Displaying items by tag: internal critic - Rosie Garland

As part of my Writer’s Residency at The John Rylands Library, I’m writing a series of blogs… here’s the first – The Power of Asking.

“I’ve just been appointed the first writer-in-residence at The John Rylands Library. How did I manage this wonderful achievement? I asked.

Sounds easy.

It wasn’t. If you’re anything like me (and the longer I live, the more I realise I’m not alone), asking is far more difficult than it sounds.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Unless you were born with a set of silver spoons in your mouth (which is everyone reading this, right?), then you’ve worked out that opportunities don’t fall magically into your lap. You’ve had to work hard to get where you are.

I like what Julia Cameron (author of the inspirational ‘The Artists Way’) says: “Pray to catch the bus, then run as fast as you can.” It’s a reminder to put myself into the path of opportunities. The bus does not come to the front door. I have to leave the house, and darn well run for it.

I have to take a deep breath, and ask. So, why is it so difficult?

Here’s my take. I grew up with a spectacularly unhelpful dictum: Ask, don’t get. Don’t ask, don’t want. I shared this with friends recently, and was shocked to discover it’s very common. I end up stuck in a bizarre Catch 22 situation, thinking that if I have to ask for something, then I don’t deserve it. Or, that I must to wait for someone else to ask me. The most I’m allowed to do is stand around looking hopeful.
This lose-lose mentality is combined with a vicious internal critic. I call her Mavis (I’ve blogged about her here and run Anti-Mavis workshops). She never, ever says anything nice. If someone says they like my writing, Mavis jumps in and whispers ‘they’re only being nice.’ In fact, she can be neatly summed up by this great Savage Chickens cartoon (Doug Savage):

Naturally, my internal critic undermined any notion that somewhere as amazing as The John Rylands Library would want the likes of me.

So – standing up and asking for what I want can be pretty damn hard. I’m swamped with fears of rejection, coming over as needy, an underachiever, someone who’s failed because they need to ask.

Luckily, this isn’t a poor-me blog.

Years ago I decided that I was not going to let fear of rejection stop me living a life that is too darn short as it is. I take inspiration from Jia Jiang, whose TED talk about dealing with rejection is well worth 15 minutes of anyone’s time.

So, however hard it is to ask, to put myself forward, to send that manuscript to a competition or agent – I take several deep breaths and do it. In the words of Susan Jeffers: ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

And here’s the good news. The John Rylands Library is delighted to have a writer-in-residence. Correction: The John Rylands Library is delighted to have me as a writer-in-residence.

I have told Mavis to put that in her pipe and smoke it.

Coming next – what I asked for, and how to ask for a residency.”

https://rylandscollections.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/the-power-of-asking/

Published in News
Friday, 23 June 2017 13:45

16-18.6.2017 - Grrrl Con, Manchester!

Grrrl Con 2017

A big shout out to Jane Bradley, Claire Askew & Kerry Ryan - organisers of GrrrlCon 2017 - for inviting me to present a workshop on ‘Dealing With The Internal Critic’ as well as contribute to the ‘Paths to Publication’ panel!

And wow – such wonderful feedback from workshop participants:

“Have to say Rosie Garland has been the shining light of my Grrrl Con experience so far. Fab workshop!!”
“My first workshop was with on dealing with your inner critic, & was one of the best things I've ever been part of.”
“Worker Bees Manchester: Our new Whatsapp group name inspired by the amazing Rosie Garland is #fuckoffmavis”
“Magic atmosphere, easy, open and collaborative despite some tough subject matter. Cannot thank you enough, Rosie Garland”
“Really tough workshop but so good and so valid and needed”

Here’s to GrrrlCon 2018!
http://grrrlcon.com/

Published in News
Monday, 24 March 2014 16:46

24.3.1014 - #mywritingprocess Blog Tour

#mywritingprocess – Blog Tour

I was asked to participate in this blog tour by wonderful wordsmith Steph Pike

Its purpose is to share current activities, link writers to their wider community and to spend a little time considering our latest projects - which could be either to tantalize readers or to give me the opportunity to chew over what exactly I'm doing. Either way, we get four questions to structure the post around:

1) What am I working on?

