If you are writing a memoir, or even a novel, and wonder how you can break through the inner critic that silences you, this is a perfect moment to get new input and learn from the experts.
This is one of my favorite topics—as a memoir writer, I know how tough it is to confront the forbidden stories and write them down. Once voice says, “Go ahead, it’s the truth,” while another says “You can’t say that, it’s rude.” Or “What will people think if they know these things about me?” Or the real stinger, “They might get mad at me. They might accuse me of lying.”
You have your own list of what your inner critic says.
More typical Inner Critic messages:
- I don’t know how to write.
- Who cares about my story anyway?
- I’m too self-involved.
- What difference does it make if I write my story?
- Maybe I’m making it all up.
- I’ll be ejected from the family if I write that.
- This is boring
I talk about the family and friends as the “Outer Critics.” These are some of their voices that memoir writers struggle with.
- You’re writing a memoir? For heaven’s sake, must you air the family laundry?
- Why are you doing this to us?
- Don’t you dare write any of that while we’re alive!
- You think you have a right to these stories?
- You’ll be ejected from the family if your write about what really happened.
- It didn’t happen that way!
- All you can do is think about the past!
TIP: The best thing to do with your list is to write it down and get it out of your head. Then argue back with it. Answer each doubt that is raised, work on affirmations like, “This is my story. I have a right to tell it.”
TIP: In your first draft you can spill out the whole story. No one knows what you are writing until you share it. Sharing should be done carefully! You want to keep up your story energy all the way through your first draft.
TIP: Write out as many affirmations as you can think of and put them on your wall. They might be phrases like this:
- The words that flow are good, just right for that day.
- I will protect my writing from naysayers, including myself.
- Each paragraph I write gives me strength and forward motion.
- Every scene I write helps me to find a new perspective and joy in my life.
- When I learn new skills, I am energized and excited about my writing.
- I look forward to my writing time.
- I honor and preserve my time to write
These practices about the critic voices may need to be repeated throughout your book. They work! I used to have a vile, abusive inner critic that kept me silent for months at a time, but I kept returning to these exercises, I kept working on my story bit by bit as I tried to free myself. That is why I’m so passionate about helping others learn to break through to write their stories.
In our Memoir Telesummit on May 6, you’ll hear from other writers who have walked through the fire of their doubts and strong critical voices—many of them real people—family members or friends. But they wrote their book anyway. I know that you will get a lot from Kelly Kittel and Sara Connell, whose stories are radical and brave. The both had to put aside the inner and outer critics to get their books out into the world. Brooke Warner uses the phrase “walk the radical edge” to talk about the challenges we face as memoir writers. As a publisher and memoir coach, she knows the kinds of stories that challenge writers, and will fire you up to face the challenge in your own writing.
I know that many of you struggle with having a voice out in the world as you think about or begin your journey to create a blog or get on Facebook or Twitter. Most writers I know don’t want to think about it, but I believe it’s another way the inner critic shuts us down. Sue Canfield is going to help you think about social media in a new way so your voice can reach a larger audience. I know that at first I was reluctant to put myself out there, but then I was told, “People need your message. You are giving them a gift.” That made all the difference—and my resistance melted. You can learn how to make friends with social media and not let it scare you!