Critical voice is the term Dean Wesley Smith uses to describe what many writers think of as their “internal editor.” Only, it’s a little worse than that.
Critical voice is designed to stop you from making a mistake, however that mistake manifests itself. And because it’s designed to stop you, when it enters into our creative spaces, it can grind everything to a halt.
Would you, O Reader, like to guess how I know this?
My writing has ground to a halt. And I have a few things I’m going to try before I throw in the towel, but the odds of my completing a second novel this year aren’t very good at this point.
Heck, at this rate, the odds of my starting a second novel this year aren’t good.
On the one hand, I could shrug and go about making another pass through my “finished” manuscript to ensure it’s publication-ready. Problem is, I’ve already paid for an outside editor (meaning someone outside my circle of acquaintances and friends or loved ones), and if I make another pass through this bad boy, I could end up injecting mistakes that weren’t there before. And they’d be all new mistakes.
Still, it’s tempting. Like a serial killer who goes back to the crime scene and watches the responders and crowd, I find a draw to the last site of victory for me, to revel in it once more. It won’t accomplish anything other than to remind me how fun it was to write it and how I’m not doing that now, though.
But, at least I have an idea what’s wrong. I think there are a few things, actually. And I owe the diagnosis to – you guessed it – my new bromance, Dean Wesley Smith.
Okay, I’m sorry, that came out way creepier than I intended. But I have to admit, I’ve learned more from DWS about writing since February or March than I have from any single source in my entire career. I’ve learned a lot about road blocks, too. I think I might know what’s going on with me because of things he’s told me, directly in the comments on his blog. In itself, the knowledge is helpful, and might just guide me out of the doldrums.
But ultimately, writing is on me. I know I can create a novel of medium length, in that 70-90K word range, in about ninety days. I know I can, because I’ve done it, three times now. (Yeah, I know, I always say I’ve written two, but that’s only because the one I did in 2004 was ridiculous and horrible, and the one I did in 2007 isn’t really finished yet.)
I started by making this project important instead of fun. Then I let the critical voice come in and make demands of the story which may have actually killed it. Instead of just turning the creative voice loose, I keep telling myself real writers write, and because I don’t fell that compulsion, that drive, that burning desire, I must not be a real writer.
I’ve also referred to my writing as “work” and have put pressure on myself to produce enough product so I can start transitioning to writing for a full-time career. Yeah, how can that go south?
Meanwhile, my creative brain wants to write. I want to write. I just can’t see to get there.
On the upside, I know now I’m probably full in critical voice (DWS’s statement to me based on my description), and making this project important – important for this series, important for my career, important from a personal accomplishment standpoint.
Yeah, no pressure there at all.
So, I have tomorrow AND Monday off, and we’ll see if I can just sit down and come up with a character, in a context, with a problem. Then we’ll see where that goes.
Hope you have a nice weekend.