Yesterday, I finally completed the first draft of Manna, my newest play. Time to party! WOOOO…
Only not really. Why didn’t I feel like celebrating, even though I finally managed to finish the draft that I’d been struggling with for a really long time? By the time I got to the dramatic, emotional final scenes, I was exhausted, tired and frustrated. Why? After saving the draft and stepping away from my computer, it finally hit me. My inner critic. This was the first time I could see him, in my mind, staring judgmentally into my soul. Yes, him. My mind often personifies inanimate objects and apparently, voices inside my head.
So, my inner critic looks like this:
I know he’s been with me ever since I started writing, but this time he was exceptionally loud. I’ll walk you through one of our conversations. Maybe it can help some of you – at least it helps to get it out of my system:
AINO is writing on her laptop.
CRITIC: That sentence is too long, yeah?
AINO: Oh yeah, you’re right. Cheers, mate.
AINO continues typing.
CRITIC: You know, did you notice that those lines are there to satisfy your need to be witty and aren’t really advancing the story?
AINO: Maybe. I’ll make a mental note and have a look at those later. Thanks.
CRITIC: Hmm, are you sure this scene isn’t getting repetitive?
AINO: I guess. Should I… maybe I’ll take it out now.
CRITIC: Do that. Mind you, you might as well cut the entire scene. It’s not really working.
AINO: Right. Well, I’ll just replace that with a note of what needs to happen and–
CRITIC: I never figured you were that lazy.
CRITIC: Why don’t you solve the problem now instead of leaving it for later?
AINO: Well, I guess I could–
CRITIC: This whole idea is stupid.
CRITIC: I mean, you’ve lost your original idea about three times over. And why did you cut that sweet bit of dialogue?
AINO: It was useless.
CRITIC: But the writing was good. This is horrible.
AINO: I am trying, you know.
CRITIC: Yeah, sure. That’s cute. (pause) By the way, how do you suggest an actor does that on stage?
AINO: I don’t know.
CRITIC: You should know. You’re the writer. I mean, you can’t ask an actor to do that. No way. They’ll know you’ve been thinking about them when writing.
CRITIC: Anyway, you’re being a coward. Be brave. Write brave.
AINO: I’m trying but you keep interrup–
CRITIC: Don’t write that. People are going to hate it. What will your actors say when you show them this… nonsense? Your friends have been so excited, but this… this is all pretend. You’re pretending to be an artist. So stop it. The critics are going to see right through you. This play is going to be shit.
Now, can you imagine listening to this constantly, while you’re writing the last 10-15 pages of your draft? I mean, I struggled through it, mentally going wah wah wah I can’t hear you but he won’t be fooled. He knows I can hear him. I feel I’m writing needless dialogue, then the next moment I rush to events… I have a complete first draft, and I feel it’s all going wrong. I shouldn’t feel like this. But I do.
Does personifying him make this better or worse? At least now I can argue with him; I have a face I can punch when he gets too loud. I can’t argue him to shut up, because he’s always going to be more equipped with words than I am. Which is funny, considering that he wouldn’t even exist without me.
Don’t get me wrong – I want him along some of the time, but does he need to be so eager to jump into action when he’s not needed? I think I need to properly personify my muse next. See if they can sort him out.
What does your inner critic look like? What do they keep telling you, and how do you get them to shut up? Tell me. Please.