Exorcising the Killer Critic

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Buried in your psyche, so deep that you don’t even know it, is a demon critic. This is a person, a circumstance, or life event that declared your lack of creativity. This is either a person, a circumstance, or life event that declared your lack of creativity. Click To Tweet For me, it kept me from writing fiction for decades.
Subliminating, I scratched that itch by writing technical works. In the Army, I wrote Technical Manuals. In AT&T’s Bell Labs, I contributed to juried proceedings. Later, I spoke at international, NGO, and standards symposia and conventions. All told, I published over 30 non-fiction works.

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Before you go on, I recommend that you click on and read this: The Killer Critic within. This is one of many essays on how an early critic gets into your head. Judging by the number of recent writings, this is a critical issue for creative types.
The reason could have been that that person had had a bad month of putting up with adolescent outbursts masquerading as mature creativity. The circumstance could be the formal or unacknowledged competition where opinion-leaders clustered around the acknowledged star, sang their praises, to the exclusion of spending adequate time for you and the rest of the creatives. The event could have been a change in school curriculum emphasis, leaving the creative type at sea without a paddle.

To go personal, I let, and probably still let, English teacher and professor comments to get into my mind. put my fiction pen away.

The high school cusp happened when I turned in an essay that embraced all the literary and writing techniques taught that year. The conclusion, stated in front of the class, “your writing made my black wig want to jump off and hide in the toilet bowl.” About two years ago, and decades after those comments, a writers’ workshop instructor asked, “How did you develop such a ‘distinctive literary voice?’ This comment was repeated by two of the four commercially successful authors (over 40 sold works each) I’ve studied with. Nonplussed, I nit-combed their margin notes for clues. After three re-reads, I stumbled onto it. I had internalized the literary genre techniques and memes that lent the kindling for my English teacher’s critique.

It is said that I’m a slow learner. In college, not deterred from teacher and fellow student derision, I took up composition classes again. This time, as an Engineering student, I conned the English Department Head into replacing the frosh and sophomoric levels with 400 and 500 numbered courses. These are reserved for Senior and Grad English students and the most fun I had in college. Unfortunately, my attempts at writing were met with declarations of ‘poorly constructed theses of marginal themes.’ That is an exact quote. This is the same period where two of my Philosophy papers achieved “A” grades, for other students. I got a “B” on both. Much later, I discovered that my papers had been stolen, and retyped verbatim by a temp agency with a classmate’s name as author.

Recently, the published author teaching writer’s workshop complemented my short story for saying something meaningful. She also asked me for more of my short stories to look over. No one else had had that request.

Which brings me to my conclusion. If you are blocked, look to your earliest experiences. Read the link above about one strategy to handle that.

I’m not yet published, and I’m okay with that as I’m taking a conscious route of learning the craft and publishing later. Only time will tell me if I’m delusional.