I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, not helped by being surrounded by folk who encouraged that belief. There were many reasons, but here's the relevant one: I've always worked on more than one creative project at a time. Singing, poetry, fiction, painting my hall with a frieze of Egyptian goddesses... Do I bore easily? Am I a creativity junkie? Answers on a postcard.

After worrying myself stupid that it's 'wrong' to be like this, I've accepted it's how I am (and naysayers can bugger off). Poetry nourishes fiction, fiction nurtures song writing, and all of it feeds the soul. Plus, if I was only working on one thing, it'd be easy to, well, do nothing...

Right now I'm writing poetry using prompts from Jo Bell's inspirational 52 blog

  I'm gearing up for The March Violets tour dates in UK / Europe / USA.

I'm also doing the final edits for my second novel, Vixen, which is out June 17th. I'm lurching from fear (that it's absolute rubbish) to excitement (It's finished! I've really done it!).

Click to visit HarperCollins 'Vixen' page

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don't know if it does differ, or if it needs to. What is different, anyway?

Philosophical meanderings aside, one of the 'rules' I picked up in novel-writing workshops was never to use first person when writing weird or unusual characters, because the reader won't be able to identify with them.

But I'm fed up with marginalized voices being further marginalized via the semantic distancing of third-person. So, in my debut novel 'The Palace of Curiosities', I created Eve, a woman completely covered in hair. I was determined she should speak for herself rather than have her story filtered through 'normal' eyes. One of the most striking features of the wonderful feedback I've received is how much readers have identified with Eve. Rules are there to be bent into the shape we desire.

3) Why do I write what I do?

My mother used to ask, 'why can't you write nice stories?'

I don't explore dark themes as some kind of pose, or to be difficult, or challenging for the sake of it. I write what I write because that's what comes knocking. I write what interests me about the world.

Sure, I can produce something that doesn't fire me up (I've tried), but my heart's not in it. There's the rub: I write where my passions reside. I've chased myself in circles trying to second-guess what a publisher 'might' want and it was a disaster. There's no point twisting yourself into shapes trying to please. That way lies madness, and not the interesting, creative sort. Maybe it's one of the reasons it took me so long for my novels to get published. But that's a different blog

4) How does your writing process work?

I am inspired and moved by the wealth of creative strategies we use to get ourselves writing. I reckon there are as many processes as there are writers. I don't think it matters one iota whether you're a morning / afternoon / nocturnal writer, whether you prefer a pencil, an iPad or grind your own ink from freshly-roasted acorns. It's more important to find the process that works for you. Then use it.

Let's face it, every day I'm plagued with a million reasons to avoid writing - shopping, housework, TV, social networking, let alone my inner critic screaming how useless I am. Click to read my 'dealing with the inner critic' blog

If I have a routine it's easier to get the hell over myself and write. My writing process gives me an anchor, a lifebelt to hang onto and weather those storms.

Next week the blog tour adventure features three wonderful writers – Susan Elliott Wright, Cathy Bryant and Anne Caldwell.

Susan Elliot Wright is a London-born novelist who now lives in Sheffield, where she teaches creative writing and tries hard to take her own advice. Click for Susan's website / Click for Susan's blog

Cathy Bryant's poems and short stories have been published on five continents (just Antarctica holding out), and she is a former blogger for the Huffington Post. She has won nine literary awards including the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize, and co-edited the anthologies Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1, 2 and 3. Her second poetry collection, Look at All the Women, will be launched later in 2014. See more at Cathy's website

Anne Caldwell is a poet and literature consultant. She works for NAWE, The University of Bolton, The Open University and runs workshops in schools and community settings. Contact Tel. 07818 052108 email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Her latest collection is Talking with the Dead, Cinnamon Press 2011.

Click to visit Anne's website

Published in News

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.

Published in News

News and Events