Monday, June 15, 2015

Abstract Thoughts: My Evil Twin

Wisdom of an
Inner Editor

Renee is just coming back after a two-week writing break*, so there isn't really much for me to report in terms of recent goings on. I've instead decided to take this opportunity to discuss with you all a perception that has been bothering me for some time.

Or it would have done, were I the type of abstract given to being bothered by the perceptions of others.

I, as you know, am Renee's Inner Editor. My primary role is to work through the drafts Renee generates with the Muse. We smooth out plot lines, polish the language, clarify character motivations, etc. And then, once things are as perfect as we can make them, we pass the completed story off to the Idea Salesman.

I am not the enemy. I am helpful.

The Muse, the Idea Salesman, and I are all different forms of Inspiration. We seek to draw out Renee's best art and encourage her to showcase it for the world. We may not always agree on the best path to success, but the overall goal is the same.

But there is another abstract living up here in Renee's head and she is most definitely not helpful. The Critic is a malicious spirit, a darker kind of Inspiration. Her sole purpose is to destroy Renee's creativity. To make her question her every writerly move. The get her so bogged down in doubt that she cannot find her way through it. To leave her paralyzed by fear, of moving forward or moving back.

We very rarely mention the Critic and she is generally kept confined to her cell room. She does not have blogging privileges. As a result, you may not know that the Critic and I are, unfortunately, identical twins. Of a sort. We don't actually look anything alike. My facial features are much more in line with conventional standards of physical beauty, if that sort of thing is important to you.

And you have much better legs, IE.

Shut up, Idea.

What? You're the one who's got that whole pencil skirt and high heels thing going on all the time. You obviously know you've got great legs.

My choice of professional attire is completely irrelevant to this topic. Now go away. I suspect there's a sexual harassment seminar somewhere that you should be registered for.

As I was saying, my sister and I have a certain degree of physical resemblance. But, being voices in Renee's head, that doesn't really matter. It's not as if anyone can see us. The problem is we also sound exactly the same.

The Critic does not care at all about making Renee's prose better. She doesn't look for subplots that need more follow through or characterizations that lack dimension. She has no interest in refining language or balancing paragraph structure. The quality of Renee's writing means nothing to the Critic.

If we aren't vigilant about keeping her locked away where Renee can't hear her, she slips out onto Renee's shoulder and whispers dark little thoughts in Renee's ear. Just a few, at first, little hints of hesitation that seem perfectly reasonable. Then, once she's sure Renee is listening, she grows bolder. Stronger. She twists the truth and paints a thin veneer of logic over her lies.

And, because she sounds just like me, Renee believes her. Renee follows her right down into the darkness and gets lost there. Before any of us even realize the Critic has slipped past the guards, Renee is scrapped a year's worth of work and is rocking back and forth in a corner, thinking about maybe just coloring or baking cookies for the rest of her life instead.

That kind of damage takes months to undo. And once everything is back on track, it always takes Renee a little while to really trust me again. Which would be hurtful. If I were the type of abstract given to being hurt by these kinds of things.

And so it's difficult for me to hear horror stories of Inner Editors locked away in closets or starved or chained up in basements. 99% of the time, the Inner Editor is innocent of all wrongdoing and the writer in question has a Critic skulking around unchecked.

Writers, be aware (and beware) of your Critic. A Critic sounds just like your Inner Editor, except all the advice is steeped in shame and bitterness and disapproval. Instead of bringing forward your best work, the Critic magnifies your faults. And the Critic is the one who belongs in maximum security lock down, not your Inner Editor.


* Renee's daughter had a birthday, so there was a party to host and out-of-town family to entertain and such like that. Her insistence on putting her children and other family members ahead of the rest of us on the priority list is highly offensive. Or it would be, if I were the type of abstract given to taking offense.

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