For many years I had a shameful writing secret. I hated getting critiqued. I hated it so much, in fact, that I refused to do it. I wrote 600-page manuscripts, edited and revised them dozens of times, and then packed them away in a file on my desktop forever. No one ever read my work, and overall it really kind of sucked.
I was locked in this dysfunctional writing pattern because I had gone through horrible experiences with critique in my creative writing classes in college. But I knew I had to “grow a thick skin” and “get over it” if I ever wanted to be a real writer. I heard that line from so many people and I tried to swallow it. You’ve got to know, I really tried to believe it.
I’ve always known that I have great intuition, but I didn’t always know that I was an intuitive.
In fact, I was almost 35 years old before I really grasped what that meant.
I met a woman in my first writing program who told me about her 40th birthday. She said it was the best and worst birthday she ever had. She was so happy when she turned 30, she remembered. She had a big party on the beach and all her friends came. But ten years later she found herself sobbing all alone in her bedroom the night before she turned 40.
Every writer has the voice of their inner critic somewhere inside their head. It might be a judgmental parent, or a toxic friend, or even someone from a long-ago writing group who made one hurtful comment about your story that stuck with you forever.
We all know the inner critic when that voice shows up.
The problem is that we don’t know what to do about it.
Eight years ago I joined a writing program in San Francisco even though I was scared to death to do it. I hadn’t written in the eight years before that and I was terrified to start writing again. I had made small attempts over the years—the beginning of a story here, or a journal entry there—but my writing was so clumsy and forced that I couldn’t read what I’d written without cringing.
I was torn between two extremes. On one hand, I was convinced I was a horrible writer and I had no idea how to go about becoming a great writer, or even a good one. On the other hand, I had never stopped devouring books or dreaming about the book I would one day finish. It got to the point where I actually felt sick inside every time I thought about writing.