The Daily Journal, Thursday, May 16

In today’s Journal

  • By pure chance
  • Just a reminder
  • Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 1)
  • Daily diary
  • Of Interest
  • The numbers

By pure chance, there are two items in “Of Interest” today about Kickstarter. Weird.

One is by Kris Rusch, who usually blogs about actual, nitty-gritty writer-business things. The other is by Thad McIlroy, who posts on items that interest me (and to which I subscribe) about once a year.

Yet the two of them both posted blogs on Kickstarter today, one more or less a how-to about Kickstarter Present and one about Kickstarter Future.

What’s weirder, both are informative and neither are actual projects, asking for donations. If you’ve ever wondered how Kickstarter works, don’t miss those articles.

I’ve noticed a lot of coincidences exactly like this lately. Somewhere, something is aligning, and the alignment bodes well. Somewhere, something very good is about to happen.

Just a reminder and a disclaimer — I’m writing the Critical Voice book “live” on this blog. I’m not paying a lot of attention to spelling, etc. I do a lot of copy/pasting so I might get a paragraph out of order here or there. So please remember this is the “rough draft.”

Even my nonfiction writing is largely a product of my creative subconscious. (I’m not even using an outline, although outlines can be useful for nonfiction books.)

But you’re seeing it here without benefit of it having been passed through a first reader. If you buy the book after all of this is over (IF in the end there’s enough info and I actually publish it as a book) you’ll get the “clean” version.

Now, without further ado…

Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1: Recognizing the Critical Voice “Prep” Delays

First, don’t expect a lot of help getting past your critical voice, either the prep delays or the rest. Well, from me, yes, but not from anyone else.

Fiction writers by definition should be the most open-minded, experiment-enthused, adrenaline-based, ooh-let’s-try-this people on Earth. The fact that you’re reading this tells me you probably are one of those folks.

But most writers and would-be writers are not.

If you’ll allow me a digression, most writers and would-be writers, like lemmings headed for the nearest cliff, take the easy path and simply do what they’ve been taught. I hasten to add that ALL of us have taken that path at one time or another before we learned a better way.

In their formative years, most writers and would-be writers were taught (mostly by non-writers) things that simply don’t work.

Things like outlining (by any name), creating character sketches, world building, coming up with plot points, knowing the end in advance, and so on.

All of these are prep delays, and all of them are a direct result of (and a direct PRODUCT of) the conscious, critical mind.

The critical voice LIKES the easy path.
The critical voice SUGGESTS the easy path, pretty much 24/7/365.

Wrap your head around this: You CANNOT write an outline or a character sketch or build a fictional world or lay out the plot points or the end of your story in advance with your creative subconscious mind. You literally can’t.

The creative subconscious simply isn’t interested in planning and plotting and knowing things in advance.

Your creative subconscious wants to play and have fun. It wants to sit alone in a room and just make shit up.

(Note: Did your critical mind just advise you not to continue reading this if I’m going to use “bad” language? If so, good. That was a test. But your critical mind isn’t protecting you from bad language. It’s protecting you from learning ways to shut it up.)

If the language offended you, I do apologize. It was just my way of illustrating that the critical voice is trying to protect you. Check it out:

  • If you don’t write or don’t finish what you write, nodoby can criticize or disapprove of what you’ve written.
  • If you finish but don’t submit or publish what you write, nobody can reject what you’ve written or write a bad review.

Still, I can hear some of you saying those things DO work. For just one example, maybe you have personally fully outlined a book and then actually wrote the book.

Congratulations. Good for you. But was the book exciting to you as you wrote it?

Or was it a bit like watching a movie (ahem, or reading a book) or watching a football or baseball or basketball game after some moron already told you the ending or the score?

Yet writers and would-be writers continue over and over for years on end to do those same things that don’t work, sometimes despite having personally collected a Fort-Knox-sized vault full of proof (unfinished manuscripts, rejections, etc.) that those things don’t work.

And almost every other writer and would-be writer they encounter reinforces those same silly habits by repeating them ad nauseam in writers’ boards (whatever those are) and writers’ groups and critique groups.

