menu Language Is A Virus

Mama Dont Allow No Fighting in Your Writing

When you sit down to write a steamy romance, a spine-tingling horror story, or an action-packed adventure, lock the door. The last thing you need is your mother, father, coach, English teacher or pastor reading over your shoulder and giving you advice.

While mom, dad, coach, Mrs. Smith and Reverend Jones all enjoy a good story, they don't want action-packed, spine-tingling or steamy words flowing out of your pen or your word processor

What would your mother say if she saw you write, "Bob chopped off Bill's ear with a rusty axe"? What would your English teacher say if she saw you write, "Janice discovered to her horror that reading Faulkner backwards called demons into the school library." And, heaven help you, what would your pastor say if he saw you write, "When Arnold reached inside Amy's blouse, she said, 'surely you can reach farther than that'"?

With a little luck, mom, dad, coach, Mrs. Smith and Reverend Jones won't be physically in the room saying "tsk tsk" every time you mention rusty axes, demons, and blouses. However, if you write as though they are there, then they might as well be there.

In fact, if you worry about what any traditional authority figure in your life is going to say when s/he reads what you've written, you'll never write it. The judgmental editor(s) inside your head will be so strong, your writing won't get out of the blocks because you'll be forever stuck between what you want to say and what you think you're allowed to say.

Frankly, some writers will never get the critical voices out of their heads and write anything worth reading until the people they represent are all in prison, committed to psychiatric wards, or dead. But most of us don't want to wait that long.

As your career progresses, you'll ultimately come to the point where you live and breathe novelist Leon Uris' words: "There are two weapons in the writer's arsenal. The first is stamina and the second is uncompromising belief in yourself."

Until you reach that point, here are a few ideas for banishing mom, dad, coach, the English teacher and the reverend from your mind while writing:

**Whether you write in a den or a spare corner in the kitchen or family room, design a rich, inspiring, and professional space. You are a professional writer doing professional work, not a child in need of any authority figure's supervision. Some writers go a step farther and physically lock the door (if there is a door) and/or visualize their writing spaces surrounded by a force fields that repel unwanted intrusions like, "I don't want you writing nothing naughty, you hear?"

**Resist the urge to tinker and pick at your work while writing the first draft. Tinkering stalls the creative process and allows those unwanted internal editors time to say, "No child of mine ought to be thinking about blood-spattered sheets."

**Experiment with "free writing," the process of writing at full-speed (as fast as you can type or move a pen) for 20 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour without stopping or thinking for even a moment. In this unrestrained creative rush, there's no time or space for discouraging words such as, "You're not going to push that sweet woman off the roof are you?"

**Take the risk and pretend you are each of the characters you're writing about as though you're playing roles in a movie. This technique will not only help you get to know your characters and make them more real, but it might just keep those internal editors out of your face. Once you become transform yourself into a villain or a hero running down a dark alley with a knife, those voices will be much to frightened of you to say, "don't run with sharp objects, dear."

**Confront the authority figures inside your head directly. When one of them interrupts your work with "Mama don't allow nothin' gory in your story" or "Daddy can't abide nothin' stronger than 'heck' or 'darn' in your yarn," stop writing and shout, "Get the #@#* out of my space." Some writers draw faces on sheets of paper and tape them to pillows. Then, the next time they hear a discouraging word about the word they just wrote, they can shout at the pillow, while kicking and punching it as needed. (Don't tape the picture of a real person on the pillow without consulting a counselor!)

Internal editors-when they sneak into your mind under the guise of a mother, father, coach, teacher, or minister who claims s/he is "just trying to help"-will try to sabotage your work before it sees the light of day, before it embarrasses the family, before it sullies their values, before it causes black marks to be inscribed on your permanent record.

In time, perhaps, the people in your life who matter will understand that the steam in the romance, the scream in the horror story, and the mangled corpse in the adventure are not the real you. Perhaps they already know that, but you don't yet believe it and have been creating two fictions every time you sit down at your desk. One of these is the story you're writing and the other is the equally fictional story your living inside your head filled with mothers, fathers, coaches, ministers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters and teachers who are forever criticizing your work before it's half-way done.

You can speculate until the ink in your pen dries up whether injunctions like "Mama don't allow no fighting in my writing" have anything to do with real authority figures or represent your own concerns about what you ought to write and how you ought to write it. Either way, an important part of every writer's on-the-job training is learning which technique will silence any internal editor with the gall to say, "I don't want no crooks in your books" or "There better not be anything risqué in what you have to say."

The author of the mythic new age adventure novel "The Sun Singer," Malcolm R. Campbell provides manucript critiques and editing assistance at

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