Every writer has felt that way, at one time or another.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth about those critical thoughts: they can actually help you become a better writer.
But only if you know how to recognize those thoughts for what they are, and then train yourself to have them at the right time.
There are two sides to your creative process.
The creative side of your writing process helps you get the rough draft down on paper.
The critical side, on the other hand, helps you revise and polish the final draft.
In order to be write, you actually need both of these very different thought patterns in your head. You just can’t have them at exactly the same time.
Your positive side is for creating.
If you can convince yourself that what you’re writing right now is the best thing you’ve ever written, you’re much more likely to keep going, and not get stuck.
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it actually makes you more likely to write something great. When you believe that the story you’re telling is fantastic, you’re more likely to create some of your best work.
The key is convince yourself that it’s true (even if you’re not sure). Tell yourself that it will make people sit up and take notice. Convince yourself that it’ll make them laugh, make them cry, truly move them.
Is that a realistic view of your own work? Maybe. Maybe not. But here’s the thing: right now, while you’re in the middle of creating it, it doesn’t matter.
Positive energy is the essential ingredient that pushes you forward and gets you wrapped up in creating something new and exciting.
You absolutely need that jolt of optimism the way a tree needs sunshine and rain. Without the positive side, your creativity will wither and die.
In order to be able to create, you need to be able to embrace your positive side.
Some people can do this naturally. The rest of us need a little help.
in a moment, I’ll show you some proven exercises that can put you in a creative frame of mind. But first, let’s look at the dark side of creativity. The negative thoughts, which are actually your critical side.
Believe it or not, the critical part isn’t destructive. In fact it is just as essential.
Your critical side is for editing.
Anyone who’s ever sat down to write knows that creativity has a critical side. It’s the part of you that whispers doubts in your ear.
It gives you the sinking feeling that what you’re doing right now is mediocre at best. It might even be downright awful.
Believe it or not, this critical side isn’t harmful, when used properly. It can actually help you get better, as long as you don’t let it get out of control.
The critical side gives you the ability to take a good, hard look at what you’ve written and say, “I’m not 100% happy with this. How can I make it better?”
You need to be able to see the flaws in your writing, sense its weak spots, and find areas where you’ve backed away from potential breakthroughs.
The critical side of your creativity is essential, because if you don’t let it harm your self-esteem, it can push you to rewrite, revise and polish your writing until it really is as amazing as you hoped.
Write positively. Edit critically.
Where we run into trouble is when these two halves of the creative process get tangled up.
If you’re too positive when you edit, you won’t have enough perspective on your work. You’ll go blind to your weaknesses, and that can quickly get you into trouble. It’ll convince you that everything is just fine, when it actually needs work.
On the other hand, if your critical side intrudes when you’re trying to create, you’ll stop cold. That critical voice – the one that you need so much later on, in the revision phase – can make you feel unworthy to create. Some people call that writer’s block, and it can be terrifying.
So how do you beat writer’s block?
First, recognize what’s happening. If you sit down to write and you start to feel unworthy of the task, tell yourself to stop that critical thinking right now. It’s not time for that yet.
Remind yourself that critical self-talk at this point isn’t helping you reach your goal of writing. Give yourself permission to be critical later, after you’ve done writing.
But not now. First, stay positive in order to create. Then you can give yourself permission to be critical later.
Top 4 exercises for positive thinking
There are plenty of good exercises out there designed to get you into a creative mindset for writing. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Pick up a ridiculously awful book and read a random page. See if you can write better than that. Remind yourself that if this got published, there’s a place for your book, too.
2. Read a random page out of one of your favorite books. Remind yourself why it inspires you to be a writer. Also remember that this author started out not knowing how to write.
3. Type up (or handwrite) that random page of your favorite book, from top to bottom. You’ll throw away this writing afterward, of course. But it will subconsciously help train you to write like one of your favorite authors.
4. Once you’ve cleared your head of the critical thoughts, set a timer for 30 minutes and do nothing but write. Banish from your mind any fear, doubts, worries, any kind of negativity at all. For the next half hour, you’ll be free to do nothing but write your heart out.
And isn’t that really what it’s all about?