On Being Bold

Sometimes when I’m procrastinating about writing books, I write plays.  It allows me to indulge in my love affair with dialogue, plus I get to boss around real live people on the page.  I’ve only written short, 5-15 minute plays so far, and a couple of them have been produced by a local theater.  It’s been such a trip to see my words performed on stage!  I’m afraid I might be a little addicted.

So I’m ready to move on to bigger playwriting things and I recently incorporated two of my short pieces into an outline for a full-length play.  It was just as scary as when I decided to try and write a book, but opening that new document and declaring my intentions felt like a big step.  Which means, of course, that it involved lots of arguments with my jerk of an internal critic.

Critic: (In a very snotty and sarcastic Regina George-ish voice) Uh, excuse me, just what do you think YOU know about writing a full-length play? You do know that it’s basically guaranteed to suck, right?

Me: Shut up.

Critic: And you’ll just be wasting those two short plays that were fine on their own.  You probably should just stick with what you already know you can write.

Me: SHUT UP.

Critic: You have no idea what you’re doing and you’ll screw up the structure and the characters will be hollow and everyone is probably going to laugh at you if they even bother to read it.

Me: SHUT. UP!

Okay, so I’m not very eloquent in my arguments with the internal critic.

But the point is that I can’t win a fight with that voice…it’s not possible to have a calm and reasonable discussion with the part of my brain that is trying to protect me from failure by keeping me paralyzed.  If I do anything other than yell back at it like a belligerent Jerry Springer guest “You don’t know me!  You don’t know my life!  I can do what I want!”, I end up clamming up and shutting down and walking away.  I’ll never move forward as a writer.

So I have to find a way to ignore it.  I can’t think about the fact that I’m sitting down and attempting to write something that I’d like other people to spend a significant amount of time reading or watching on a stage…I can’t think about how ridiculous and presumptuous that sometimes feels.  I have to be bold.

It reminds me of one of my favorite writing-related quotes, by Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame:

I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.” Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.

Word.  When I’m feeling uninspired and blocked, I think a big part of the reason why I push through is to show my internal critic how wrong she is about me.