Awareness Of The Inner Critic

Q&A Notes Webinar: “SETTING UP CHARACTER AND STORY, PART I”

From the Webinar Archives of Syd Field The Art of Visual Storytelling.

Q: Veronica asks, “How does a screenwriter get over their inner fears and just write freely? I mean, to stop criticizing our own work and just write.”

A: Veronica, that is THE question, I think, of this whole webinar. It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful question. So I want you to be aware, Veronica, of the voice at the back of your mind. Sometimes that voice will always criticize what you do.
Now, if you think about it—I give people an exercise to do and the exercise is this: I have the writers create a critic’s page, a critic’s page. Now, the critic’s page allows you to write the screenplay, and every time you become aware of that voice at the back of your mind criticizing what you do, write it down on the critic’s page.
On the first day, you’ll have three pages of screenplay, for example, and you’ll have a page or two of what the critic says. Put that away. The next day, do the same thing. Take out a separate sheet of paper. Title it “The Critic’s Page,” and when you become aware of that voice at the back of your mind criticizing what you’re writing, write down that critical observation the creative mind says. Do that for a third day. Same thing.
You may have two pages of screenplay and three pages of critic, but then take the critic’s pages and do not write for one day. On the day that you come back to write, read what the critic says and you’re going to find an amazing, amazing thing, Veronica. The critic says the same thing regardless of what you’re writing. The job of the critic is to criticize, so whatever you do and whatever you write, your critic is going to criticize.
The trick in writing is to just be aware of that voice, that negative voice, at the back of your head and just let it go like a cloud in the sky. Just watch it. You don’t even have to acknowledge it. And the only answer you need to say to the mind as it’s criticizing your work is “So what? So what? So what if the dialogue stinks? So what that the scene is not articulated and defined visually? So what that the action is too long? So what? So what? So what?” That is the answer to all the questions that the critical mind poses to you, and it’s an amazing, amazing experience to become aware of that critical mind.
All of you who are writing a screenplay or writing anything, you’ve become aware of that voice at the back of your mind that’s constantly talking to you.
And normally you will only remember the things that are negative, and you’ll find out that the critical self will never tell you anything positive. The critical self will never tell you how good a dialogue it is. The critical self will never tell you how positive your writing experience is. So be aware of that, and the answer to whatever the critical voice says is “So what?”

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