Most of us here are probably familiar with the term “inner editor” or “inner critic,” and we probably have mixed feelings about them. As I am in the middle of revising the first awful draft of last November’s novel, I can attest that my own feelings are incredibly strong and as mixed as a cocktail.
For many of us, our favorite part of the writing process is when we get to tell the inner editor to shut up and get back in its box so we can scribble our guts out. So much fun. But we also know that once we’ve gotten all the words down, it’s time to let the editor back out of the box so they can help us figure out what we’re trying to say and how best to say it. Not as much fun, perhaps, but indispensable.
The trouble is, our inner editor has an evil twin. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s name is Negative self talk. Not only is it absolutely no fun to be around, it doesn’t even want to help. It’s favorite thing to talk about is how lame your topic is; how nobody cares what you have to say because your brain is total garbage and a middle school kid could do better,* and oh by the way, you really shouldn’t have eaten that slice of pound cake yesterday, because summer’s coming, ya know…
Yeah, that voice.
Negative self-talk likes to show up right when our inner editor does and try to fool us into thinking they’re the same person, but guess what? They’re totally not. Here’s how to tell the difference: The inner editor believes in your project, and it wants to help you make it the best it can be. Negative self-talk just wants to tear you down.
In order to accomplish anything in life, we all have to conquer negative self-talk. We have to wrestle it down and pin it to the mat.
Then we have to set it on fire and walk away in slow motion to the sound of stirring music.
In boring terms, that means that we must counteract every negative thought with two positive ones: “Oh, you think my story is stupid? Well, I know it’s a story the world needs to hear, and also, I am a sexy beast.”
“Yeah, but, Elisabeth…” I can hear you say, “sometimes it’s not that easy.”
Oh believe me, I know. I’m the queen of negative self-talk. See? That was totally negative self-talk right there. It’s a true statement, but it’s not all that I am. I am a fighter, and I am an accomplished up-stream swimmer.
However, I understand that some days we’ve got no ammo to fight back with. And those are the days we simply keep our heads down and march. We say, “Okay, yeah, this is total trash and I’m the world’s worst writer and generally a terrible human being, but you know what? I’m gonna keep working on it anyway. And you can’t stop me.”
*This might in fact be true, because middle school kids are awesome, but it’s still not a nice thing to say.