“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” -Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
One of the worst feelings in the world for a writer is sitting at the desk with pen and paper ready or with the computer booted up only to stare blankly at the paper or screen in fear of how to start writing down all of the great ideas racing through your mind. Fear of getting started on the first draft can often be a crippling critic standing in the way of letting the inner muse trying desperately to find the spotlight and shine.
The critic can tell a plethora of lies in its effort to stand in the way of the muse. It’s happened to me several times. I go into a writing session with what started as an amazing idea with nothing but potential for success, and by the time I finish listening to my inner critic telling me all of the ways my idea is going to fail, I lose all of the motivation to put that amazing idea on paper. The muse is left huddling in the corner of my mind with its hands held protectively over its head, trying to hold on to any shred of inspiration left behind by the relentless critic.
I’ve found myself begging and pleading with the inner critic to just let the muse have its time — just this once, stop pushing your two cents in my face and let the muse have its way on the paper. What I’ve also found is that I’ve spent so much time trying to avoid the critic that I’ve lost sight of its value all of the great things it can bring to the table.
So here’s my tip for other writers whose muses have fallen prey to the critic: Make a bargain with the critic. Promise the critic that it too will have its time to shine in the spotlight. Remind the critic that in order to perform at its best, it must first allow the muse to work unhindered. In doing so, the critic will have more material to work with and fine tune in the end.
To seal the deal with the critic, start writing anything that comes to mind, even if it has nothing to do with the amazing idea that the muse is trying to get on the page. I start all of my writing sessions with ten minutes of free writing. This is my time to flush my mind of all the clutter that the critic has hoarded up there, so that the muse can find a clear path to the spotlight.
Sometimes the critic just needs a gentle reminder that it will have a chance to pick through everything that the muse puts on the page. Editing and revising are crucial parts of the writing process, but the muse needs the star role in the beginning. For me, that means writing even when the critic is telling me that it won’t be good enough or that no one will read anything that I write.
What do you do to silence your inner critic so your muse can shine?