Coping with the Internal Heckler

I’ve recently started listening to the Writing Excuses, a 15 minute podcast that talks about the craft of writing by writers for writers, and includes a writing prompt that relates to the topic of the current episode. The episode I just listened to, Season 8, Episode 42, dealt with a topic I struggle with a lot; the Internal Heckler. I think my Internal Editor and I get along well enough. If I don’t like a scene or it doesn’t feel right, I have no problem redoing it (repeatedly) or even cutting it. We are on good terms and could sit and have a pot of tea.

My Internal Heckler, on the other hand, is a very unpleasant person. She is always making me double my writing, even after I’ve declared it complete. She likes to come disguised as the Internal Editor, suggesting changes, and tweaks, but then quickly tries to convince me the whole thing is terrible, and to just give it up. And she succeeds more often than I’d like to admit.

I started writing well before the world of the internet, but never let anyone read anything because I didn’t think anyone would like it. I took my first baby step into opening my writing up by joining an Elfquest fanzine holt. I was comfortable in the world because it was an AU, and none of the canon characters were allowed. Everyone had to create their own characters, and we wrote in a shared world, all part of the same holt. I still have all my fanzines somewhere, and my files. I’ve debated posting them, but the Internal Heckler has held be back, even after I read a few and thought they weren’t so bad.

In getting online, my second step was also in the realm of fan fiction, but was still a small shared sort-of AU. This time it was Gargoyles (which is celebrating 20 years this year!). My husband and I ran a mailing list set in the main Gargoyles Universe, but all the canon characters were off-limits, though references could be made to events that occurred in the main time line. I really got into this, crossing my original characters over with as many of the other writers as I could. These stories I felt more hit or miss on, and really didn’t like how my main character was portrayed, but I was also younger then and more emotional. I can see it in her. I’ve been working on these writing parts or whole stories completely. I’ve even posted one here as well as writing a new one.

I think some of the best writing I did was in the Pern Weyrs I participated in. I did a lot of writing, and learned a lot about character creation and interaction through them, but because they were emails and at least 10 years ago, they are lost to time as well. I’m actually sad about this, but there was so much interaction, it would be heard to get a cohesive story out of them. Here, my Internal Heckler was silenced, because I wasn’t writing the story myself, but was just one voice of many. I never questioned what I was writing, or thought someone should read it before posting. I was writing from my gut, and I had a lot of feeling to get out.

Now, after taking a long break from creative writing, and thanks in a big part to Sparkler Magazine, I am back to writing stories, and that Internal Heckler has returned as well, with a vengeance at times. I just recently posted a short story I wrote for the Sparkler Magazine contest “Share Your World”. I went through a couple of different ideas before I settled on the story I finally wrote. I found it difficult to keep the story to just 500 words. I wanted to write so much more, but there is something to be said for being brief as well, as most of my editing was focused on getting the most out of the word count. I also rewrote the ending several times, never feeling quite happy with it.

When I was finally happy with the whole thing, that was when the Internal Heckler came out. She kept telling me it wasn’t good enough to an entry. It didn’t fit the theme. No one would like it or would want to read it. I spent several days debating it should go through with the entry. What if she was right and no cared, or thought it was terrible? I had my husband read it, and asked for his feedback, giving the conditions I had to work under, and he thought it was fine, and he’s not the type to just hand wave something off. If he thought it needed fixing, he would say so. It was probably another few days of looking at the contest announcement before I finally bit the bullet and submitted it.

I still don’t know if it was good enough. I only got 5 notes, and no comments, so I’m still not sure anyone liked it, and it probably won’t be until next week until the results are announced. But, after listening to the podcast, and finally giving a name to the feelings of insecurity and doubt I still struggle with has helped me to cope with this fiend. I learned that I’ve been doing some of the things to stave her off, like going back and re-reading stories I’ve written and really liked, and re-validating my abilities.

I always have, and always will look for validation for my writing outside of myself, but finally facing the Internal Heckler has helped to realize I can validate it myself as well, and it’s okay to like my own work. I’m going to start posting more of my creative writing. Some more of my older work, possibly heavily edited, and some of the newer worked I’ve written in the last year. I hope  you’ll join me by watching and reading.

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