The enemy within

Posted: June 10, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , ,

All writers have voices in their heads.

The ringing tones of heroes and heroines. The dastardly hiss of villains. The droll asides of sidekicks, and the ever-hopeful clamor of extras auditioning for the support cast and the chance to play even a minor role in a story.

These are the voices that shape our stories, calling to us from our dreamscapes, invading our waking hours, and refusing to be silenced until we bend to their will and commit their story to the page.

These are the voices that we writers should listen to.

Instead our ears prick up at the insidious purr of the nay-sayer. The enemy within. The dreadfully plausible, insinuating voice that stalks our writing hours. filling our heads with thoughts that poison the creative well.

This is the voice of the inner critic. The voice that tells us we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not imaginative enough.

The voice that stops we writers from writing, or condemns us to Groundhog Day, endlessly rewriting the same passage, seeking perfection. Meanwhile the voices we should listen to grow fainter and eventually disappear altogether, taking their unwritten stories with them.

There is only one way to deal with the inner critic. Gag him during the first draft. Stuff a sock in her gob. Gaffer tape the creep and shove him in the deepest darkest recess of your mind. Lock and bolt the door, ignore her screams, and write away.

If you fear that inspiration won’t come, go to your writing spot, take a word for a walk and follow where it leads.

Inspiration comes after you start writing. Or at least, that’s what the voices in my head keep telling me. 😉

“You must learn to overcome your very natural and appropriate revulsion for your own work”  William Gibson.


  1. Debbie Kahl says:

    So true Chris. My inner critic is my biggest hurdle and the one that keeps me from going any further forward with my own writing. I’m still working on the ‘bound & gag’ part. Thanks for such a great post! 🙂

    • chrisbongers says:

      Debbie, there’s no writing problem that can’t be solved by simply writing your way through it. Don’t worry whether it’s any good, just get the words down on paper. Anything can be fixed down the track – anything, except a blank page.

  2. Sue Whiting says:

    Mal Peet, UK YA author, talks about his inner critic in terms of a cranky parrot that sits on his shoulder and squawks abuse in his ear. I can really relate to that cranky parrot. In fact, I have one of my own – and am now looking forward to gaffer taping its point little beak! Great post, Chris. Thanks.

  3. I’ve got plenty of gaffer tape. Don’t know why I never thought of this before! Thanks for another cracking post Christine. I think you should consider penning a novel length tale about the ugly little inner critic. It’s such a rich, intense character all on its own. Off now to find and conquer…

  4. chrisbongers says:

    I wouldn’t give the nasty little tyke the time of day, Dimity. Let’s save ourselves for characters that engage us in a good way!

  5. Excellent post, Chris! And it’s come at just the right time for me – stuck in a rewrite that I’m not sure about. Now where’s our gaffer tape, time to take control of this stand-off and to stand up to the beast within. 🙂

  6. chrisbongers says:

    You do that, Sheryl. Better we control it, than it controls us. 🙂

  7. Carol Warner says:

    Timely post, Chris. The last line of a chapter I wrote…I thought to myself ‘I can’t write that’, my readers will hate me (or my main character) I shall keep writing and see where it leads me. Meanwhile, I’ll go find some gaffer tape! 😉

  8. chrisbongers says:

    Carol, I was thinking of all you YONliners when I wrote the post. We all suffer from the same problems, don’t we? We all need to give ourselves permission to try anything and just write in the first draft. Then when we have a completed draft we can polish away madly in the re-write. 🙂

  9. Karen says:

    Oh Chris, you have no idea how timely reading this has been for me: just as I am about to be consumed by self-doubt and feeling I cannot pull this off! Thank you. So true… But the doubts can still encroach/swallow you even after the first draft! But, as you say, gag them and keep going. Thanks. This was just the panacea I needed: the words I had to read xxxxx

  10. chrisbongers says:

    Karen, I’ve never doubted your abilities as a writer, so you shouldn’t either! Tallow was brilliant, Votive is on my must-buy list, and I can not wait for the final Illumination. Trust yourself, your writing instincts are just wonderful. xx

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