In a recent group coaching call with my writing clients, we were talking a lot about our inner saboteurs. Those obnoxious voices in our head that tell us we're not good enough, not deep enough, not clever enough, not creative enough. The ones that question why anyone would want to read anything we have to write in the first place? If you're a writer, or want to be, you know the ones I'm talking about.
These pesky internal saboteurs know right where to hit us, to ensure we stay stuck in the same place. They have a way of getting us to abandon our writing efforts right when we need to connect with our creative self the most. Or, as is often the case, right when we're getting to the truth of something. Right when we've reached a new level of willingness to express it. Boom. Here comes the noise of the inner saboteurs to give us an epic case of writer's block.
This brand of saboteur seems to be working over time at the moment, and it got me thinking that this is a perfect opportunity to show how, with writing, we can turn this lead weight holding us back into creative gold.
The trick: make the inner saboteur an official character in your story. We all know our heroines/heroes, our protagonists, are fictional versions of ourselves (to a lesser or greater degree). That as writers, we can't help but draw from our experiences to lend weight to these characters we love. So this is your reminder, that you can also use yourself, and your own brand of inner saboteurs, to create epic antagonist/villain characters as well.
It starts by getting really present to their tricks. Really hearing the ways in which your inner saboteurs chop you down, and then think of a character in your story that might be able to play that role. A character that might be the one to always voice those kinds of unhelpful concerns (at its most benign) or a character that literally tries to destroy your heroine/hero (at its most malignant). This is creative writing, so I will remind you, it doesn't need to be the truth. The outer character you create, to personify your inner saboteurs, should be an expression of what it feels like. Have some serious fun with it. This is your chance to lampoon, and make useful, your own, most personal, saboteurs. Dress them up. Disguise them. Turn them into monsters.
Every great story needs antagonists to help make the story come alive. If our protagonist doesn't have challenges to come up against, if we over protect our protagonist, fail to give them enough challenges, the story falls flat.
And we need all brands of antagonists, not just the flashy and obvious villains. We need those sneaky antagonists that come in the form of a well meaning best friend or parent that "just wants to protect" our protagonist from themselves. Or the needy antagonist, trying to protect themselves, from the protagonist growing and moving on without them.
So if you're feeling writer's block due to those negators in your head, I invite you to try spinning it around. Try seeing it as writer's gold that you haven't been mining. Pull up a chair and say "okay I'm listening".
Get to the bottom of the way these inner saboteurs speak to you, what specific things/relationships they like to undermine, what they're constantly saying (there will be a pattern that I'm willing to bet will magically relate to a story you're writing) and give them a name. Something that amuses you. Really engage your imagination to see what kind of character you could form around them.
If they were a personality, what kind of personality would they be? What is their problem? What do they say they're worried about? What are they really worried about? What are their tactics and tricks to get you to do what they want? How do they undermine and manipulate? Like I said, have fun with it, and I'm willing to bet, not only will you start feeling less blocked, but you'll likely have some breakthroughs with that pesky end of the 2nd act, that literally every writer does battle with.
If you have any ahas around this, please share in the comments section. We'd love to hear.
***Holly Payberg-Torroija is a writer/writing coach and founder of Loving The Process, a coaching program designed to support writers in getting out of their own way, so they can write the stories they were born to write. Book a free consult by clicking here