Force That Inner Whiner to Grow Up and Get Writing

No one likes a whiny writer.

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.

Tim Kane

14 comments on “Force That Inner Whiner to Grow Up and Get Writing

  1. Tori Scott says:

    Great post!

  2. socalteacher says:

    As an unpublished fiction writer working on his second manuscript, I read your post with great fascination. I have heard the inner whine for too long and needed to be reminded that others hear it too.

  3. […] was reading a blog earlier today about how to ignore that whiny inner monologue and become a better […]

  4. Heidi says:

    I was working for the first time on a project with FastPencil. I am only trying to get together an ebook for my blog. I hit ‘publish’ and was disappointed to find that they had issues all weekend. In the meantime I worked on re-write. Wow. My whiner was not happy.

    Today it’s working again, but I know the ebook isn’t ready. I took enough time to get some feedback and it has a ways to go. You nailed it.

  5. Caitlin Kelly says:

    Hell, yes. The world is filled with whiny people who wonder why their book is not published and others are (I’ve gotten two NF’s into the world so far.)

    It requires so much damn hard work that many people freak out and give up. That leaves room for the rest of us who do not.

  6. I find the “good enough” whiner in my head a lot. Being only 17, the only people I have to look at my work is my best friend (whom english does not come as easily to, but still has creative ideas), my dad who reads a lot of fantasy, and an upper classman who at one time wanted to be an editor. Without any professionals to look at my almost-finished novel, I feel like I won’t get to the “best I can be” level for a few more years. Any suggestions?

    • Two suggestions:
      1) Look online for writing groups. If you can afford it, hit up a writing conference (but those are pricey).
      2) Don’t fret about the awesomeness of the first novel. It’s a learning experience. Sure it might see publication, but your second novel will out perform it in many ways.

  7. I’m suffering from the second one right now, even though I KNOW it’s not good enough yet. I’ve just been working on re-writes and critiques and editing for so long that my brain is like “it HAS to be done by now, right?”

    Soon, brain. Soon. I hope.

  8. […] reasons why you might be accumulating rejections. Once you finish writing, Tim Kane explains the need for professional camaraderie and critiques among writers. In order to find that camaraderie, Elise Stephens explains how to form a writer’s critique […]

  9. […] answers the question: Can I query agents before my manuscript is done? Tim Kane warns against the urge to submit substandard work, and Jane Lebak tames the dreaded synopsis, often the companion of the equally dreaded […]

  10. […] someone else’s success somehow diminishes our own chances of success. And sometimes we let our inner whiner try to convince us the our work is “good enough” when we know it’s […]

  11. […] reasons why you might be accumulating rejections. Once you finish writing, Tim Kane explains the need for professional camaraderie and critiques among writers. In order to find that camaraderie, Elise Stephens explains how to form a writer’s critique […]

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