The One Person Stopping You From Writing A Novel
There’s a gatekeeper – someone in charge of your writing process – that’s holding you back, telling you that you’re never going to finish your book, and even if you do it won’t be good. No matter how hard you work, they’ve got some new reason you should just quit, give up on your writing hobby, and focus on something else.
Isn’t that terrible? But the worst part is: that person is you.
The one person constantly criticizing your story, nagging you to give up, and telling you that your dream isn’t good enough is you. While it may be a relief to find out that all you have to do to get that person to shut up and let you keep writing is to stop yourself from tearing down your own process, it’s easier said than done.
How To Shut Up Your Inner Critic So You Can Write Your Book
It’s really hard to change a bad habit, especially when it comes to being critical of yourself. And the act of really critiquing your own behaviors and habits serves a very good purpose – it can allow you to reflect on yourself and become a better, more productive person.
Here are seven healthy habits you can adopt, which can prevent self-sabotage. It starts with being proactive about your mental space, but includes some real-life tips on how to politely address a stubborn inner critic that’s preventing you from writing.
1. Set realistic goals for what you’re able to achieve. Then congratulate yourself on making good on your word as you finish those small goals. If something is too daunting, break it down into smaller parts (see my post on micro goals). Instead of saying, “Today, I will write my book,” which you know is impossible, you can say, “Today, I am going to list ten unique quirks for my main character, and write a 500 word description.”
2. Start writing! Get the words out of your head, and start writing. If you begin with a description of what you want to write, that will kick off the process of actually writing your book. Anything that helps you actually write down any element of your story, and take it from your head to the screen, or paper, is another step toward completion.
3. Don’t Compare yourself to other writers. Your rough draft is never going to be as good as their completed, edited, polished book. It’s the same as looking at someone’s highlight reel on their social media, and thinking that your life isn’t nearly as interesting as all your friends. Comparison is the thief of joy.
4. Revisit and revise your goals. You can’t know what your future self is, or is not capable of. But you can look at your progress and see if you’re setting goals that are too easy, or unachievable. Go back and edit your goals, so you can set new ones. Set stretch goals in case you crush your easy goals early, and set fallback goals if you set a challenging goal for yourself.
5. Write about stuff you love! Your motivation to finish what you write will dwindle if you don’t love writing it. If you’re not enjoying the process, and writing is tedious, it could be because you don’t like what you’re writing. That doesn’t mean it’s bad writing, but if you don’t like writing it, who is going to like reading it? If you can evaluate your interest level before you take on a massive project, this one key factor will keep you writing when you want to quit.
6. Treat yourself well. Your mind is deeply tied in to the physical function of your body, including diet, and exercise. Don’t forget to take writing breaks to go move around, it could lead to some really good ideas. And if you’re tempted to reach for junk foods for a quick fix, it might give you a quick rush of energy, but will ultimately make you lethargic, and unproductive. Plan your meals like you plot your book for maximum effectiveness. Try to make some good foods in advance, so when you need to eat, you won’t spend a lot of creative time cooking – or use it as a break for your eyes, fingers and back.
7. Edit afterwards. If you go into your draft knowing that you will set aside time when you’re done to make edits, then you can just keep cranking out words without wondering if they are cohesive. To stop myself from self-editing, or getting distracted, I will write something like: [INSERT CLEVER JOKE HERE], or [RESEARCH THE HISTORY OF HOW RICE GROWS AND FACT CHECK]. It helps me easily find places I will need to edit when I come back, and more importantly it allows me to just keep writing in the moment, without opening Google and getting lost down some online rabbit hole.
If all else fails, then stop writing. Just take a break, walk away from the page, and go do something else. When your head is clear, come back to it from a new perspective.
Were these tips useful? We would love to hear from you, so drop us a comment below about how YOU keep your inner critic at bay.
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