My friend and I were writing together in a cute little Paris cafe the other day (which, of course, means we were doing a lot more talking and croissant eating than anything else!), and the conversation turned to our novels-in-progress and why we’re both feeling so slumpy about our writing lately. We’re excited about our ideas, but we haven’t hit that stage in the writing process where we can see the path to the end. We’re still trying to figure out where we’re going, if our choices will make sense on the page, and if anyone will even want to read these novels when they’re finished.
I call this the “fragile stage.”
Oh, the fragile stage… when everything you write is so delicate, when your finger seems to hover over the DELETE key, when your own self-talk can make “That’s a good idea!” into “Ugh, that sucks” so fast your head doesn’t have time to spin.
The kind of self-talk that goes on during the fragile stage has so much power over the course of our writing. Positive self-talk can be inspiring, keeping us motivated as we find our way with a new story.
But negative self-talk can be debilitating. It can stop us before we put a word on the page, keeping us in an endless cycle of wanting to write but holding ourselves back, time after time after time.
Think about what you tell yourself as you begin a creative project. Do you ever hear your inner voice say anything like this?
— It’s not going to be good, so why bother?
— I know it won’t come out the way I see it in my head.
— I’ve tried writing this story a million times and it’s never worked.
— I should have started writing years ago; it’s too late now.
— I’m not good enough, and now everybody else will find out.
Without a doubt, a mind like this is not the optimal environment for creativity to flourish!
For today, try to listen to your self-talk. When you’re facing the blank page and the blinking cursor, listen to what you’re telling yourself. And when you hear the inner critic start to speak up, analyze it, challenge it… crush it!
As writers, we need to protect the fragile stage — even from ourselves! All that internal chatter has the power to knock down an idea before it’s old enough to walk on its own. It takes a lot of practice, but we need to find ways to drown out the voice of that inner critic while it’s still just a whisper.
Because we have a lot of writing to do!