Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Inner Editors - Helga

Helga is back.

I’m not sure she ever left, to be honest.

If you don’t know Helga, please allow me to introduce the two of you. I first wrote about Helga HERE. She’s my negative inner voice as I write, my inner editor. She’s present other times, to be certain. Anytime I am working to do anything that is out of my comfort zone, trying to stretch myself in a new direction, Helga appears.

She is the voice of doubt, the voice of fear. She gives the concern over not measuring up power, and it can be paralyzing.

In the last thirteen months as I’ve worked to writing these books, Helga has been sitting there, right beside me, pointing out everything I’m doing wrong. I first started telling my students about her in May of last year, how her words made me stumble, made me want to stop writing, made me want to just do what I’ve always done and not try to try something new.

These seventh graders nodded their heads with understanding.

They have Helgas too.

This year I began the year telling my students that I’m trying to write. Telling them that it scared me. Telling them that I fear I will never measure up to these authors I love and read all of the time. Telling them that although I’m afraid, I’m doing it anyway.

One of my students has come in at least once a month to write with me on Wednesdays over our lunch period. One day he looked at me and said that we needed to write no matter what the voices said, that it was time to be brave.

I’ve thought of him over the last four days. I’ve written daily, trying to get Maggie and Sully’s story on the page as it is in my head. I’ve looked at my words, then gone at night to read the words of Kate Canterbary, Robyn Carr, Jill Shalvis, Penny Reid, Kristen Ashley. I dissolve into worry and comparison.

Comparison is the thief of joy, Teddy Roosevelt once said.

This morning I sat at Starbucks, ready to write. I opened my document and immediately began to reread what I had written yesterday. My heart sped up. I imagined publishing this one day in the future. I imagined people reading this. Would they like it? Would they think it was too boring? Would they grow to care about the characters as I did? Would the small town turn them off? Would they think it was too similar to my town? Not similar enough? Would they be turned off by the “romance” scenes? Would they think there weren’t enough of those scenes?

The questions of these unnamed critics swirled in my brain and I’m certain that Helga was right there, giving voice to all of those fears.

And then, good old Teddy came back with my favorite quote of all.

So Helga might stay, but I have Teddy and my student Jeremy to fight her back. And I’ll keep sharing with my students about my battles with her because they have their own Helgas too and, as we all know, it is good to know we’re not alone.

Take that, Helga. I’m still writing.