The Daily Journal, Wednesday, May 15

In today’s Journal

Quote of the Day
Well, without really planning to
Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Intro)
Daily diary
Of Interest
The numbers

Quote of the Day

From Jeff Goins’ newsletter: “You don’t have to want to be a writer. You just have to write.”

Well, without really planning to, I guess I’ll take a shot at writing the critical-voice nonfiction book.

As DWS has done before me (and as I did over on the big blog with Writing the Character-Driven Story), I plan to write the entire book a chapter at a time here in the Journal in topics.

I figure now is the perfect time since it will cut into my fiction-writing time. I don’t want to get through my time with Wes too quickly anyway. I want to spread the writing sessions with him over more days than usual.

A disclaimer: I can’t say whether this will actually become a book. But I already do have at least four “chapters” for you on this topic.

So here’s the first installment.

Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Intro)

Well, you can’t. Not entirely. There, I said it.

Quieting the critical voice is an ongoing process. But the critical voice does visit less often as you become more experienced at telling it to shut up and leave you alone.

Recognizing it does become easier with time, and remanding it to a cell in a back corner of your brain becomes easier too.

The conscious, critical voice exists to protect you from yourself. That is its primary function.

It has its good purposes too. For example, we learn new information and new techniques with our conscious mind.

But it has no place in actual writing. Once you’re actively engaged in writing a story (of any length) you need to set that conscious, critical voice aside.

For just one example, you have to let go of the urge to critique what you’ve just written.

Read over it as a Reader for enjoyment, yes. You read for enjoyment with the subconscious mind, suspending critical disbelief. So do that.

And allow your fingers to rest on the keyboard as you read. If your characters (your subconscious) are moved to add something, let them. But again, that’s all from the subconscious, creative mind.

If you find yourself being critical (negative), that’s the critical voice.

Don’t focus on how many times you used “that” vs. “which” (they aren’t interchangeable anyway).

Don’t worry about sentence structure, paragraph length, or anything else you’ve been taught.

All of that stuff is from the critical voice. It’s always negative, and it’s always useless.

Because you WERE taught those things, right? So what your characters and the story need of them will come through your subconscious, creative mind as your fingers move on the keyboard.

And it will come automatically. Like dotting I’s and crossing T’s and putting a period at the end of a sentence.

But wait. You say capitalizing the first word of a sentence and putting a period at the end DOES come naturally but those other things don’t?

That’s because you were TAUGHT that they don’t. You were taught to double-check yourself. You were taught to not trust yourself.

Now, if you want to be a writer — and more importantly, if you want to actually ENJOY being a writer — you have to let all that negativity go.

You have to learn to trust yourself.

You have to learn to quiet your critical voice.

In every case, the urgings that come from the critical mind are based on fear. They are always, ALWAYS negative.

The simplest fears are stated bluntly by the critical voice: “I can’t do this” or “Writing a novel is overwhelming” or “What was I thinking?” or “Maybe someday” or “No way can I get published anyway.”

The majority of would-be writers are stopped cold by these fears alone.

But the more common fears lie in wait for writers who get beyond those simplest ones and decide to actually write. These critical-mind stumbling blocks are a little more complex and a lot less straightforward.

Most of the time they’re difficult to recognize because they’re disguised as delays (as opposed to outright refusal to allow you to write or reinforcement of the outright certainty that you “can’t”).

But the result is the same: Your manuscript remains in your mind, unwritten.

Or you’ve started it and it lays in a drawer or remains in your computer, unfinished.

Or you’ve finished it but it remains unsubmitted and unpublished.

The critical voice has new tricks for each level of this journey. I’ll look at each level and help you recognize as many of the tricks as possible.

But let’s start at the beginning. Let’s say you want to write a novel. And let’s say you’ve gotten past all the “I can’t do this” stuff.

Now you’ve entered the realm of the “Prep Delays.” What are those?

I’ll be back with Chapter 1 to tell you.

Rolled out at 3. I was enticed by an email from MailChimp to read their new Terms of Use, which I did (an hour I’ll never get back).

Couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I also checked stats while I was there and learned that only around 65% of my Journal subscribers are actually opening the email. A sure cure for an elevated ego. Oh well.

If those of you who DO read the Journal have any recommendations or suggestions, please either drop a comment on the site or email me. Seriously, I’m listening.

Wrote the stuff above off and on, took breaks at 5 and 6:30, then at at little after 8 (now) to see my wife off. Back and to the WIP soon.

In the writing today, in preparation for Wes beginning to recount his story in his own words, I had to go back and re-read Chapter 12 of The Right Cut, the final novel of the original Wes Crowley series.

That has to be the most emotion-jerking chapter I’ve ever written. Like so many of us, I wondered momentarily whether I’d even written it or whether maybe someone else wrote it. Looks like today will be a good writing day, if a rough one emotionally.

So as it turned out, I wrote almost continually from 9:30 to 2:30 with a few short breaks and a couple of longer (20-minute) ones.

It was a good day.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Adrenaline Rush – Writing Suspense 3” at

See “Free Lecture, Classic Workshop, and Workshop Discounts” at

See Alison Holt’s “You must close your eyes” at

For some nostalgia and strictly for fun, see “TIGER BEAT and Other Things That Made Me a Reader” at

Fiction Words: 3696
Nonfiction Words: 1120 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 4816

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

Total fiction words for the month……… 24570
Total fiction words for the year………… 286040
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16530
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 128390
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 414430

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, Wednesday, May 15”

  1. Hey Harvey,

    Just wanted to mention the 65% email opening rate may be misleading. I use a tool in Gmail that blocks email trackers (mainly so I don’t get targeted spam), so Mailchimp wouldn’t register the fact that I’ve opened the email. I don’t see a way to disable this per mailing list, unfortunately.

    Thought I’d mention it as others may also be using such tools.

    • Thanks, Phillip, and thanks for commenting. No worries. At worst it only gives me an ego check, and frankly that’s something I could use from time to time. (grin)

      Also, I’m always practicing remaining unattached to outcome. I do my best to offer value for those who do read and/or click through. I can’t let the fact that 35% (or whatever percent) don’t bother reading the stuff affect me. If I did, I couldn’t be a writer at all.

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