On normal days, my ‘go-to’ during the commute to and from work are podcasts. Easy, fun and informing in most cases. There are two ‘writing podcasts’ I listen to more often than others. ‘Writing Excuses‘ which if I’m honest, lost some of its appeal to me. Mostly in the last season. I do think there’s an ocean of valuable advice, based on vast experience and no little talent. I highly recommend taking a dive into this.
The other podcast I listen to – more regularly – is Tim Clare’s ‘Death of a 1000 cuts’. First of all, Tim is British, and by virtue of accent alone I can listen to him endlessly. Seriously though, what started as a podcast of first page reviews, turned into much more. What I like about this podcast the most, is the discussion of writing, not necessarily as instructions but rather as a philosophic musing. That is not to suggest that there’s any lack of instructive content – for that matter, Tim recorded not one but two writing boot camps – but to recommend this, as a companion.
Tim is one of the most honest speaking writers on social media, and as such, I can relate to much of what he shares, even though I can’t say I completely agree with some of his views. But guess what, who cares? That is why I enjoy the way he discusses the art. Not in absolutes, or demagoguery but rather in open ended recommendations. These recommendations aren’t hollow regurgitations as well. They’re based on education, experience and an obvious love of writing.
Far too often, I see writers talk about themselves and their work in an unforgiving and at times, cruel way. There’s nothing wrong with critical thinking – it’s the basis of any march forward – but this self-loathing (excuse the big word) which seems to have become synonymous with being a writer is a little tired. At best, it’s a person falling victim to some ill-conceived perception of what art should feel like.
An opinion I share with Tim Clare, is that while making the effort to listen to the inner-critic, we shouldn’t succumb to it. That means more than one thing. First, it means writing. Once you give in to that slanderous a-hole inside your head, the most common reaction is – inaction. What did you achieve by that? You are not creating. If you don’t create, then how would anything good come out of it? Another manifestation of this cruelty to one’s self, is the mental association of writing (or any form of creation) with suffering. Silly me… I was sure that creating art was supposed to be the most liberating form of expression… When you become so scared and defensive, you might be losing – perhaps the most satisfying part of being an artist – the joy of creating.
I could spend countless more paragraphs on dissecting this topic, but I think Tim Clare is more eloquent and I highly recommend checking out his wonderful podcast.
As it pertains to myself, I’ve suffered the paralyzing effects of this inner critic many a-times. Having started at the polarizing end of that range, I’ve written a whole novel very quickly. True, it’s an unpublishable, perhaps unsalvageable piece of literary pretention, but I wrote it. With guidance, learning and practice, I wrote another one. Can I say it was a mistake free experience? Of course not. I had to do a lot of re-write and cleanup, but at the end of that ride, I did publish it.
What happened after wrapping up the work on No Bond Too Small, was exactly inline with the above ill-advised way of thinking. Having completed this novel, I found myself avoiding that, which made me feel the best. Holding myself to much higher standards, simply paralyzed me. Instead of being kind to myself, allowing myself the freedom to make more mistakes and keep honing the craft, I succumbed to the destructive prosecutor.
I’m so happy to be writing again. Every time I can get behind the keyboard and work on my WIP (more details in future posts) gives me more air. I could only get back to it once it became clear to me that yes, I will still make mistakes. I will still write some embarrassingly incoherent sentences, miss opportunities, mess up plot twists and who knows what else. And that is just fine! There’s time to work on these. The important thing is to do what I love doing – write.
So, be gentle with yourself. There’s always time for criticism, review, modifications. Heck, you might even decide to put a project aside and write something else. As long as you don’t stop on the one hand, and not hold yourself to unrealistic goals on the other.
Know what I’m talking about?
How was your experience?
Are you still blocked?