Writing Tip 2: Dealing With Those Pesky Threshold Guardians. The Demon Of Self Doubt

BY MIKE JOHNSON

You might have seen them as lions or griffin-like creatures that guard the entranceway to temples and churches.

The idea is that they are there to guard the inner sanctum from those impure of spirit and of evil intentions. Or they might be there to guard some precious secret from discovery. Whatever, they are there to test your mettle. For writers at least, they take the form of insidious doubt, and a constant wearing away at your self-esteem. If you have any doubts that you are shit, and that your writing is shit, then just look at your last sentence!
I don’t know too many writers pure of spirit, but one way or another, these threshold guardians have to be dealt with, overcome or avoided by stealth.
These threshold guardians are, of course, a personification or dramatisation of internal forces. Or should I say, internalised forces. Those negative voices, we don’t have the cruelty to invent them, our ears heard them, at some stage:
You can’t write to save yourself! Nobody’s going to care about this shit you write anyway. You can’t even write a sentence with out fucking it up. Who do you think you are? You will never write anything worth writing, so why don’t you just give up and go and get drunk!

I hate to say this, but in the end you can make friends with your inner critic, and you don’t even have to get drunk to do it. That inner critic can sometimes be right about a particular sentence or passage, you can learn from fair critique, and many writers say that they are their own most severe critic. But first that carping voice has to be put in its place. How you do this is up to you, but the rest of the journey is at stake. If you can’t put that insidious voice to rest it will continue to dog you, and its relentless prophesies regarding your general crapness will be self fulfilling.