I used to freeze up, overcome with debilitating stress, when it was time to write. I would type out the first sentence and immediately start deleting words, retooling. The little critic in my head wouldn’t let me get very far. “This sucks!” he would bark at me. “Does something stink? Oh yeah, it’s your word garbage.”
A few sentences in and already exhausted, I’d give myself a break and look for online diversions instead. Half an hour into a Facebook splurge, I’d remind myself, oh yeah, I probably should be writing that paper. The little critic would snicker, “Don’t bother, you hack.”
For inexplicable reasons, a friend of mine coerced me to participate in National Novel Writing Month, where participants speed write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Before I began, my friend gave me a tip for winning, which turned into life-changing advice. Our worst critics are in our heads; we should notice them, gag them, and throw them in a tiny cell in our brain for the duration of our writing so we can actually get stuff done. It was a freeing idea: write with wild abandon and without consequence; silence your inner critic and just get something down on paper.
So, I wrote without worrying about sloppy grammar, incomplete thoughts, or if it even made sense. Only after I finished my first draft did I unlock the cell to free the critic. Then, I allowed that overly critical monster to actually do something useful: run rampant in the editing phase. By then, the hardest part was finished; the words were on the page.
Andrew K. Rogers
Academic Support Lab
Antioch University, Seattle