Taking a break

Dear friends,

I write a lot about self-care here, and it’s time to practice what I preach. I’ve been sick a lot—nothing dire, but cold season has hit my family hard—and having a hard time keeping up with my many responsibilities. I want to be able to write Story Hospital from a place of strength and joy. Until I have the health and wherewithal to do that, I’ll be stepping back.

Thanks as always for your support of Story Hospital. I hope to be back very soon.


Story Nurse

GYWO: When Your Inner Critic Stops You from Writing

GYWO is Get Your Words Out, a wonderful writing accountability community. I wrote this post for the GYWO community, and the moderators have kindly allowed me to mirror it on Story Hospital. My previous GYWO post was on staying strong while writing long.

This post, in somewhat circular fashion, was developed from two previous Story Hospital posts, #89: Countering a Cruel Inner Critic and NaNoWriMo: Reassuring Your Inner Critic. Those dealt with very specific circumstances. I hope this more general take on inner critics is useful to a wider range of readers.

We’ve all had to deal with tough critics, and sometimes your toughest critic lives in your head. It can be very difficult to know how to deal with a disembodied inner voice that sneers at your writing, at the idea of writing, or at you for wanting to be a writer. Those inner critic voices somehow know just how to poke us in our emotional and psychological sore spots. Then there’s the inner critic that’s more directly critiquing your work. Even if the critique is accurate, it’s often badly timed or otherwise unwelcome. I often hear my inner critic’s voice most loudly when I’m drafting; it sees all the flaws in what I’ve written so far wants me to go back and revise it before the draft is finished. That process works for some people, but it sure doesn’t work for me, and I really need my inner critic to get off my back and let me make my imperfect first draft happen.

So what do you do with an inner critic when it’s getting in your way or making you feel bad about yourself?

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#130: Pen Names and Shame

Dear Story Nurse,

What’s your opinion on using a pen name for some of one’s work, but not other work?

I have found myself wondering if I ought to use a pen name when trying to publish certain kinds of writing that’s different from what I have out there right now. Some of it is R-rated (for reasons of sexiness), and some of it is just stuff that feels unprofessional or “off brand” but will pay the rent (i.e. writing listicles for ListVerse or similar ‘clickbait’-y sites).

I’m a bit torn. I feel like, maybe if I am embarrassed of something I’m creating, I shouldn’t put it out into the world? If I cannot truly stand by my work (because I think click-bait taps into compulsive behaviors, encourages snap judgements, and doesn’t necessarily reward good writing or thoughtful reading; or because I’m not sure of the possible ethics of writing the kind of erotica I’m scribbling), maybe I just shouldn’t put it out there. Is a pen name a cowardly cop-out?

Or, maybe I’m embarrassed only because I am judging myself too harshly? The erotica I’m writing is unusual (i.e. fantasy-ish, impossible irl [it’s furry / anthro]) , but the scenes are consensual and don’t validate anything I’m opposed to. And the embarrassment just comes from being different or “weird.”

Likewise, the content of the click-bait I’ve toyed with isn’t against my beliefs, even though it isn’t my ideal style. Maybe I’ve internalized some classist ideas about art and commerce; that I “should” only write things that are artful and completely true to my spirit without taking money into consideration (#shitrichpeoplesay).

Even though I could really use an extra $100 / week, perhaps my embarrassment comes from needing money, even if it’s from less-than-ideal work, rather than embarrassment from feeling like a hypocrite by writing for listicle sites when I’m not a fan of the way they work or the rhetoric they encourage.

Anyway, that’s my core dilemma: I feel embarrassed about these kinds of writing, even though I also enjoy it, and I have opportunities to make money from it. My embarrassment makes me think I should use a pen name, so that if I ever try to publish serious work under my own name, editors will only see my current publications in more professional outlets. But, maybe I should just be bold and own whatever I create? Or maybe this is a sign I shouldn’t publish these works at all?

Just wondering your take,

Anthem (yep, using a pen name here too) (they/them)

P.S. Thank you for answering my previous question! With your encouragement, I did polish and submit some of my #ownvoices horror & dark fantasy stories with disabled protagonists, and I’ve had some success! Possibly an interesting wrinkle to this: I used my own name with those pieces and didn’t feel embarrassed at all.

I’ve written “it’s okay to be a minority of a minority” in the front of a lot of my notebooks. So, just, so you know. Your advice has been very empowering for me.

Dear Anthem,

I’m so gratified to know that my earlier advice was useful to you. Thank you for telling me! And it’s fantastic that you’ve had success writing and selling those stories.

Your letter sounds like you’ve almost talked yourself into believing you’re ashamed of what you want to write, just because you’ve had the idea of using a pen name for it. You talk around a lot of reasons why you might be feeling ashamed. But is that really what’s going on, or is it just an association you have with pen names?

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