A series of lyric inspired blog posts on craft and inspiration counting down to the next Coheed & Cambria concert? I don’t mind if I do. And yes, I know I’m a nerd.
In the real world our insecurities can be a hindrance, a dividing line between us and whatever people consider “normal”. Because differences are just that—a way of separating people, of telling them apart. We try to ignore them, to paint over them with personality and possessions. We try to conform. We try to be perfect. I’ve talked about the elusive quest for perfection before and how, if left unchecked, it can really stunt the creative process. But there’s another reason to ignore your inner critic while writing—especially if she’s the same person telling you to ignore those donuts and walk in the opposite direction, or that you can’t possibly get that dream job you’ve been aspiring to since you were nine because you’re not smart enough, not driven enough, or that you shouldn’t raise your hand in class because staying invisible is safer than being you, or that you shouldn’t post a real picture of yourself on that dating website because nobody will ever find the dark freckles along the bridge of your nose attractive.
If you find your inner critic trying to mold you into a “Mary Sue” in your real life, into something so unattainably perfect, then who’s to say she isn’t creeping into your writing, maneuvering your words, manipulating the humanity of your characters. We all know the importance of creating characters who are not only real but relatable and we all know the tell-tale signs of a character who isn’t—perfect looks, perfect superpowers, perfect significant other, perfect morals, perfect everything. We know the rules—to avoid these clichés at all costs. But if you can’t forgive yourself for your own imperfections how can you possible infuse those very things into your characters.
Writing isn’t just about revealing something to the reader, it’s also about revealing something to yourself. The very things you hate about yourself, the very things that make you unique, those are the things that belong in your story. Because those are the things that are real. If you’re willing to highlight your character’s flaws for the sake of building honest connections with your readers, why can’t you be willing to do that in your own life?
The next time you notice one of your flaws, or maybe even someone else’s, stop attributing it to something negative and start attributing it to something real. Readers celebrate real characters and that’s why we work so hard to try and create them. But the genuineness of all things should be celebrated—not just in books or in movies. But in everyday life. When you look in the mirror. When you’re huddled with a group of strangers waiting for the bus. Don’t just try and capture moments like these. Savor them. Celebrate them. Learn to embrace the truth of who you are, flaws and all, and when it comes time to spill that truth on the page, trust me, you’ll have something worth celebrating.