Thursday, September 13, 2018

Why Are Writers So Self Critical?


We writers are often our own worst enemies. We put so much effort into our writing yet instead of celebrating the fact that we are out there trying to live our dreams, or the fact that we are working hard and continually improving, we instead cripple ourselves with self-doubt and criticise our work more than anyone else ever would.
Writers can be so self-critical that they end up sabotaging their work and ruining their chances of success. But why do we do it, and is there a way to change?
Writing is scary. Few professions on earth are as overwhelmingly intimidating as writing. If you want to write well, you need to be vulnerable. If you're going to be successful, you need to put yourself out there, to talk confidently about your work and to act as though you think your writing is good enough - even though you may secretly think it is not.
Writers, even successful ones, continuously suffer from imposter syndrome, worried that they will get ‘found out’ and their readers and publisher will realize they are nowhere near as good as they seem.
Being kind to yourself, however, has many benefits. If you can turn that negative attitude around, and you are more likely to be productive and successful and happier day to day too!
That’s not saying that writers don’t need to be critical. They do. They need to have a keen eye for detail and the ability to step back from their work and see when something is not working.
They need to be able to accept that an idea might not be going anywhere, that a character doesn’t quite fit in with the story or that parts of their book are non-essential and can be cut. Without the ability to be critical we don’t have the ability to edit, and that’s an essential part of being able to produce decent work.
This is different however to feeling ashamed and stupid when we receive a rejection, for feeling like a failure if we aren’t as successful as we’d like to be and being so afraid of what someone might say about our work that we don’t do anything with it.
If we take rejection personally, beat ourselves up about where we are at in our writing career, jealously compare ourselves to others and try to convince ourselves to give up altogether, we can end up not enjoying the writing process, slowing ourselves down and missing potentially life-changing opportunities too.
Changing a habit or behaviour takes time, practice and determination too. However, doing so can make a real difference. Instead of being self-critical, try being self-compassionate. It’s an important life skill to learn and can be applied to many areas, not just writing. By giving yourself more kindness and care, you are nurturing yourself, you are allowing for mistakes, and you’ll find you can be much more creatively free, notice an increase in productivity and your confidence about your work will make it easier to convince others too.
Being self-critical can be crippling. So don’t let the destructive power of negative thinking influence your work anymore. Catch those self-critical thoughts, contain them and turn them into positives and you’ll soon see what a significant impact it can have on your work, success and happiness!

How self-critical would you say you are of yourself? Not just about writing but about just anything. I felt that way at first when I began attending the art class at the center where I now work. I felt some of my work at first was not good. At least once I said it looks horrible. But others tried to convince me otherwise. I guess I was being my own worst critic in that area. I've stopped feeling this way however after four year of attending the center and two yeas of working there. 

As far as my writing goes, I can't seem to recall ever being too critical of my work. I've found stuff I want to add or take out, but without acting too critically about it. Perhaps I've just been kind to myself without thinking too much of it. Or perhaps it never have dawned on me to be critical of my own work. I will say I don't think that something should or shouldn't be in the story, but without getting in an overly critical mood. I guess criticism can come in different forms and doses.


Elephant's Child said...

I struggle with being kind to myself. Without doubt I am my harshest critic. And a sufferer of 'imposter syndrome'. As one example, I have been on the phones at the crisis line for over twenty years now. Each year when my eligibility to continue is assessed I am convinced this is the year they will get wise to me...

Sandra Cox said...

We are a self critical tribe for sure.

Jean Davis said...

It's easy to fall into that imposter syndrome or be too critical of your own work, especially when it's the type of work where we put our hearts into it. Putting a little distance between you and your work makes it easier to be kind to yourself.