The Journal: How to Push Back the Critical Voice

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: How to Push Back the Critical Voice
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“I would rather dance barefoot on a bed of nails than outline a novel. I know some writers find outlining essential. To me, outlining feels artificial, as if I’m moving characters around like chess pieces. I’m a terrible chess player. Not so good at checkers, either.” Dean Koontz on Twitter (courtesy Phillip McCollum)

“[W]riters must look at writing like they look at reading other writer’s works. They must go to story for the joy of reading, the fun of creation, the excitement of discovery.” Dean Wesley Smith

Topic: How to Push Back the Critical Voice

A writer recently asked me how to quiet his critical mind and engage his creative mind while in the midst of a novel.

Actually, he didn’t ask me that specifically, but his comment to me on Facebook was literally riddled with phrases that proved he was mired in the myths and listening to his critical mind.

I responded to him briefly on Facebook, then wrote him a lengthy email. When I was through, I also shared that email (though I kept the writer’s name out of it) with my Patrons in a patron-only topic.

Then I got another email from another writer (Phillip McCollum) to point me to the first Quote of the Day above. Notice it’s from Dean Koontz, another long-term professional writer who is NOT mired in the myths and is extremely successful.

Later I poked around the internet for items of interest, and found Dean’s post, which ties in with the writer’s comment on my Facebook page and ties in with Koontz’ tweet above.

So I decided to share part of what I sent to the mired writer and to my patrons.

Here’s how to push back the critical voice:

  1. Sit down at the computer and take a deep breath.
  2. Tell yourself that the story and where it’s going and where it ends up doesn’t matter. Because it really doesn’t. All that matters is the act of writing, of recording your characters’ story, and that matters only because you’re a writer, a storyteller. Then,
  3. Read back over the past few sentences or paragraphs to get yourself back into the flow of the story.
  4. Then write the next sentence that occurs to you, whatever it is. Don’t “think” about it. Just write it. Then write the next sentence, and the next, and the next. It really is that simple. It really is.

As I told the others, I’m not invested at all in your writing process. If you want to outline, outline. If you want to revise and rewrite endlessly, do that. While you’re outlining and revising and rewriting, I’ll be putting new words on the page.

In a month or two or three or twelve when you’re still revising and putting your work through critique groups and rewriting, I’ll still be putting new words on the page. And at the end of the year, no matter what other writers are doing, I will have written and published at least 12 new novels and at least 52 short stories.

In other words, your process won’t affect my own At All.

I do wish Writing Into the Dark for you because it’s so very freeing and because it makes writing a joy.

If I hadn’t stumbled on Writing Into the Dark and enable the technique with Heinlein’s Rules a few years ago, I wouldn’t be writing today. I share it only to pay it forward.

Today I set out to write a short story. By the time I’d finished the opening, it seemed like it might want to be a novel. Then I ate lunch and when I came back, it seemed like maybe it didn’t want to go anywhere at all.

I’ll come at it again in the morning. If it still doesn’t take off, I’ll trash it and move on to the next thing. With my January novel done and out to my first readers, my pressing need at the moment is to write a short story for this week.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Invested In Not Writing” at Absolutely excellent.

See The Passive Guy’s take on “Who Should Get the Artwork of Purvis Young?” at You can scan the original post, but read PG’s take. Great advice.

See “Design Tools for Authors” at

See “Lee Child letting go of his creation …” at

See “One Project At A Time?” at

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 2421
Nonfiction words today…………… 760 (Journal)

Writing of Algae Prime (SF novel?)

Day 1…… 2421 words. Total words to date…… 2421

Total fiction words for the month……… 50813
Total fiction words for the year………… 50813
Total nonfiction words for the month… 21280
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 21280
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 72093

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 46
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 199
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Journal: How to Push Back the Critical Voice”

  1. Hi Harvey! I know I could be the president of your fan club, LOL, but I want to tell you again how much I appreciate all your help and encouragement with WITD. 🥰

    I spent 10 years – yes, TEN freakin’ years, working on ONE novel before I found you and Dean. (I have way too many spiral notebooks filled with jottings ~ mostly ABOUT what I planned to write instead of actually writing it. 😳 ~ from that story.

    I’m still a newbie (working on novella #2) with this way of writing but it’s such a relief and it’s so much more fun. Thanks again.

    ~ Maggie

    • Thanks, Maggie. Don’t throw away those old notebooks! Someday you’ll open them and go “What was I thinking?’ And have a good laugh. 🙂 I’m very happy for you. In many ways I envy you. I remember the excitement of just starting out. It’s wonderful. Keep at it.

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