Displaying items by tag: writer's block

Dealing with the internal critic

Or

A 12-Step Programme for Coping with Mavis

I have a voice in my head. It never says anything nice. It undermines any attempt I make to write. Examples of the things it says are you're a fraud, you'll never amount to anything and who told you you could write, anyway? On and on and on, wittering ad nauseam.

Sound familiar? You're not alone. It seems like whenever I 'fess up to this internal censor, a common response from fellow-creatives is a stunned good god, you get that too?

Simply put, this inner censor wants me to stop writing. It's been there since I was in my early teens, and shows no sign of going away. Sure, it's had to change its script a little over the past few months what with the launch of my debut novel 'The Palace of Curiosities', but it has simply developed nasty new mantras. One example: when people say they like 'The Palace of Curiosities', they're only being nice.

I used to listen and believe every word I heard. Result? I stopped writing. For years. Call it writers' block if you will. An important part of my writing life has been improving how I deal with these internalised put-downs. I've shared some ideas below – if any of them help, that's great.

1 - First off, I worked out when the voice first appeared. 'Forever' was not an acceptable answer. Speaking personally, my earliest creative efforts were encouraged. However, that changed in my teens when I started to explore the weird, the odd, the different, the opposite of sugar and spice. Suddenly (and it was sudden) the support and praise evaporated. Ta-dah! My internal censor was born at the precise moment in my life when I was developing into an independent person, and it grew fat on raging hormones and adolescent angst.

2 – We are born free of internal censorship – it comes later. My ability to write and my love of writing were both there before the censor. It helped to separate that out.

3 – Another key was to recognise it was a voice in my head, but not 'my' voice. I can separate my self from the put-downs. Who first planted doubts in your head? You sure as hell didn't.

4 - Part of the externalising process was to create a character and give it a name. I call my internal censor Mavis, because it's silly and helps diminish the yap-yap-yap. She is not a huge terrifying demon; she's small and she's squeaky. It's much harder to take such a creature seriously.

5 – She makes herself pretty easy to spot, as her script lacks originality. She trots out the same old tune, the same old words. I recognise Mavis on one of her rants, rather than believing that what she says is true. It isn't.

6 – However, I don't try to ignore her: she just shouts louder. I acknowledge she's there, say hello Mavis; listen to what she has to say, then I get on with whatever it was I was doing. My suggestion? Hear it, note it, move on.

7 - Develop your own practical strategies. One of mine is writing early in the day. Mavis isn't a morning person. I get up before she does, while she's still snoozing. Once I've started and am on a roll it's not so difficult: the blank page is when she's at her most undermining.

8 - I write longhand when I'm starting out, whether it's a novel or a poem. There are many reasons why I do this (and they're the subject of a different blog). As a strategy for getting round Mavis it works like this: to the censor, handwriting is 'scribbling', ie not serious or important. She stops paying attention - and I get to explore ideas without her peering over my shoulder and sneering 'well, that's not very good is it?' If she does start snooping around I say I'm just scribbling. Nothing for you to bother about. I work under the radar and sneak my words past her – rough, unedited words – but words. I can't edit nothing, which is what she's aiming for.

9 – Don't try to reason or argue with the censor. You'll use up all your creative energy and never, ever win. There's no point trying to reason with the unreasonable. My censor says things which logically I know aren't true. But oh boy, does my fearful emotional jelly of a self wobble. That's her power. If I try to engage logic, I end up going in circles. She always has an argument to top mine. She always gets the last word. She's always got a 'yeah, but - '. These arguments leach away time and energy when I could be writing.

10 - Speak out. Say she exists. Stop being ashamed. Stop believing her.

11 - Talk to other creative people. Find out what their internal censors act like. Share strategies for coping.

12 - For years I tried to repress her, ignore her, make her go away. It didn't work. I've accepted I'll never be rid of her. And maybe, just maybe, there's a positive side to all of this head-talk. It keeps me on my toes. With Mavis around I won't become one of those writers who think that every word they commit to paper is perfect and woe betide any foolish mortal who dares suggest they might need to edit the hell out of it.

And if I do become big-headed, blasé or swan around saying do you know who I am? – tell me. Loud and clear.

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News and Events

  • 'Because goddess is never enough' - a new film-poem!
    'Because goddess is never enough' - a new film-poem!
    ‘Because goddess is never enough’ – revealing the new film poem, made in collaboration with filmmaker Jane Glennie.

    Absolutely thrilled to announce this new film poem – created over 2021 in collaboration with amazing filmaker Jane Glennie. Inspired by the life of dancer and choreographer Tilly Losch, the film explores notions of erasure, strategies for persistence and the centrality of creative expression for the life of a woman in perpetual motion.

    We are delighted with the reception the film is receiving! A list of film festivals is below.
    AND there’s a ‘Book of the Film’!

