I have read many books on writing and creativity. I’ve probably reached the point of diminishing returns, but I keep picking them up, especially when I can get them second hand, because I’ve learned a lot from some of them. Almost all of these books talk about “the critic.” This critic may be the internalized voice of others who’ve told you you’re not competent to do what you set out to do. Or it may be a voice all your own, telling you that nothing you do is measuring up to your own standard. In either case, one of the early lessons in creativity books is the importance of shutting this voice out when you sit down to write. There are various methods suggested: breathing meditation, write a letter, . . . .
I have found a different solution. I promoted my critic to editor. An editor must have something to criticize, so my critic now happily goes away until I have a draft to share: usually my first typed draft. Then he comes running in.
At first he didn’t do very well at describing what he saw. “Humph!” he might say, or “Boring!!” Bit by bit, he’s picked up useful terms.
“Cliché!” he says. I underline the phrase he’s pointed to.
“Action verbs!” he cries. I circle the “is.”
After such obvious points, he slows down, ponders. “Why is this in such regular stanzas?” he asks after a bit. “That’s your default form. Does that really enact the feeling of the poem?” My critic has been very pleased with himself since he learned the word “enact.”
“I was resisting it,” I say, noncommittally. “Form can pull against content.” But I know he won’t accept my argument.
“It’s not strong enough,” he says.
“I’ll try it another way. Just to see what happens,” I say. I settle down to revision, and my critic goes off to look for another new term he can use at the next editorial session. I can work alone now ―at least until he hears the printer start up.