A month ago, I wrote about inspiration and how it visits when you least expect it. The week after I wrote that post, I faced a blank page with an equally blank mind. Today, I’m thinking about my process and wondering why some days seem much better than others for writing.
This past week, I’ve been reading the June 2016 issue of The Writer. While the emphasis of this issue was Middle Grade and YA books, writing is writing. One author commented in response to the question “What’s your best tip for writers?”:
“The process of writing is that you have an amazing world in your head and when you go to put it on the page, it never translates smoothly….You have to turn off that inner critic. And then you turn it back on when you need that eye.”
Aha! That inner critic can block the creative process in weird ways. He’s a clever operator. He’s not just about criticizing my ideas, my ability to express them, my writing. He’s about deflecting me away from my creative impulses by re-directing my thinking to things like the part-time job, my dwindling bank account and if I’ll be able to replenish it, and my health. It’s not that these things are not important. They are. But they have a different place in my life and I don’t want them bulldozing over everything else in my life, especially not my creativity.
To write or not to write. I find myself focusing more on making money instead of writing fiction which is what I truly want to do. My financial situation demands that I focus on making money to pay for my living expenses. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I’m currently flirting with going completely broke much sooner than I’d allowed myself to know. Writing takes too long. There’s no guarantee of publication. There’s the issue of promotion and marketing that cost money but without them the sales don’t happen. These are the realities of being a writer in 2016. My Inner Critic brutalizes me on this point. The power of my resistance in accepting this reality astonishes me.
First things first, I tell myself. (Or is it the Inner Critic?) I won’t be able to write if I don’t earn enough to pay the bills, including internet and office supplies. But I hate putting money making at such a high priority. Then that inner voice counters with the very real concern I have about losing my apartment. In reality, I am only months away from it. My writing makes pennies for me, not the thousands that I need each month to live. My part-time job pays only a little more than minimum wage. And then there are the health expenses on top of everything else. I must be able to pay for medical insurance (this year I’m on my state’s Medicaid program) because without medical care I could face an even more dire reality, i.e. one in which I can no longer take the medications I’m on and see the doctors who care for me and as a result my health deteriorates. These are all powerful arguments to leave writing in the dust.
Fear of failure has become fear of losing everything.
The Inner Critic has brought me to this point. How do I counter him?
I write. Something. Anything. I’m brutally honest with myself about my circumstances, and part of that honesty is acknowledging that I would have arrived at this financial point years ago if I hadn’t been so frugal or so creative at living on little. I do my best to pat myself on the back for that accomplishment. Then I point out to myself everything I’m doing currently to earn the money I need, including freelance writing and my new editing business. I continue to seek out free opportunities to promote Perceval’s Secret and take advantage of the opportunities I find. I’ve been working more hours at the part-time job, and have opened to the possibility of working fulltime, if my health permits. I’ve cut my spending to the bare minimum of living expenses, cutting things like magazine subscriptions, Netflix, social activities, an unnecessary insurance policy that had a monthly premium. I’ve finally begun selling my possessions after creating the necessary documentation system (for tax purposes) and beginning to photograph everything. I transferred the credit card debt I had as a result of e-publishing Perceval’s Secret to a $0% interest rate credit card so I can more quickly pay down the principal. And I’m almost finished with creating a crowd-source funding project to raise the money to finally pay off all my debt. It’s crazy how much money I’m losing (and have lost) because of that debt.
It’s an on-going struggle between me and my Inner Critic, whether it’s about earning more money or writing fiction.
How do you deal with your Inner Critic in all areas of your life? What role does money play in your writing life? Have you found a way to be true to your writing but still be able to live as you wish?