But that’s fine, really. To each his or her own. Hey, every writer is different. I only get annoyed when they cross-polinate, teaching other writers that same bad information that doesn’t work.

Still, you can’t really blame them. Change is scary (critical voice = fear). And pretty much every writing instructor, writers’ group member, critique group member, et al whom you know also has a conscious, critical voice.

And pretty much every one of them obeys it.


Because they were TAUGHT to obey it, and the unknown can be frightening (again, critical voice = fear).

Again, during their high school and college years, all of those folks were taught all the same inane things you and I were taught about preparing to write and actual writing. And again, mostly by non-writers.

They, like you, were actively taught to buy-in to all the critical-voice delays.

So if you really want to be a successful writer, you’ll just have to gird your loins, be brave, and overcome these things yourself.

But be prepared for ridicule even as you become more and more successful. I call it the “braying jackass” syndrome. They’re everywhere.

I can hear it: “Okay, so when are you going to actually tell me what the critical-voice prep delays are?”

Actually, I already have.

The critical voice says BEFORE you can write your novel (negative, “You aren’t ready to actually write it yet”) you have to

  • Outline (mind-map, put up sign posts, lay out plot points, twists, etc. ad nauseam),
  • “Create” Characters (write character sketches, assign character types and traits, etc.), and
  • “Create” Your Setting (research, world-build, design interiors of rooms and buildings, etc.).
  • And it’s also a great idea to know the ending before you start writing.
  • Oh, and take some writing courses. (This one comes mostly after high school and college.)

So you spend a few days or weeks or months doing all of that.

“Well,” the critical-voice says with a mental pat on the back, “at least you finished the outline. Great job!”

But for some reason, you don’t feel accomplished. For some reason you experience an odd sinking feeling in your gut. Chances are you’re bone-weary of the story. And now you have to actually write it.

But you already know every plot point, every twist and turn, every character, and the ending. Where’s the excitement in writing something you already know?

And if you’re TOO tired of it, you stick the outline (and all the other “prep” stuff) into a drawer or a computer file and forget it for awhile. You know. Let it simmer (or whatever term you want to use) for a week or two. Or maybe a month. Or maybe forever.

And finally, if you AREN’T bored with it (or if you’re just determined to finish), maybe you finally sit down to write that novel.

And that’s when the non-writing post-prep delays hit.

Yep, your conscious, critical mind — the same one that so recently applauded you for finishing your outline — now tosses up a bunch more delays. Can’ts. Fears.

And that’s Chapter 2.

Rolled out at 3:30, checked email, checked for items of interest and read those, then wrote the stuff above. Took a breakfast break at 6:30, then back to the hovel.

I’m beginning to think maybe my musings on the critical voice might actually turn into a nonfiction book. As with my fiction, it seems the more I write, the more I want to write.

I basically screwed off while eating and for awhile afterward (spider solitaire is evil), then took a break to go see Mona off at a little after 8.

A little over 1000 words from 9 to 10, then another break up to the house.

Watching a webinar I’d forgotten about. It starts at 11 and runs for about an hour. Plus this is a short day, so no more fiction writing today.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Important. And pass it on…” at This is from way back in 2006, but it’s still timely.

See “Business Musings: Kickstarter Stress” at

See “Kickstarter Looks at the Future of Publishing” at

See “The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution” at

See Dan Baldwin’s “Offend Me, Please, You Racist Swine!” at

Fiction Words: 1050
Nonfiction Words: 1560 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 2610

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 25620
Total fiction words for the year………… 287090
Total nonfiction words for the month… 18090
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 129950
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 417040

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

2 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Thursday, May 16”

  1. Thanks Harvey for taking the time to write this series about the critical voice. I hope you do get a non-fiction book out of it. And for us, it’s great to read your no-nonsense advice on how to tame that monster that affects us all.

    You never know when some piece of advice unblocks something in the mind of your reader. Like you say with DWS, it can be a small hidden gem, which can make all the difference for one person.

    • Thanks, Céline, I appreciate it. If you guys get 1/10th of the gems from me that I’ve gleaned from Dean, then we’re doing well.

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