Inner Critic: Adventures in Research

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The other day, I asked a question. Now, asking questions on social media isn’t always the wisest thing to do, but I did not know how to tackle this topic. So I made use of my many friends who might. It was a research question for the novel, on its umpteen millionth draft, so I was wholly unprepared for my inner critic to rear its loathsome head.

If writing were a video game, the inner critic would be your constant enemy. Sometimes you see it coming, but sometimes it sneaks up on you. And you never know if the encounter will be a standard fight or a full-on boss battle until you’re in the middle of it.

Anyway, in this draft of the novel, a character who was previously an old man is now gender fluid. So my question related to pronouns and representation and how one would broach the topic (or if you even should) in a Japanese setting.

Cue dialogue with the inner critic:

  • You’re a cisgendered American woman; what gives you the right to even write this? It’s more an issue of imperative: we live in a diverse, complex world. I do the world and my story an injustice by ignoring that complexity.
  • Your phrasing is awful. That’s a terrible way to phrase it. Terrible. Yeah, well, it’s the best I can manage within the character limit, if I’m ever going to ask this question.
  • This is your umpteen millionth draft; you shouldn’t need to ask any more questions or do any more research at this stage. There’s always room for questions and improvement. And if that’s truly the case, why didn’t you object to the research book I just read?
  • Congratulations! You’ve just aired your ignorance for the world to see. Everyone now officially thinks less of you. What did you do with those four years of college, anyway? Ignorance is only something to be ashamed of when you willfully perpetuate it. Is it an awkward topic for me to attempt? Yes, and I asked it in an awkward way because of that. But I could cause far more harm by not asking at all, so shut it, inner critic.

In case you didn’t know, there is no step in this process that annoying shit of a critic. Working out conversations like this helps me.

How do you handle yours?

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