A Reading Writer's Dilemma
By Elysa Hendricks
When I was young, before I started writing (more years ago than I care to remember or admit) reading was my greatest pleasure. I was never a physically coordinated child. Team sports and board games (no computer stuff back in the Dark Ages) didn't appeal to me. So I spent my free time lost in the fictional worlds of Heinlein, Clark and Asimov. At some point, probably in my mid to late teens, I discovered romance novels and I was hooked. Harlequin, Rosemary Rogers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss introduced me to the world of dashing heroes and imperiled heroines, love and sometimes sex. I devoured the short contemporary Harlequins and immersed myself in the long historicals. At that time, since most science fiction and fantasy was written by men for men there was little to no "romance" included. My, how times have changed.
For a long time reading was my escape from the real world, a place I could go where the good guys and gals always won, a place where I could forget about bullies, babies, and bills.
When I was in high school I took a creative writing class and fell in love with the process of putting the people that lived in my head on paper. For a short, extremely short period of time, I thought about becoming a writer. But back then the only career that involved writing, at least according to the teachers at my school, was journalism. So in college I dutifully majored in English. I suffered through numerous journalism classes before I realized that I HATED having to write nothing but the facts. Somehow it never occurred to me that I could write books without having first been a reporter. It seemed like every novelist I read about started as some kind of reporter, so I gave up my dream of being a writer and got a "real" job.
Fast forward about twenty years and I'm a wife and mother with two young sons. I still read voraciously, squeezing the time in between child care, a part time job, cooking and cleaning. To satisfy my creative urge I do needlepoint, paint, and almost every kind of art and craft known to womankind.
One day my husband teased me about all the Harlequin novels I read, saying in jest that I should write one myself. The creative flame I'd tried to snuff out flared to life. I sat down and started what I thought would be a short contemporary romance. It turned about to be a sci-fi adventure story about a winged telepathic alien who stows away aboard a passing space ship and saves humanity. I wrote the entire book in less than three months then spent the next three years learning how to write. Though I love the story and the characters that book will never be published. In addition to borrowing way too heavily from Star Trek: Next Generation, I made every mistake a newbie writer can make. The book is hidden under my bed guarded by killer dust bunnies. As I polished my writing skills I stopped worrying about polishing my furniture, hence the killer dust bunnies.
But for every upside there's a downside. As my writing skills increased I found my enjoyment in reading decreased. When I began writing my muses were already active, but my inner critic had yet to show up.
My muses live in the attic of my mind. When I'm in the creative process these beautiful, energetic ladies with their wild imaginations leave their aerie and join me in my office to inspire and excite me.
Then there's my internal editor, a crabby old hag who once I started to learn the art and craft of writing showed up to keep me on the straight and narrow. She skulks in the dark, dank basement part of my mind. She likes nothing better than to creep upstairs and butt in while the muses are helping me create. She criticizes every idea we come up with. She lambasts my prose. She deletes whole scenes and laughs at my characters' dialogue. She nags me about point of view and questions every word. Nothing I do is good enough for her. Though usually she's right and she can be helpful during the revision process, having her in the room while I'm trying to create is devastating. Sometimes she irritates my muses so much they flee and writing grinds to a halt.
It took me a long time, but I finally learned to lock her out of the room while I'm with my muses and only listen to her when I'm ready to edit and revise. But when I'm reading my muses hide out in the attic. I guess they don't want to be accused of borrowing other people's ideas. Without them around I can't seem to quiet my inner critic. She sits on my shoulder whispering in my ear about how a scene should have been written. She points out point of view slips, clunky narrative, stilted dialogue, poor grammar and typos. It doesn't matter how many times I shoo her out of the room and close the door so I can immerse myself in the story and enjoy the experience, like an evil fog she slips back in and starts up again.
Fortunately there are some authors who with their beautiful prose, wonderful characters, fabulous settings and intriguing plots render my inner critic speechless. I both bless and curse these authors, for while they provide me with the reading experience I crave they also give my inner critic lots of ammunition to use against me the next time I sit down to write. Because she knows I'll never be as good and doesn't hesitate to tell me so.
So how do you find a way to silence your inner critic?
About author Elysa Hendricks
After trying her hand at a variety of careers, insurance underwriter, video storeowner, home day care and cleaning houses, Elysa Hendricks, a longtime reader sat down to write a short contemporary novel. When her heroine turned out to be a winged, telepathic alien, Elysa decided she enjoyed writing stories set in different places and times.
While living in north east Illinois she helped found the Windy City Chapter and the Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal Chapters of Romance Writers of America and taught workshops on writing at writer's conferences and at local community colleges. Recently relocated to central Ohio she's happy to be part of the COFW family.
Someday she dreams of writing on a laptop while sitting on a tropical beach. In the meantime she keeps warms during Ohio's chilly winters by creating sizzling love scenes.
Star Crash by Elysa Hendricks
When Planet of the Apes meets Star Trek what's a girl to do?
After recon pilot Cora Daniels crash lands on an alien planet she finds herself a prisoner of the Flock: a race of birdlike humanoids. Trapped in their zoo she discovers they intend her to mate. To breed. To be part of their human herd.
She's placed in a cage with a man - a powerful, virile man, but not just any man - Alexander. Was he her lost love, who'd disappeared so long ago? Here he was: naked, glistening, a warrior trained by the Flock to fight for their amusement. How could the brilliant man, the tender lover she remembered have become this animal born to dominate and destroy? Was he a pawn of the Flock or would their flight to freedom be a long-sought reunion?
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