Writing creative first drafts — shutting down your inner critic

Deborahs Portrait

Where do you get your writing joy? Are you a first draft lover or are you a fan of revising?

For many writers the drafting of a new piece of work is where the fun is. When they sit down to revise the fun evaporates and the tough work begins.

There are other writers (and I confess to being a member of this group) who struggle to carve out an ugly rough draft and, once that initial phase is done , we become giddy with anticipation. It’s time to start revising and that’s where the fun is.

Of course both phases of creating a piece of good writing are essential. For both you need access to the best of your imagination. During the initial creative process you need to be able to let it all hang out, to follow your muse and get the words down; this is not the time to be thinking critically. In fact, the writers who most enjoy this first draft phase are the ones who are most effective at silencing that niggling inner voice we all have—the one that gives us damning messages about our lack of originality and our ridiculously poor writing skills. Learning to shut that voice down is one of the primary skills you need to hone if you want your writing to shine with originality and reflect the best of your creative impulses.

Because this is a battle that I wage with some frequency when I sit down to write something new, I have worked out a few tricks that may be helpful to you.

1) Listen closely to what your inner critic is telling you. Listen, but don’t absorb. Take dictation. Write the negative statements down. Make a list of all the things you say to yourself about writing that are discouraging and unsupportive.

2) Read this list over and take a red pen (the critic’s implement of choice) and cross out each statement. Go through the whole list. Don’t let any negative statement stand, even the ones you believe most strongly—especially not the ones you believe most strongly.

3) Now destroy your list. Do this in some dramatic way; burn it, shred it, bury it. Get rid of it for good.

4) Now, write yourself a permission slip. A free pass. A green light that says go for it, nothing is off limits, restrictions do not apply. Phrase this anyway you’d like – be creative! The point is to give yourself the complete freedom you need to tap into that well of creativity where the best stuff is hiding.

Give these tips a try and see how much more you enjoy writing that first draft. Have fun with it.

In my next post I’ll share some tricks for making revision more creative and more fun too.

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