money not being everything, and if you buy the book you're essentially helping them with the funds for the next one to be published (in a direct or roundabout way)? Well, as you may have guessed from the list of expenses I mentioned that most likely, a brand new indie author isn't going to make enough from sales to cover all that. They're still trying to get their footing in the book world, and it can be easy to get bogged down in finances. The plain facts are that publishing can get really expensive. Even when you go as cheap as you possibly can by trying to do everything yourself, you're still going to have to pay for random pesky things like book ISBN numbers and copyrights and stuff. And when you factor in cover design, interior and ebook formatting, editing, proofreading, marketing expenses, etc... it can get pretty steep for an indie even when they stick to the lowest pricings on stuff and does as much as they can themself. Just being honest here: you tend to put in more money than you ever get out of it, at first. So if you want to keep getting books from your favorite indie authors, don't be afraid to pitch in and help. Use their services, donate to their project funding, or cover the cost of something once in a while.
Be Ready to Try New Indie Authors. Stumbled across an author you're unfamiliar with? Don't be afraid to try them. Yes, there are a lot of indie authors that might not suit your tastes, and there are definitely indies who aren't professional and can be difficult to read. But if you're hearing good things about an indie author from some reliable sources, or reviews on the book's Amazon page are looking pretty good-- go for it! We readers do it in bookstores all the time-- so go ahead and pick up a new indie author.
If You See Mistakes... Tell them nicely, but tell them. We want to know so we can fix things if need be, but be kind about it. Indie authors don't have a huge team to look out for errors, so we're doing the best we can in various circumstances. After all that hard work, we certainly don't want typos or inconsistencies, but once it's released we're starting to take a breather again, so-- just remember common courtesy, and point out any mistakes with a kind heart. It can be discouraging if the only thing we hear back is that we let a mistake get by, so try to be positive and encouraging as well. Give some good with the bad-- because the truth is, people are far quicker to let us know when something is wrong, then let us know when something is right.
Use their Services. The biggest thing is always going to be: use their services! Whether they have design services, photoshoot packages, or art to purchase, if you like their style, support them by using their work.
Follow their Blog or Social Media. Much like with the indie authors, if your indie designer or artist has an online portfolio or is involved on social media, give them a follow and keep up-to-date with what they're doing! Like their posts, comment on things, and get involved.
Share! If you like what they do, share it with your friends or even on your social media. But remember, don't just take a piece of art of a photo and post it without credit! Be sure to tag them or link to their website so that they can be discovered by others. If you've used one of their services, why not give them a shout-out and tell others what you liked about the process?
Be willing to work with them. The fact is, they're learning and growing in their craft, and they may not have had many customer interactions yet. Be easy to work with and communicate well, so that you can help them understand what exactly it is that you want. And as the process goes, treat them as a professional, but also be gracious as they are learning the ins and outs of business.
Be Positive. If any line of work gets dumped with criticisms, it's creative work. We don't need you analyzing our work with a critical eye nonstop. We appreciate constructive criticism, but we also can really use positive encouragement, too. Remember, constructive criticism isn't always negative! If all you can say is: "That looks weird", or "I don't get it." chances are, you probably shouldn't say it at all. If you look at a lot of designers/photographers/artist's posts, for instance, a good many comments are from random people who think they ought to just publicly announce that they don't understand where the artist is coming from. It's not necessary, and it rarely helps the creative.
Take them seriously. Art is one area of life that throughout history has been put down. Often when someone says they want to go into sciences, people encourage them, while the same people diminish the dreams and goals of the artistic people in the group. The starving artist is a myth and a mindset, and the reality is that the arts are just as much of a business in this day and age. Don't put down (even unconsciously) young creatives in this area. They don't need people trying to "give them reality" because we often already know reality, and in art, it's the dreams that fuel any forward momentum. Instead, encourage them! Give them the opportunity to show what they can do. Provide them with resources, or let them know you believe in them.
Indie Bloggers/Online Business Owners
Follow their Blogs and Social Media. Are you seeing a pattern? But this one is especially important because bloggers' entire income comes from their blog or social media, and online businesses also rely heavily on online platforms to market their products. Not only is actively following and interacting with your indie blogger or business owner going to give you the chance to encourage them by supporting their work, but it will also potentially help bring them more income because, in the blogger/online world, views and interaction often = income.
Don't use AdBlock on their Websites. This one doesn't affect everybody, but for the ones that it does, pausing your adblock on their websites can affect their income significantly. Many bloggers receive some of their income from ads being shown on their website-- and usually, these are small and off to the side and don't even bother the viewer. When people block them, that means they're blocking one area of revenue.
Now, I know what you all are thinking: But I want to make sure I don't see any bad advertisements! Let's clear up a few things. First, I'm not against adblocks. I agree, there's a good reason to have them. However, most of the time, your bad advertisements are going to pop up on sites that are perhaps a bit shadier themselves. Secondly, the ads you see are based on what you're looking at or searching for online, so it's easy for the internet to mess up what kinds of ads they give you if they caught a hold of a one-time search or something. There's a way to customize your ads though, so you only see certain types of ads. You can go into your settings (for instance, google settings) and there's a whole section on advertisements. You can choose to only receive certain types of ads, and it will stay consistent with that. In that way, even if you allow ads on certain websites or blogs, you will only be seeing ads within categories that you approved. (For instance, I only see ads anymore for things like vitamins, essential oils, traveling, clothes, and food).
Going off of this: If you don't have an adblock in place, and you see a less than desirable ad pop up on someone's website, please don't get offended and write the blogger with a complaint. They have no control over the ads-- they are customized to your experience. If you haven't set in place some settings for the ads you see, it's not the blogger's fault.