    'Because Goddess is Never Enough (Peculiarity Press, 2022)
    Available from Blackwell’s (Waterstones, Amazon, etc)
    https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Because-Goddess-Is-Never-Enough-by-Rosie-Garland-Jane-Glennie/9781912384167

    Flick through the book here –
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/zzDN5KKbUccqPZsQ7

    Film festivals & events 2022 that have selected & featured 'Because Goddess is Never Enough'

    Moving Poems May 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected as one of ‘the best poetry films on the web’
    https://movingpoems.com/2022/05/because-goddess-is-never-enough-by-rosie-garland/

    Fringe Arts Bath Festival 27 May - 12 June 2022
    Bath’s annual free festival of visual arts
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected for WORDPLAY programme
    https://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/festival-2022
    https://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/wordplay

    Tranås at the Fringe International Arts Festival 2-9 July in Tranås, Sweden
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected for the LIVING FEMININITY programme.
    https://www.atthefringe.org/film-program-2022

    Women X Film Festival 2-4 September in Darlington, UK.
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' - Honourable Mention
    https://riannepictures.com/womenx

    Women Over 50 Film Festival
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – nominated for Best Experimental film, selected for the AT MY CORE programme
    https://wofff22.eventive.org/films/62e15892943cb70054a692d9
    https://wofff.co.uk/2022/08/wofff22-films-announced-find-out-more-about-our-fantastic-official-selections/

    Athens 10th International Video Poetry Festival 28 September - 1 October 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – screened 29th September within 'Feminist Struggles' programme
    https://theinstitute.info/?p=5226

    HOME Manchester, Filmed Up 28th September 2022
    ‘Because Goddess is Never Enough’ selected for Filmed Up programme.

    https://homemcr.org/event/filmed-up-sep-2022/

    The Feminist Film Festival, Bucharest, 13-16 October 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – Official Selection
    https://filmfreeway.com/TheFeministFilmFestival

    Sunderland Shorts Film Festival October 17th, 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected for the Art & Experimental Films programme
    https://filmfreeway.com/SunderlandShorts

    Zebra Poetry Film Festival, Berlin 3-6 November 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough'.
    We are very proud to be selected for Zebra, the oldest and largest international festival of poetry films.
    https://filmfreeway.com/ZEBRAPoetryFilmFestival
    https://www.haus-fuer-poesie.org/en/zebra-poetry-film-festival/home-zebra-poetry-film-festival/

    Still Voices Film Festival, Ireland 9-13 November 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – Official selection Experimental
    https://stillvoicesfilmfestival.com/

    Written on Thursday, 29 September 2022 09:41
  • Sept 2022 - The March Violets announce 5 CD boxset release!
    Sept 2022 - The March Violets announce 5 CD boxset release!
    Announcing the Novemeber 18th 2022 release of 'The Palace of Infinite Darkness'

    It's 40 years since The March Violets released our 1st 7" EP (seriously, FORTY).
    So it’s a great time to announce that this tasty 5 CD Box Set is now up for pre order from Jungle Records!
    The Palace of Infinite Darkness - In addition to all the singles plus all the extended versions, the box has six excellent BBC sessions, 23 tracks with 9 unreleased songs (also reissued as Big Soul Kiss 2LP yellow vinyl after a sold-out RSD release). Then there are two whole discs of unreleased demo sessions – one from the early period 1982-84 and another from 1985-87. Founder-member Rosie Garland recounts the band’s story in a 44-page booklet.
    Check out the link:
    https://smarturl.it/MV5CDbox

    Written on Thursday, 22 September 2022 12:19
  • June 2022 - Queer Poetry for The Arvon Foundation
    June 2022 - Queer Poetry for The Arvon Foundation
    Residential Writing Week: Queer Poetry

    A wonderful experience – for the first time, I co-tutored a residential writing week for the prestigious Arvon Foundation! It was such a thrill to work alongside inspiring co-tutor Keith Jarrett and electrifying guest reader Jay Bernard.
    A very special week. I won’t forget it.

    Monday June 27th - Saturday July 2nd 2022
    Totleigh Barton, Sheepwash, Beaworthy Devon
    https://www.arvon.org/writing-courses/courses-retreats/residential-writing-week-queer-poetry/

    Written on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 15:16
  • June 2022 - 100 Queer Poems anthology
    June 2022 - 100 Queer Poems anthology

    Thrilled and honoured to have my poem ‘Now that you are not-you’ featured in this groundbreaking new anthology!

    ‘Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan's luminous anthology, 100 Queer Poems, is a celebration of thrilling contemporary voices and visionary poets of the past. Featuring Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Ocean Vuong, Carol Ann Duffy, Kae Tempest and many more.

    Encompassing both the flowering of queer poetry over the past few decades and the poets who came before and broke new ground, 100 Queer Poems presents an electrifying range of writing from the twentieth century to the present day.’

    https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/445204/100-queer-poems-by-chan-edited-by-andrew-mcmillan-and-mary-jean/9781529115321

    Written on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 15:14
  • Jan 2022 - 'Why I Write Poetry' (Nine Arches Press)
    Jan 2022 - 'Why I Write Poetry' (Nine Arches Press)
    ‘Why I Write Poetry’

    I’m honoured – my essay ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ is included in this wonderful collection! (Nine Arches Press, ed Ian Humphreys)

    ‘What motivates poets in the 21st century? How do they find their voice? What themes and subject matters inspire them? How do they cope with set-backs and deal with success? What keeps them writing?

    In Why I Write Poetry twenty-five contemporary poets reflect with insight, wit and wisdom on the writing life, each offering their distinctive take on what inspires and spurs them on to write poetry. Also - individual writing prompts to help you create your own new poetry.’

    https://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/why-i-write-poetry.html

    Written on Sunday, 23 January 2022 10:00