The Daily Journal, Friday, May 17

In today’s Journal

  • A very long post today
  • Quotes of the Day
  • I’ve updated the site
  • Today in “Of Interest”
  • Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 2)
  • Daily diary
  • Of Interest
  • The numbers

A very long post today. Hang in there. I think it will be worthwhile.

Quotes of the Day

Via Terry Odell, “There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don’t see them.” Elie Wiesel

The trick of writing into the dark and letting a story simply be the length it needs to be is that you don’t write those 400 extra pages in the first place.

And another quote, via The Passive Guy:

“In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

Truedat, I think. Keep learning, folks.

I’ve updated both my writer site and the Journal website. I hope you’ll stop by and take a look.

Any writer tools, although they’re still warehoused on my author site, are available only under the For Writers tab there.

Because I want to give back, I’ve also slashed prices on my audio lectures. You can see those at And yes, I recorded them myself. (grin)

Today in “Of Interest” The Passive Guy considers “cultural appropriation.” This is a no-win proposition.

If you write about a culture or include characters from any culture other than your own, you may be accused of “appropriating” that culture.

If you don’t write about any culture other than your own or at least include a character from another culture, you may be accused of marginalizing those outside your own culture.

It’s all a crock’a crap.

This is much more a control issue than an issue of any kind of “appropriation.” There are people out there who, during every waking hour, strive to make sure others speak, think, and write what they want you to speak, think, and write. Any variance is seen as an “offense”.

I agree with The Passive Guy. You write your story, and I’ll write mine.

Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2: Recognizing the Critical Voice Post-Prep Delays

First, an explanation.

In the previous chapter I mentioned that one of the big prep delays is the critical mind suggestion that you take some writing courses.

We all have weak areas. We all have things to learn about the basics of the language and about writing. We all have areas in which we want to improve. You’re reading this constitutes you taking a writing course.

Taking writing courses is not a bad thing. Intentionally delaying your writing by taking a writing course is a bad thing.

I’ve written over 50 novels and novellas and almost 200 short stories, yet I still take writing courses that interest me. But my writing comes first.

The secret is to learn with the conscious mind and write with the creative subconscious.

I write the best story I know how to write At My Current Skill Level. Then I publish it. When I learn something new from another writing course, I apply it to FUTURE stories, not to past ones.

Always look forward, not back.

So at this point, you’ve either written your outline and gotten through all the other prep delays or you’ve decided to ignore all that and Just Write Your Story (and if so, good for you).

Now you can write your novel.

Well, except that now the non-writing delays hit. I call these the Post-Prep Delays, and they’re brought to you, as always, by our primary sponsor: The Critical Voice.

I and many other professional writers have mentioned before that it’s great to have an ideal writing setup:

  • It’s a good idea to have a dedicated writing computer.
  • Pretty much everyone knows it’s a good idea to have an ergonomic chair and keyboard and mouse. After all, carpal-tunnel syndrome is a thing and so is neck, back and shoulder pain.
  • And your writing surface (desk) should be the right height.
  • As should the oversized monitor you need because your eyes are going buggy.
  • Oh, and A Room of One’s Own is also nice.

Those things are all legit, but if you aren’t writing (or if you stop writing) because you don’t have all of them in place yet, that’s just another excuse offered up by the conscious, critical mind.

There’s no law that says you can’t begin writing with whatever you have before you’ve acquired all of the things in the list above.

If any of those become absolute must-haves before you’re “able” to write a word, your critical voice is the boss of you.

But let’s continue. Let’s say you have all the right equipment you need or want and that it’s all set up to your precise specs.

Now you can write, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

After all, you don’t have exactly the right mouse pad. You know, the one with a picture of roses on it or the one with your teenage son’s graduation photo (the good pose) on it or a plain pink or blue or black one.

And probably a mouse pad in any design would be better if it had one of those bulging wrist thingies at the leading edge. Wouldn’t it?

So you can’t write just yet (negative = critical voice). Or it would be no use to try to write yet (negative = critical voice). You would be too distracted anyway by the lack of one or more of those things, wouldn’t you? (negative = critical voice).

So you have to wait until you’ve acquired those things.

Oh, and you need a real writer’s mug for your coffee or tea. And of course, the right wicker or leather or terra cotta coaster on which the cup will rest to protect your desk.

BUT… once all of that is in place, at last, all excuses are exhausted and you can write.

Oh, except that you have to fill that special writer’s mug with coffee or tea.

And you have to double-check to make sure you fed the dog and/or cat.

And did you remember to clean out the cat’s litter boxes?

Oh, and you have to put on a load of laundry. But hey, no biggie. That’ll take only a few minutes anyway, right? After all, the washing machine does the actual work, right? It isn’t as if you have to carry your clothing down to the stream and beat it on rocks, right? Right?

