My biggest critic

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A big factor for me in not writing, whether it be blogging, writing a short story, novel, poem, whatever really, is the feeling/fear that I have nothing interesting to say, nothing new to add to the world. Surely everyone’s already written about this subject or that story has already been told, and there’s bound to be someone who’s not only doing it, but doing it better than me. So with that in mind, why bother?

You can see how I’m, emotionally, putting up barriers before I begin. Writing (well) is hard enough, without an inner dialogue telling you unless you have a following of at least 1 million your blog is a waste of space, or if you can’t write like Tolkien, you shouldn’t even start…

I envy the boundless confidence of some of the “writers” I know. I know at least two who are self publishing. They have moments of insecurity, they want you to like their work of course, but they believe in their ability, they believe they have something special. So they have done what I fail to.

This lack of confidence is not simply frustrating, it’s actually debilitating. It is not slowing me. It is holding me back.

It goes back years. I remember as an angst ridden teenager writing pages and pages of heartfelt poetry about unrequited love and the misery of life, and I would refuse to edit it, thinking “A true poet can write a perfect poem first time.” I have read enough now to know that that is complete rubbish. The writers I admire spend weeks, months even years writing, editting. Ideas stem and grow over time and are tweaked and re-written until the final, finished product is on our shelves to be admired. But still, I am overwhelmed by that old feeling when I consider starting to write.

A friend once pointed out to me that even if I am never a Tolkien-standard writer (highly likely) that doesn’t mean I can’t be published. That doesn’t mean I can’t write stories other people would want to read.

Yet, even as I write these words, I feel that this post brings little of value to my readers (assuming you have any, says the voice). An insight into my meanderings and my troubles of course, but what value for you? I feel I should link to useful articles or quote other, more experienced, experts. But I know that if I do that I will get bogged down in hours of research and the post will be delayed or, more likely, never published.

So instead of trying to give advice, I’ll ask for it. How do you quash the nay sayer in your brain? How do you find value in what you are working on, when the world is full of people with opinions and stories to tell? How do you believe that you have something to add?

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2 responses »

  1. The thing about insecurity is that it becomes self fulfilling, and the thing about positivity is it also becomes self fulfilling.

    The negative person fears failure and so ensures it by never pouring themselves into the task at hand. How can you put all of yourself into something if you fear rejection? Would that not be a rejection of all of you? So a negative person holds back, and in holding back they fail to show their true value. So one does things half-heartedly and sees the criticism that will inevitably follow as reason to hold back even more. To use the Tolkien example, his work was soundly rubbished by a number of eminent people and organisations. The vicious cycle this creates can only lead to one outcome, and its not a good one. This of course is then seen as justification for the original mindset.

    Meanwhile the positive person does their very best, confident in their value and the value of their work. It need not be the BEST, but it is good enough – it has value, it will be admired. They too will recive feedback, both good and bad, but they will take the bad as encouragment to work harder on those areas, and take the good as validation that they were right to believe in themselves. This ‘virtuous’ cycle also leads one way, and thats to somewhere good 🙂

    Of course if the positive person loses touch with reality that way lies danger – one can throw too much of oneself into something heedless of the cost and end up losing too much. Selling your house to finance your new book is great if it works, but for every Tolkien there are a hundred who succeed, but not to the degree where throwing away everything for it makes sense!

    I always feel one should be 90% positive, but never entirely shut out the voice that raises doubts. Believe in the best, do your best, but be mindful of the cost. I know that means I will never be the guy who gambled everything on the turn of a card and won the jackpot, but equally by knowing you can afford to lose a certain amount it can allow you to gamble up to that amount without fear, and vitally, you can know when too much is too much.

    One final point – maybe everything has been done before. Maybe someone has done it better. The old saying is that there are only 7 original stories in the world, but does that mean we should give up when we get to our eighth book?

    Maybe the story has been told before, but you will tell it uniquely. You will bring it to an audience who may not have seen the things you have. At very worst they may not read it, but more likely you will add some creative energy into somoene elses day and you may just say the right thing at just the right time and change someones life. And even if 50 people dont read it, but one person does and loves it, you will still have made someones world a better place.

    That, to me, sounds like a good reason to share your world with others.

    Larnen

  2. I think the point about the impact that negative or positive outlooks can have on the interpretation of feedback is actually very valid.

    Even the most talented people will get negative feedback, especially in any artistic fields as that is significantly down to personal taste. But I guess a big factor is how you interpret that feedback. Dismiss it as a personal opinion, take it as encouragement to do better or see it as confirmation of your worst fears.

    I read somewhere that one negative comment needs 9 positive ones to balance it. (I forget the exact numbers). But I find that’s true. I’ll listen to the criticism I receive far more closely that the complements. But perhaps that’s just because it fits my expectations?

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