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My first book received a host of awards and attention.
I wrote this book that received such humbling critical acclaim in my 70s, an age when most people’s biggest accomplishments are well behind them. It was a long, creative process. There were a lot of challenges and obstacles I had to overcome, and things I learned along the way.
Here are the top three things I learned while writing my book. I hope they will guide you through your own writing process:
1. Fight self-criticism with humor.
I am my worst critic. The critic that lives inside my consciousness is the meanest thing on the planet. With time, I learned how to deal with my inner critic with a sense of humor. I created this persona of the critic and even gave her a name, Portents. I imagine her like one of the wicked witches in The Wizard of Oz. This satirical image lets me laugh when my inner critic starts doubting and overanalyzing. Using my imagination, I am able to control self-doubt and counter it before it takes root.
2. Read your work aloud to yourself.
There were times when I would read things aloud to see how they sounded, and it made me so happy because the prose was beautiful. I’m not saying that 100 percent of the time it was beautiful. But there were times I could hear my gift of language coming through. It’s important to take pride in your work. Reading my work aloud also helps me see where I am going with my story, and what I want to tweak or take out.
3. Don’t seek perfection.
We all spend way too much time chasing perfection. In Western culture, self-criticism is a strong aspect of our psyches. But I’ve found that when you write, it’s important to focus on what you did right rather than what you still need to improve. During one of his visits to the United States, the Dalai Lama met with several psychologists and discussed how we (in the United States) hold ourselves to an impossible standard. The idea of self-doubt was confusing to him because as a Buddhist, he is rooted in self-love and compassion. The Dalai Lama sees self-criticism as a product of society, not something intrinsic to the individual.
We always tend to focus on what we still need to do or what’s next, instead of celebrating what we’ve accomplished. It is an act of kindness to yourself to appreciate the things that you’ve done, no matter how small they are. So, wherever you are in your writing journey, be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
I hope these insights can help you in your process. What are some of the things you didn’t expect to learn while writing your book? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.