So it’s only a little delay.

Well, you might as well play a game or two of Spider Solitaire since the wash cycle takes only a half-hour or so. No reason to start writing only to have to stop, right (negative = critical voice)?

And then the wash is over, so you put the stuff in the dryer and the phone rings and you quickly agree to have lunch with a friend. When you get home, though, you will absolutely sit down and write.

After you put the water on that ash tree. It’s been looking poorly lately.

And oh crap, you realize the dryer isn’t running so it must be done. You don’t want the clothes to wrinkle so you’d better pull them out and fold them.

And put them away. You can’t leave stacks of clothes all over the house.

And by the time you’ve put them away, it’s only a half-hour before you’ll need to start supper. Well, more Spider Solitaire.

And after supper, there’s TV and that ball game you want to watch or that movie you’ve been dying to see.

And before you know it, the question becomes Where did the time go?

But it’s all right, really. You DID get a lot done (though no writing) so no real biggie. You can start writing your story tomorrow.

Well, if nothing else comes up. Which of course it will.

I’ve been through everything above and more…

  • Even after I’d already committed myself to writing into the dark.
  • Even after I’d already committed myself to writing at least one short story per week for at least a year.
  • Even after I’d already learned through application how freeing and fun writing into the dark was.

Procrastination is your enemy. As Nike used to say in their ads, [If there’s something you want to do] Just Do It. Or the Brooklyn version. “Hey, jus’doita’ready!”

Of course, we all would like to have our ideal setup, but until you’re able to acquire that setup,

  • Any laptop, desktop or sheet of paper and pen will do.
  • Any flat surface, even the coffee table or the floor or a chest of drawers (if you stand) or your lap, will serve as your writing desk.
  • Any chair will do (add a pillow).
  • Any room in the house or area outside (or table at the local coffee shop) will do.

I know. Been there, done that. I’m fortunate in that I now have what I consider my own personal near-perfect wrting setup. But I collected and refined it over 5+ years. And I was writing steadily the whole time. An average of around 2500 words per day.

The point is, the critical voice can use ANY of those considerations or any of the smaller considerations (getting coffee, feeding the cat, etc.) to stop you from writing.

And every time, the ability of the critical voice to stop you is fear-based.

But what is there to be afraid of really? You’re only telling a story, and which story you’re telling doesn’t even matter. What matters is THAT you write, not WHAT you write.

The good news, despite other respected opinions to the contrary, is that the critical voice does NOT grow stronger the longer it goes unchecked.

It grows more persistent, yes. Because you’ve given it power, probably it appears every time you sit down to write. And once you beat it one time, the next time it might seem a little louder. But it doesn’t get any stronger.

How do I know it doesn’t get stronger?

Because in every case, it takes only a little push to get yourself over the hump that is the critical voice. And especially at first, you’ll have to do that repeatedly and often. (shrug) So you’ll get a lot of practice.

You can beat the critical voice at any given time by sitting down at the keyboard, putting your fingers on the keys, and Writing Anyway.

It’s okay to acknowledge that you’d rather have a different computer or desk or mouse pad or coffee mug or whatever.

It’s okay to be a little frightened of the unknown, or to wish you had the perfect coffee mug or mouse pad.

It’s okay to realize you haven’t fed the cat. (Well, I recommend establishing a routine to take care of that and other such matters before you even sit down to write.)

But it’s not okay to let those things stop you from writing.

Write Anyway.
It really is that simple.

If you want to KEEP beating the critical voice (and you do), you only have to decide every time it makes an appearance to Write Anyway.

If writing weren’t important to you, you wouldn’t be reading this. Again, it’s not WHAT you write, but THAT you write.

So isn’t writing more important than where you write or on what computer or in what chair or in what environment or surrounded by what stuff?

So Write Anyway.

Every time the critical voice rears its ugly head, Write Anyway is your decision to make.

And there’s a positive effect.

Every time you choose to Write Anyway, you’re not only training your critical mind to shut up and go sit in a corner. You’re also reinforcing your creative mind. You’re slowly convincing the creative mind that you’re actually serious, that it can safely come out to play now.

So the critical mind can’t grow stronger, but you CAN make it weaker and less persistent. And at the same time, you’re making your creative mind stronger and more bold.

Soon, very soon, every time you sit down at the keyboard and put your fingers on the computer, the characters in your creative mind will spring to the forefront, ready to tell their story. And if the critical mind DOES surge again, what do you do?

That’s right. Write Anyway.

There. Isn’t that better? Now you can go ahead and write the next paragraph or that short story or the next scene of that novel.

