Friday, October 8, 2010

Negotiating with the Inner Critic

The writer's relationship with the Inner Critic is a fascinating dynamic when you think about it. And, as writers, we think about it often! As a universal topic, writing blogs often talk about dealing with the IC and provide encouragement and positive reinforcement to combat the often negative energy of the IC. Or, in some cases, we find writing prompts accomplish this by freeing us for a short time to just enjoy the spirit of discovery in our writing.

This experience of seemingly being able to "turn off" the IC is nothing short of exhilarating. In that moment, it's as if we've found The Answer to conquering the IC. Surely, The Answer is to always find those ways to accomplish that task. We could run with that, right? :) Hold on to that thought! And I do mean hold ON TO that thought and emotion. I don't want to burst the bubble, but I think we all suspect there must be a little more to it to deal with the IC. In fact, I think the IC didn't really turn off at all, but it may have been something else we stumbled upon. I hope maybe you'll see what I mean.

First, let's continue doing what we often do -- personify the IC as if it is something real; a separate person. To take it a step further (indulge my paranormal world building), imagine there is not just one IC, but an entire culture -- we'll call it IC Land. Neighboring this IC Land is -- can you guess? -- Writer Country, where we live, of course. We have a beautiful, artistic, and highly chaotic society. Of course, we're always having trouble and skirmishes with the pesky neighboring IC. Sure, we win these encounters often because we're very inventive, but the IC always makes a comeback. They are a worthy opponent.

It's no wonder we have conflict. The IC people, on the whole, think they are above us; more civilized, more intellectual, more...well, everything. They know it all, or think they do. Knowing this, our tactics for dealing with the IC, our close but often oppressive neighbor, are varied; we often deny the IC's existence, we sporadically attempt to make friends with it, but, often this doesn't work. Then we lose our tempers and declare all out war.

The relationship between the IC and the writer is a long term conflict between two opposite cultures that has existed for a very long time. These two opponents, the Writers and the IC, don't really believe that they might possibly want the same things or have anything in common. And underlying all negotiations for peaceful co-existence, is a mistrust in the other's motivation. So, the conflict continues in a battle for territory.

What drives this conflict? First, it seems logical to consider both sides must want something. What does the Inner Critic want? Power? Respect? The tactic of denying the IC has any power seems to result in a sneak attack, so that is a possibility. Is it respect, they want? True, they do have a lot of knowledge, but they are "flawed," according to the Writers, by being resistant to change. They want order, tend to dismiss anything chaotic, plan far ahead and weigh concepts in terms of profit returned. But are they really vindictive in their dismissal of the Writer's ideas? It's hard to say. The Writers don't really know much about the IC motivations and falls back on a lot of assumptions.

And what does Writer Country want? That should be easier to figure out. To be left alone to create? Of course! When the IC seems to be out for blood and coldly dismisses their ideas, it would seem they're in the right to banish or kill off the IC. Good riddance! Then the Writer will be free to be spontaneous. But darn it anyway, eventually the Writers also want to be helped in areas that require order. Then what? If a Writer admits to wanting and needing help, then the Writer has to accept that not only does the enemy have something of value, but he/she has to listen. And how receptive can a Writer be to someone he/she doesn't know can be trusted? Does a Writer have to beg forgiveness? The IC might also be a little leery at that point to trust the Writer!

So, Writer Country and IC Land have a long history of misunderstandings and poorly timed exchanges. Writer Country continues trying to get the IC to give an opinion on how "good" something is and the IC always has to tell the Writer why it just won't work. The IC must do this, because every criteria they have for success in their society is in opposition to the Writer's criteria.

But What If...Writer Country and IC Land occasionally stumbled upon the right set of circumstances and the timing was right? What if, the Writer "forgot" to ask how good something was, and only asked for things the IC could legitimately provide? What if the Writer listened respectfully to IC's advice on how to put things in order, but didn't ask for opinions like "will this sell?" (The IC will tell you better stuff is out there.)

The result might be truce between Writer Country and IC Land -- a peace treaty of sorts. It's fragile and might not last long. Long enough, perhaps, for the Writer to experience the exhilarating spirit of discovery. The IC didn't really go away, of course. They simply gave what they could and didn't offer more. It wasn't asked!

To end the tale of the warring countries, you could say there is hope Writer Country and IC Land might one day learn to co-exist and even integrate as one country. You think? Well, that might be a tad optimistic. Conflicts are bound to occur. But actually, as long as the exchanges aren't hurtful, a little conflict really doesn't hurt, right?

I think it is possible to prolong the "peace" between the Writer and the IC. Just for fun, imagine what Writer Country and IC Land might say to each other if they actually negotiated or attended a "peace conference." If they were to set down some terms of what they both want and when from the other, what might that be?

5 comments:

  1. Ohmygosh, this is brilliant! LOL I love it! It's such a perfect description -- border skirmishes, battle for territory, the lack of trust and the inability to understand the opponent.

    I've got to come back once I've thought of what each side wants in a peace conference. *giggles* This is just too fun!

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  2. Thanks, Donna! I look forward to your return with your terms. LOL

    In one of my first drafts for this IC blog, I was actually starting out with these peace conference terms and found the POV of the IC interesting. They're actually not so heartless once you get their side of things. LOL

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  3. Well... The IC starts off with, "You have to quit throwing us to the Kraken."

    WC counters with, "You have to stop being nothing but negative nags."

    "Are not!"

    "Are, too!"

    *SPLASH!

    Sigh.

    I'm afraid my IC/WC will seldom go different. Save the rebel IC who sneaks aboard the ship and takes on a less critical persona. Maybe falls in love with a sweet WC... Hmmmm! I sense a new book here! ;-)

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  4. Ohhh! Maureen, I want to read the IC and WC love story! The ultimate attraction of opposites, right? LOL

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  5. I found NaNoWriMo did wonders for quieting my IC and allowing it to live in peace with WC. For the most part. There are brief skirmishes now and again, but for the most part they've learned to co-exist.

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