by Peggy Bechko
Everybody and his or her brother can be a critic; is willing to criticize the writing of others…especially if they don’t write themselves, right?
And over time all that criticism from editors, producers, well-meaning friends, critical relatives who just know you’re wasting your time, a reader’s group who though well-meaning, don’t know what they’re talking about, whoever, builds up until it all super-charges the self-critic already camped in your brain. In fact, by now as a writer of scripts and/or books, you might not even be able to tell exactly who or what makes up that tyrant of a self-critic sitting in the bleachers in your brain.
It might do you some good to figure out what the composite actually is, but the main lesson to take away from this is, your writing absolutely must make your audience come back again and again. The audience must look for your name in the credits of a movie. The novel must hook the reader to return to continue reading that book and to look for more with your name on the cover of the next.
The screenwriters and novelists who appear to have gotten a grip on what audiences and readers want, what engages them, are the ones who’ve stared that inner critic in the eye and called for silence. It’s simply not possible to write something of import, something powerful, when we question everything we write. When we wonder if a line is funny in a script. When we write a line in a novel that the inner critic thinks the reader will hate it gets dropped.
That kind of thinking has got to stop for the writer to be able to risk everything on their creativity and veer away from the same-old, same-old characters and plots. Comfortable plots do not light the way to brilliance.
You know those guys who pile on to create the inner critic mentioned above? Well, most of them are afraid of change, of anything different. But you, as writer, are out there to embrace just that.
So what should you do? How should you tell the inner critic to be available later when the editing begins, but to shut up when the real creativity is happening?
For starters you might dig just a bit by taking a few moments to pause and reflect on just who might comprise your inner critic – in addition to yourself. Was there a producer who jettisoned your idea before you could get it out of your mouth during a pitch? An editor who gave the pat ‘this plot seems contrived’ without any further explanation as to what the hell he was talking about? A relative who read your script and said ‘yes, but, don’t you think you should have a REAL job?’ Someone else?
It doesn’t matter who they are really, those life-sucking critics who you’ve accumulated in connection with your writing endeavors, just give them a nod, tell them to shut up (probably not out loud), and sit down to write for yourself.
Really, just yourself.
Stop worrying about what other people are going to think or say about the finished product. If you need a little support, pause and think about movies and books that were panned and later went on to become cult favorites or classics inspiring others to follow their example. Or one that critics slammed but made huge amounts of money (which is great…the money…but also reflects how popular it was).
Every writer has fears about editors and producers hating his writing, or literally hating the writer. What if the novel slaved over for a year is no good? What if the script, torn apart and reassembled over and over doesn’t even get a response?
You’re not alone. But you can’t allow the fears to overwhelm or you won’t make it. These questions are just as legitimate: What if they love that novel and offer a contract? What if they can’t wait to produce that script comparing it to every recent blockbuster that’s been screened? What if you come across to them as the greatest talent of this decade?
The trick is not to write tighter and tighter, to keep it closer to your vest because of fears and criticism, but rather to grow even bolder, to turn that inner critic into your very own cheerleader, to be ever more creative and original. Be brave, write what you really want to write, what speaks to you, what you know you want to have your name attached to. Do it and do it right, and once day soon your brilliant ideas will turn into what readers and audiences have been eagerly waiting for.
Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and don’t forget to read Peggy’s great blog.