Lately I’ve been struggling with my inner whiner. If you’re a writer of any consistency, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s the voice in your head that complains about critiques. It grouses about revising. Basically, it’s the one that holds you back.
I’ve learned to beat this inner whiner back, but it never stays down. Just recently I received feedback on the final revised chapters of my manuscript. In my mind, I was ready to send the novel out to agents. Get the ball moving. Etc.
But then the critiques came back. Not what you think. Mostly positive, confirming that the story was ready for an audience. Then, inches from the finish line, one writer saw that I didn’t have enough closure for a key character.
Then came my inner whiner. “Good enough,” it said. “Just ignore it and send the manuscript out.” But when a second critiquer nailed me on the same issue, I couldn’t ignore it. I either had to face up to the fact that I was willingly going to let this novel continue in a substandard state, or I had to get to work.
This got me thinking about the various ways your inner whiner tries to subvert you to produce less than astounding work. I came up with two versions.
The “I Wrote It So It Must Be Good” Syndrome
This inner writer tells you that everything you create is golden. It urges you to rush toward publication like a kid stuffing his hand in a Fritos bag. It doesn’t trifle with revisions and it cringes at the mere suggestion that the writing isn’t ready.
This was me for the better part of my writing career. I had few real writers to bounce ideas off of. No critique groups. It was just me and the computer screen. That, I think, is what breeds this syndrome. Isolation. After only a year with the San Diego Professional Writer’s group, these delusions were slapped out of me.
The “Good Enough” Writer
This is the next step up. Here your inner whiner accepts that you need to do some revision because that’s part of the writing bargain. But there are whispers, at the back of your head. “You’ve done enough. This writing hits all the marks. It’s ready.” It implores you to move on. Finish and submit.
I hate to admit, but this is where I’ve been the last few months. I struggle to resist the call to submit. Just end the constant revision and get the whole thing over with.
A great writing friend of mine, Crystal Allen, pointed out that critique groups aren’t just there to judge and improve your work. They should call you on your foibles. And push you.
There are two types of writing:
- Good enough
- The best I can do
The goal of a good critique group is to push the writer toward that second goal—the best possible writing you can accomplish.
The answer to silencing that pesky inner whiner is camaraderie. You need other people, professional writers, who will nail you when you’re being lazy. This requires a level of honesty and trust that is hard to come by. But you’ll need it to grow as a writer.