The Creative vs. the Critic

If you’re a writer, this battle rages in your psyche on a regular basis. The creative, who makes these huge intuitive leaps and brings stories into this world from out of the ether. The creative, who makes something out of nothing, splashes of ink on a once blank page, seeming to spin straw into gold.

And then there’s the critic, that nagging voice who says nothing is ever good enough.

Sometimes it feels like the writing process is an ongoing battle between the creative voice that knows without knowing how it knows and the critic, who knows that something is wrong.

The hardest part is that sometimes the critic is right. Sometimes the story isn’t working, and the critic speaks up.

But if the critic’s voice becomes too strong, the creative wants to quit, pack up and walk away from the story.

This week was exactly that sort of battle for me. I just finished edits on two stories, and decided before I dug into another revision I would pen a short story, something small and fresh to break up the revision process. I found a character, Silver, working in her garden as a storm approached. The first night I wrote a couple thousand words, just getting to know my characters and their dilemma.

After I finished writing that night, the critic started tearing the story apart. But the creative? She loved those characters, and she wouldn’t quit. She wanted to finish that story.

The critic spent the next twenty-four hours debating how to fix the story. All she knew was that the current depiction of the antagonist didn’t work, wasn’t fresh enough.

She came up with no solutions.

So I sat down at the page and told the creative voice to take over. Write something, anything.

And you know what? The critic shut up, and the creative worked her magic, and by the end of the night I was staring at a 6,000-word short story titled Silver’s Stray. Was it perfect? No. But it was a completed first draft.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. All I know is that sometimes we need to tell the critic to shut up and allow the creative free rein. Because the creative voice is a creature of intuition and imagination, and she knows answers the critic can’t even dream of.

Lastly, an ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Edited The Faerie Key and sent it to my proofreader. Finished a second draft of White Wolf, Red Cloak. It’s ready to send to the editor as soon as she’s available. Wrote 6,017 words in Silver’s Stray, a short story. First draft finished!

Reading: Read Twilight Guardians by Maggie Shayne and continued reading Garden Witch’s Herbal by Ellen Dugan.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How was your week? How do you balance your creative and critical sides?

denise signature

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8 thoughts on “The Creative vs. the Critic

  1. The Creative and the Critic? It’s wonderful when the two can work together… but it’s such a rare occurrence that I can only count these times on one finger 😉

    Ooh! though, lookie at the happy bouncy success! here in this check-in. And at the end of a month too… Can’t get better than that!

    • Yeah, it’s the same for me. Usually the critic just needs to be quiet and let the creative work on the first draft. And then I let my inner editor can come in and tell me all the things that are wrong with a story.

      It ended up being a productive week. Thanks, Eden! 🙂

  2. Nice storytelling about the “how” of writing. I’m so glad you told that critic to shut up! The result, a beautiful first draft that sounds entrancing. It does take courage to trust the creative side. Just now, my critic is out in full force for I’m revising but still writing new stuff for transitions and missing scenelets. This post reminds me that sometimes we just need to trust that creative side and let our fingers fly over the keyboard. Congratulations on a very good end of week.

    • I can’t say it’s a battle that I always win. To make matters worse, sometimes the critic is right. But with every story I finish, I’m building confidence in that creative voice. Hopefully as the years and drafts pass I’ll trust my inner creative more and more. Thanks, Beth!

  3. For me, the critic is too quick to come out and the creative doesn’t say anything. Sometimes, the creative will agree with the critic and the story will not get written. I think it’s because the critic tries to be the creative, and the creative just sits there and lets him do so. It’s a domineering relationship they have. I need to step in, figuratively, and let these two forces know where their place is and learn to work together.

    As far as where I’m at with my writing, I started a new short story last weekend. But I feel stuck. That war you described is going on right now. The critic wants to silence it, saying the story’s already told. Just leave it be. But I’m trying to tell the critic that I can do it better, which I thought would make him happy. I need to get the two of them together and make them come to an agreement.

    • That often happens to me. Sometimes just sitting down in front of a blank page and telling the creative that this is just for myself, that no one else has to read it if I decide not to let them, can coax the creative out. One of my favorite stories emerged that way. I thought I’d write it for myself and never publish it, but I’m proud of how it turned out. It wasn’t perfect, but it does speak to a part of me, and I think it’s because the creative had full control over that piece.

      Good luck!

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