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Mind Over Matter: Overcoming Self-Doubt in Those Opening Lines by Anita Gill — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

I’m popping out of my self-imposed bubble long enough to share this essay by Anita Gill in BREVITY. So much of this short essay resonated with me and my perpetual struggle with my inner critic, and, of course, it prompted a comment from me. Please read the essay (and my comment below) and let me know: How do you handle your inner critic?

By Anita Gill On a chilly winter day in Oregon, Laura Hendrie, an award-winning fiction writer, gave a craft talk to a room full of graduate students on the topic of crafting the beginning lines of a story. She looked around the room and asked, “What is it about an opening that pulls me in […]

via Mind Over Matter: Overcoming Self-Doubt in Those Opening Lines — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

My comment:

“And this would apply to fiction as well. Even when I’m purposely making things up, my inner critic argues against my authority to do so. The thing about memories–and why the inner critic can often win the battle against writing down memories–is that they are subjective. Your memory of a particular event may differ from every other person who witnessed that event. I’ve often gotten blank looks from family members when I recall an experience that I know we share, but they no longer remember … or choose not to remember. When I write down memories, my inner critic often takes on the voice of my mother or brother or sister, arguing against my version of events and whether I have the “right” to tell it as I remember it. If I go public, I risk being called a liar or of hanging out the family’s dirty laundry. So I write fiction, but my inner critic still knows what I’m up to. This essay is validating and makes it clear that the only way to silence my inner critic is to simply keep writing until my words drown her out.”

Categories: Writing about writing

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

14 replies

  1. Good article. My inner critic speaks the loudest when I’m getting ready to put my work out there. The self-doubt rushes in, even if I felt confident in the work beforehand. How do I silence it? I’m not sure I do. I just try to ignore it and move on to the next thing.

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    1. Same here … although I haven’t published anything 😉 I find I can ignore the critic the best when it’s just me and my novel. Once I start thinking about how I will release it, my inner critic’s voice is deafening.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, indeed. When I look back at my writing life, I see so many times when I sabotaged my own efforts, always thinking I was being perfectly rational at the time. But back then I didn’t have the wonderful writing community I have now. I’m making slow progress, but you all have been inspiration for me.

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  2. I’m trying to figure out if I feel that way or not. I feel that I often am confident in my memory, but much later will remember an alternative but equally true story. It’s very strange.

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    1. I really REALLY want to write about memory! I’ve met people who remember events very well (so they say) as well as those, like myself, who have unreliable memories. I once had a friend who could actually remember what I wore at a luncheon the year before. She remembered the tiniest details, but said it was a “curse” because she didn’t care about that stuff. I know that part of my memory problem is that I was challenged by other people’s versions. My family is very good at that: if they claim it didn’t happen, then it didn’t. One of my first boyfriends was abusive that way, too. If I couldn’t give him a detailed account of what was said when and by whom, then he questioned my version of events. Often brought me to tears … which was his intent, of course.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I LOVE the subject of memory. What you say here about your family is fascinating. The exbf, too, although horrifying, as well. I look forward to reading more about memory from you!!!

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      2. That is a horrible and undermining experience, but sadly one occurring often in families and unhealthy relationships. We remember in different ways – some people visual, others emotional. What stands out – and thus gets rehearsed into memory – can vary widely.

        A while back I had an hilarious conversation with an old mate with whom I used to share a house. He was regaling the party (he and I and our partners) with a story from those days… except that he’d substituted himself for me as the protagonist! Funny when it’s not important, a bit scary when it is.

        Great thought provoking post.

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        1. You are a creative one with two blogs! I can barely keep my one going. That is so interesting about your friend’s version of the story. Perhaps he thought your role in the story was more interesting and unconsciously assumed it for himself. I’ve heard of things like that happening, and it can take a bit of persuasion (and probably a few witnesses) to convince the storyteller that he was not the protagonist.

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          1. Creative or dumb. It feels like a pretty fine line sometimes!
            An Australian comedian named Wil Anderson does an amusing routine along similar lines. When I saw the ‘Wiluminati’ video, I wondered if he’d been talking to my mate. Nothing human is original, nor reliable I guess.

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  3. When focussed on the project (music at the music blog, memoir/stuff at Lonely Keyboards) I find that my Inner Critic is relatively quiet. Almost like it respects the creative process. But it certainly ramps up the volume after I click ‘Publish’.
    No-one will read it, no-one will enjoy it, (most pathetic of all…) no-one will LIKE it…
    Bones, sturdy a hour ago, turn to chalk.

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