In my previous blog in this series, I said I would talk more about my suggestion that you should not judge the quality of what you write. I also said I was going to introduce you to your inner-critic who is like the school bully that beats you up from inside. As this is a writing blog, I thought I would do that with a short story.
The Boy at the Beach
Every morning the boy would play by himself on the beach. He would build a sandcastle with a moat, ramparts and tall towers before going off to school. During the day, the tide would wash away the castle but the boy did not mind that. He knew he would have the pleasure of building another castle the next day.
One morning the boy had just finished building his castle when he became aware that he was not alone. From the corner of his eye, he saw a boy with a clenched angry face peering over his shoulder.
“This is the most ugly, useless sandcastle in the whole world,” the angry boy said. “You should be embarrassed to have built something so sad and pathetic.” The foot of the angry boy shot out and scythed down the towers and ramparts in a flurry of sand.
The boy stared in shock at his ruined castle. He wanted to hit the angry boy, but by the time he turned round, the angry boy had disappeared and the beach was empty.
The next day the boy returned to the beach. He was a little nervous after his encounter with the angry boy on the previous day, but the beach was deserted. He built another sandcastle, making his ramparts straight and strong and the towers as tall as they could be. He had just finished chiseling battlements onto the tops of the towers when be became aware that once more the angry boy was peering over his shoulder.
“You haven’t got a clue how to build a sandcastle,” the angry boy said. “You should be ashamed of littering the beach with lousy junk like that.” Once again the angry boy’s foot shot out and down fell the towers and ramparts.
The boy gaped at his ruined castle and swung round much faster than he had on the previous day. It made no difference; the angry boy was nowhere to be seen.
The next day the boy returned to the beach. He was scared of the angry boy but he was determined to build his sandcastle.
The boy’s hands shook as he tried to smooth the ramparts. He glanced around sharply trying to see if the angry boy was approaching and knocked over a tower. “This is rubbish,” the boy cried and kicked over his sandcastle. He did a furious war-dance stomping up and down on the sand until he had obliterated every trace of the castle.
The next day the boy did not go to the beach. He never went there again.
“Thanks Aldred, that has really cheered me up, not,” I hear you say. “Why do you call this series ‘Writing for Fun’? Why not call it ‘Wallowing in Misery’?”
The goal of the story is not to make you short circuit your smart-phone or keyboard by blubbing tears over it, but to make you think about how destructive your inner-critic can be. Your inner-critic is the voice inside your head that says you are rubbish at writing. It will tell you that your words are embarrassing drivel and you should be ashamed for having written them.
In the above story, you are the boy. The beach is your imagination. Every morning you make time to write and the sandcastle is your writing. During the day, the tide of life sweeps in and as you concentrate on work or school you forget about what you wrote, but on the next day you return to your writing and build another sandcastle. The angry boy is your own inner-critic, speaking spiteful words about what rubbish your writing is, so that in the end you wreck your own sandcastle and stop writing.
It’s not a perfect match because you can revisit your previous writing, while the sandcastle has gone for good once the tide has washed it away, but I hope you get the idea that the inner-critic can damage your writing.
Your inner-critic feeds off the idea that what you write is not good enough. It doesn’t care what you are comparing your writing to, so long as it can tell you that you are an inadequate loser who has failed to measure up. That is why I suggest you make it a rule that you never judge the quality of what you write.
When my inner-critic starts spilling its toxic words inside my head, I remind myself of the simple pleasure that I receive from writing.
- I love splurging words on paper. It’s joyful and exhilarating.
- I can express myself and no one will interrupt me.
- I find writing down my thoughts and feelings helps me think more clearly and I feel less muddled.
The writing is its own reward and it does not have to meet someone else’s minimum standard to be acceptable.
In my next post I will talk more about the inner-critic and give you some further strategies to stop it kicking over your sandcastles.