Be Happy to Support Them. Whether this means leaving a positive and encouraging comment, or not complaining when they offer a product to sell instead of for free, this means a lot to a blogger. Most bloggers love their audience and are happy to create tons of free content (blog posts, free printables, and so on), so getting some positive feedback for all their hard work is incredibly encouraging. It can take hours upon hours of work to produce quality blog posts, freebies, or keep websites up and running, so it's nice to know that people are thankful for that. Also, when a blogger or online business owner begins to sell products or perhaps produces a product that costs more than their previous ones, please don't get upset, and please consider purchasing it if you are interested in it. The truth of the matter is, indies simply can't just offer everything for free or only a couple dollars. If the value is more, sometimes we need to charge more. It can be very discouraging to put a lot of work into a product, only to receive complaints on the price. So if you want to help an indie business owner, be positive and support their business!
Share Their Products and Blog Posts. If you liked something, why don't you share it? Sending links to friends, posting on your own social media, or directing others to their store or blog is a huge encouragement and also help to indie bloggers and business owners. Be sure to always include a link back to the blogger, and share away!
Don't Put Them Down. This is by far the biggest thing I could say for how to help Young Creatives. First, though, let me address the obvious: Young Creatives usually aren't in the "indie" category yet, and they certainly aren't owning businesses or necessarily marketing on social media, etc. So this list is going to be a little different. The one thing I always say to those looking to encourage a Young Creative is don't put them down. This means that instead, you should be encouraging and supportive of their dreams and interests. You don't need to be the wrecking ball that comes in and proclaims that "it probably won't happen", or "you need to be a lot better than that", or "but you know that can't be your real job". Even if they don't end up in the creative field they express an interest in, what reason is there to put down a young person and their dreams? Creativity ought to be encouraged because even if they don't end up in an artistic area of work someday, that creative spirit they developed as a child will stay with them and play positive roles in their life for as long as they live.
Give Them the Tools They Need. Most of the time, young creatives don't need a whole lot to get started being creative. And they certainly don't need fancy or expensive equipment. So if you want to encourage your young creative, why not supply them with some tools to pursue their interest? If they want to be an author or poet, give them pens and notebooks and fiction to read and books about writing. Give them bookbinding tape or folders, or ways to learn how to type properly. If they're into art, supply them with paints and brushes, or chalk, or colored papers, or sketching pencils. If they love photography, get them started with a beginner's camera and a rechargeable battery. Let your creative make plays, record music and songs, doodle in notebooks, print photos, and read to their hearts' content.
Help Expand Their Minds. Along with providing tools, help your young creative's minds expand by promoting learning experiences. Send them an article or clipping from a magazine or book about whatever it is they love and say "thought of you". There is nothing like hearing as a young creative that you were thought of in connection with your passion! Curate books or inspirational quotes. Talk to them about the greats in their favorite area of creativity. If you can, provide them with opportunities to go to related museums, book fairs, libraries, or galleries.
Share their Work. Share their work, and be proud of it yourself. The visibility and encouragement will always help a young creative, and often prompts them to do more creating. It's also a good chance to allow others to be an encouragement as well. Just be sure that when sharing their work, it is a positive moment, and not an opportunity to laugh at their expense. Remember they are young and learning, and often don't understand the jokes that arise from something they poured their heart into.
So there are my top ways to help and encourage indie creatives! Do you have any to add to the list? Comment them below!
Sometimes, nothing seems to work. You've read all the how-to-write posts, you planned with care, you had a perfect outline-- and then, your passion project fell flat. It just wouldn't come. Or you started it and then everything sort of died out. Suddenly, the book you're so invested in has simply... gone wrong.
You'll find lots of posts out there telling you two different things.
I believe, though, that passion projects gone wrong CAN be saved. They should be!
So we've covered three basic principles on why you should want to save your passion project. But how do we salvage it when it has gone very, very wrong?
First of all, take a step back and don't freak out. While it can be very overwhelming to realize your passion project is not working out the way you hoped, take a moment to remind yourself that this is just part of the writing game and you'll work it out just fine. You might need to set aside your project for a little bit-- I suggest at least a week. When you're right in the middle of something, every problem is magnified and it's hard to see things objectively.
After some time, reevaluate your book. Now is the time to reread what you already have done-- whether that's a full novel, a handful of scenes, or scraps of notes, research, and outlines. Taking the time away from it before doing this step will help you look at it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself these questions:
Now is the time to get feedback. Sometimes, even after reevaluation, it can be hard to pinpoint what exactly isn't working for your novel. And even if you think you know what the problem might be, getting another opinion is a good idea. Remember how I said fresh eyes to look at your project is good? That includes eyes who have the ability to look in from the outside. Especially with passion projects, it's important to have someone who isn't as attached as you give you honest feedback. But who do you get to give you some constructive thoughts?
Decide whether it is time to write your book or not. The truth is, sometimes it's you that's holding the book back. Don't misunderstand me. There's NOTHING wrong with this. Sometimes, though, the topics talked about, the writing required, or the soul that the book needs is something you just can't give yet. That's ok. Give yourself time to learn and grow as a writer, and allow yourself the grace to put it in the vault for a while until you're ready to write it. There's many reasons it might not be the time to write your passion project.
You might be thinking, "But wait a minute, I thought you were saying that you shouldn't abandon your book?". That's exactly right. I don't think you should abandon it. Sometimes, though, you need to allow time to pass in order to be able to write the best book you can.
As time passes, revisit your novel from time to time and go through the questions I listed above again. Let yourself mull over the story as you continue writing in other things. Don't just push it out of your mind and ignore it-- think about it. While you're at it, we offer a great workbook on how to take a productive writing break. The best part is, it's free! Just use the sign-up form below and you'll instantly have access to this and more.
How about you? Do you have a passion project that just seemed to go all wrong? What did you do about it?