Many writers, maybe all writers, have trouble being objective about their writing. As you're writing or immediately after you're writing, you're thinking, "God, what am I doing? This is pure drivel. It's awful. I should just stop."
Luckily, you don't stop; you keep going. And, with more luck, when you go back to your writing after a few days' absence, you realize it's not so bad after all. And you keep going. And you keep going. And you keep going.
It makes it sound as if writing is an endurance test, doesn't it? Sometimes it is. Why do you think there are so many books, articles, newsletters, classes on writing? Because you don't just crank it out perfectly, easily, beautifully on the first try.
That's not to say that you can't write well. It's just that you struggle internally. Your inner critic has a few things to say about you writing and what you're trying to accomplish. And you need to shut that voice up.
For me, I always have to get past the inner critic's words to the place where I'm immersed in what I'm writing. I'm in that world, fiction or nonfiction, and I'm just cranking out the words and sentences. It is a race, and my figurative legs are churning so quickly I don't know if I'm going to fall flat on my face.
Before you get to that wonderful, churning writing rhythm, here are a few steps to make sure you stay in the race.
- Keep writing, even if you think what you're writing is awful. It's too easy to stop. Don't stop! Just keep going. Write through that place and get to the other side. And if you don't, then there's always tomorrow.
- As you continue to write, keep in mind your purpose. What do you want to accomplish in this scene? What do you want your readers to learn from this section? What's driving you? Keeping that at the forefront of your mind helps silence the "Oh, but you're awful" voices.
- Never throw out in the same session that you're writing. Never! You're too close to it. If you find yourself awfully close to hitting the delete button or closing the document without saving, save anyway, and get up and walk away. Most of the time when I come back to a piece 24 hours or more later, I find that it's not nearly as bad as I thought it was. I can always salvage something, if not the entire piece.
- Remember that this is a draft, and we call it a draft for a reason. It's not the final version. You don't have to write it perfectly on the first try. The most important thing is to keep writing. Edit and revise later.
You have to hit your stride. You have to find your rhythm. Just like in running or any aerobic activity, it's hardest at first. Your muscles cry out for you to stop. Your lungs tell you they're on the verge of collapse. You don't think there's any way to keep going. But you tell yourself, "Just one more mile" or "Just past that hill" or "Just till the end of the spin class." And you get past that mile or up the hill or to the end of the spin class, and you've done it. And you almost always find that writing is the same. It make take you a bit to find your rhythm (and shut your inner critic up), but once you do, all the pistons are firing, and you're in a rhythm.
You're still in the race.