Sooner than you think, your characters will lead you through to the end of the story. Then you can go ahead and publish the thing. Woohoo! Right? Right?

Well, except the critical mind will be waiting at that juncture with a whole new round of delays. So be ready.

More on that in the next chapter.

By the way, for these posts “How to Quiet the Critical Voice” is a good title. After all, you all know what I’m talking about.

If this series becomes a book, though, I have to make the title more explanatory. Right now I’m thinking “How the Conscious, Critical Mind Can Kill Your Writing and How You Can Make It Go Away.”

Thoughts or suggestions (other than length)?

Rolled out at 2:30, followed my usual routine and wrote everything above. Some breaks, a little cycling/writing, then realized the wind was tugging at the door of the Hovel.
I remembered it was supposed to blow increasingly hard today, so I took a walk (about a mile) while it wasn’t blowing as hard and as hot as it will be later. (grin)

My little girl cat was especially loving this morning, purring and rubbing all over me, so I spent a little extra time with her. She really does ask so little.

I’m taking my sweet time with my WIP. I’m cycling through parts of it more than one time (because I like it), writing a bit here and there. And I can’t begin to describe for you how great that is. It’s a real honor to get to spend some time with Wes again.

To the novel at 9:30. By 10:20 I had added slightly over 400 new words and took a break.

After that I variously wrote a little, fiddled with my websites and did some other stuff. As I’ve mentioned earlier, despite occasional sprints when the characters won’t allow me to leave the WIP, I’m taking my time with this one. It’s different and very relaxing to sometimes only write a little over 1000 words of fiction in a day.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Should Writers Write What They Don’t Know?” at Much ado about nothing.

See “Pikes Peak Writers Conference Recaps” at

See “Entrapment: Inducement is the Key Word” at

See “Dare to Be Vulnerable in Your Writing” at

See “June Workshops and Descriptions” at

Fiction Words: 1622
Nonfiction Words: 2490 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 4112

Writing of In the Cantina at Noon (novel)

Day 10… 1365 words. Total words to date…… 20874
Day 11… 3696 words. Total words to date…… 24570
Day 14… 1050 words. Total words to date…… 25620
Day 15… 1622 words. Total words to date…… 27242

Total fiction words for the month……… 27242
Total fiction words for the year………… 288712
Total nonfiction words for the month… 20580
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 132440
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 421152

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 6
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 193
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

8 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Friday, May 17”

  1. Are you talking to me? Are you talking to ME?
    Yeah, I know you are.
    Hi, my name is Karen and I’m a recovering critical mind slave. But I am recovering– with some great help from Uncle Harv and some Critical Mind-Busting Boot Camp (how’s that for a chapter title?)
    I’ve got a 1000 words/day of publishable fiction goal (since May 6th). I’ve made it every day except one so far (655 that day). I’ve made it even though I’m still letting things come before writing (work, laundry…). The difference now is that instead of saying “oh well, maybe tomorrow. “, now I damn well stay up until I get that 1000 publishable words.
    Next stop– defending planned writing times so I have protected time for MORE than 1000 words/day. 🤨

  2. Really enjoying the critical mind series, Harvey. I’ve been successfully quieting the voice this past week, getting some practice in every day as I work through my current WIP. Also, I was just explaining all of this to a friend this morning who’s been struggling with business-related emails and blog posts. It really seemed to help him, so thanks for the reinforcement. Can’t wait to buy the book (whatever you title it… I’m pretty poor at picking titles myself, so you probably don’t want my advice 🙂).

    • Thanks, Phillip. I appreciate the support, and I’m glad it seems to help your friend. The more the merrier. The series will be back on Sunday or Monday. I took part of Saturday off for a shopping spree with my wife. (grin)

  3. If I may add a comment about the “ideal” setup: you don’t even need a laptop/desktop/pen&paper. For short writing bursts in the cracks of life, it’s even possible to write on your smartphone. You might cringe at the idea because that’s not for you, but for some people it works.

    Obviously it’s not the best ergonomic setup, but for people who have some time off during the day while they’re away from their ideal setup, it can be another way to still get some writing done and beat the critical voice. It might also be easier if you don’t want to draw attention to you while you’re in a public place. Nobody around you is going to think twice if you’re lost doing something on your phone, whereas people might wonder what you’re doing with your laptop or your pen and paper.

    • Good points, Céline. Of course, when I’m talking about the ideal setup, I mean the plance and on what equipment you write during your regularly scheduled sessions. But yes, for those times when you’re away, writing in bursts on your phone, etc. is better than simply letting the time slip away. And of course many like to write vie dictation while walking, running, etc. (And for some, dictation in their normal writing space is “right” for them.)

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