Yesterday, we were asked to write out a dialogue between the voices in our head.
The voices were supposed to represent that of our creative self versus our inner critic/editor. So, to illustrate:
Editor: You are truly terrible.
Creative Self: I am?
Editor: Dear God, why are you comparing a crying child to an existential crisis? It’s just crying. JUST. CRYING. Not bemoaning the inescapable inevitability of its own demise.
Creative Self: The words sounded pretty.
Editor: Are you brain damaged?
Creative Self: Oh look, alliteration. I should use alliteration.
Editor: What did I do to deserve this?
Creative Self: Metaphors! I want METAPHORS! And TIGERS! And MERMAIDS!
Editor: Someone help.
Creative Self: I wonder what would happen if I wrote this piece backwards? Or upside down? Or if I swopped every third letter with a dash. OR ALL OF THOSE THINGS!
Editor: You can’t spell.
That was the purpose of the exercise. Except, perhaps, the creative self was supposed to refute some of the arguments, as opposed to wafting about like a deranged four year old, going ‘ooh, butterflies’. Which seems to be the persona that was adopted in the above.
I think I might have broken the exercise. My editor was just really sweet, so we made friends instead.
Creative Self: Hey. Are you okay? You seem kind of quiet today.
Editor: Oh, it’s nothing. I feel a little maligned by this exercise. But don’t worry.
Creative Self: No, tell me what’s wrong.
Editor: It’s just… I’m only trying to help, you know?
Creative Self: Aw, Ed…
Editor: *eyes fill with tears* I’m not that bad, am I?
Creative Self: Don’t listen to them, Ed. You are perfect just the way you are.
Editor: You’re just saying that.
Creative Self: I mean it. Let’s face it, sometimes I am genuinely stupid. But then you are there, gently prodding me back to sanity. I couldn’t manage without you.
Editor: *sniffs* You want me to stay?
Creative Self: Of course. I love you, Ed.
Editor: I love you too.
And now I think I have delved far enough to the realm of schizophrenia for one day.
The truth is, I’m not affected much by doubt. I think I possess a rare gift of suicidal self-confidence when it comes to writing. The teenage-me never grew up and came to terms with the fragility of her dreams; she just sort of plowed onwards with nonsensical similes.
I self-edit, but I don’t distinguish it from the creative process. Revising and revisiting what I have written is not painful, in fact, I am doing it right now. Just went back and tweaked some of the dialogue (and then adjusted this sentence (editception)). I am critical of my writing, but it does not hamper my ability to be creative or crazy.
Perhaps I should doubt myself more.
I write a lot of short stories and submit them everywhere. Sometimes, this works out well and profitably. Most times, it does not. I have not had any success in the last few months. That’s about eight rejections in a row.
There was one story in particular. I thought it was perfect for the brief, I thought it was the best I had written in a long time. I thought I would get the job for sure. I was not even competing in the international market.
And then… I didn’t make it. That was the first time I cried about a rejection.
Should the experience have shaken my confidence? Perhaps. But even after the announcement, my pride in what I had written was not diminished. It was still the same story. It was still a piece of myself. So I sent it off elsewhere and trusted that it would find a good home someday.
If I doubted myself, I would not be able to continue doing this. My ridiculous confidence can survive because, ultimately, everything here is subjective.
Another competition issued personal critiques of all the entries they received. The judge hated my piece and told me it did not make sense. I ignored him and sent the piece elsewhere. I can recognize constructive and insightful criticism. I can also tell when someone has skim read a story. Nothing he said was going to develop my writing.
Onwards, onwards, don’t look back. Trust my own judgment.
Maybe that’s stupid, maybe I’m arrogant. But I receive enough censure from the outside world. I don’t need to create another wailing voice inside my head, telling me I’m not good enough.
Let us end with a quote shamelessly pilfered from Berlin Artparasites. This is Elizabeth Taylor speaking.
“You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living.”
Or the business of writing.