Skip to main content

Learn To Love Your Inner Critic

One of the toughest writing hurdles is facing off with the “Inner Critic” (aka Inner Editor, aka Writer’s Block Builder). We all have one, no matter how successful the writer, which explains why there is so much advice out there on how to deal with it. Usually, this involves giving that little killjoy a name, wrestling it into submission, and then shutting it away in a box while you write uninterrupted. That’s the plan, anyway. I’ve tried this, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Much of the time I’ve already had to work uphill to give myself the time to write that the thought of having to fight another battle is just too much. Some days I just want to write. I don’t have the energy or emotional fortitude to go toe to toe with myself. Writing is hard enough as it is without having to add another level of resistance to the whole process.

This week my therapist reminded me of an amazing technique I have used in the past when dealing with anxiety. Anxiety and the Inner Critic are the same, or at least they come from the same place of fear. She suggested I use it to overcome my current writing blockages.

Here’s how to works.

First, realize that voice that pops into your head that makes you feel anxious or keeps you from writing is coming from a place of concern. It’s easy to think of it as an adversary because it does get in the way of doing what you love. But making you miserable is not its motivation. It actually thinks it’s doing you a solid, crazy as that sounds.

The problem is that it is operating under flawed logic. It thinks if it can keep you from doing certain activities that have the possibility of unpleasantness, no matter how insignificant, and regardless of the gains, it is keeping you safe. For example, when you feel social anxiety as you’re getting ready to enjoy a night with friends it panics and thinks of all the negative, embarrassing things that could happen if you step out of your door. It throws all these negative thoughts at you to keep you safe at home. The same is true for writing. When you sit down to write, and your brain spins out a hundred reasons you shouldn’t be writing (you don’t have enough experience or a good enough idea, you need a better pen, or you need to alphabetize your pantry first) it’s trying to keep you from going down what it perceives as an uncomfortable path. There’s the possibility it won’t turn out the way you want it to or that someone might not like it. And while these are disappointing prospects, they aren’t the worst things that could happen, and the rewards far outweigh the risks.

Instead of fighting your Inner Critic, kill it with kindness. When those messages appear in your head, take a moment to acknowledge that voice. Say, “Hey, Inner Critic (or whatever name you assign it). I appreciate your input because I know you care about me and want to keep me safe, but I promise I’ll be okay. I really love writing, and it makes me happy, so I’m willing to give this a try despite the risks. If I need you, I’ll call you back, but in the meantime, I’ve got this under control. So you can sit back, have a cookie and a warm blanket, and enjoy the ride with me.”

It works so well because rather than having to spend precious energy fighting you can take the path of least resistance and accept the messages for what they are - misguided attempts at keeping you safe.

Maybe some of you enjoy the adrenaline rush of kicking your Inner Critic’s butt. And some days that pumps me up for writing but most days it just gets me down. I fight so many negative messages that have been put into my head over the years it’s just such a relief to have a safe place where I don’t have to fight. And why not make writing that safe place? Writing is hard, but it’s also thrilling. Why else do we do it? If writing was 100% unpleasant drudgery than no one would ever do it. Writing is fun. There are plenty of aspects about writing that isn’t as much fun, but that first draft should be nothing but fun. Terry Pratchett says, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Isn’t that a wonderful approach? Negative self-talk only puts a damper on what should be an enjoyable experience.

Use whatever method that works best for you to bring your Inner Critic to heel. Whether you treat it with kid-gloves or send it away to another room like an unruly toddler. Writing is your time to do what you love so why not make it as easy for yourself as you can.

Good luck, Writers!

Comments

  1. Here because y'all mentioned it on the "Endings" episode (sadface to see the podcast come to an end, but I digress) and because I too enjoy writing, though life and my inner critic often get in the way. I really like your advice here on not fighting that voice and will definitely have to try this technique!

    I've started and abandoned so many blogs, wanting to put my stories out into the world but then being too afraid to do so because of, you guessed it, that inner critic trying to watch out for me. Through the last episode of the podcast and your entry here, I think I'm inspired to give it a go again. :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Can Dictation Software Help The ADHD Writer?

Hello, Squirrels! It's been awhile, and I'm very sorry. National Novel Writing Month kicked my behind, and I almost didn't make it to 50k (but I did, woot-woot)! I don't know why I thought I could maintain a blog and write 50,000 words and perform my ML duties. It was too much. But what has kept me away since November is that I've been struggling with some pretty severe shoulder pain. It's been happening on and off for a good year and a half, and I finally decided to do something about it. I've been in physical therapy and in and out of the doctor's office for X-Rays, MRIs, and check-ups more times than I care to think about. During this time I've been extremely anxious about my future. My day job causes repetitive stress on my wrists and arms, which my writing on the side does as well. I was worried if I had to have surgery what I would do. Would I be able to go back to work? Would I be able to write? Maybe I should quit my day job and just write?…

NaNoWriMo And ADHD

Despite my previous post warning about extreme deadlines that do more harm than good you’d think NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) would be a bad idea and yet as contradictory as it seems I’m a big supporter of it. In fact, I've been a participant for over ten years. Every year whether I win or lose I learn something new about myself as a writer and get a little bit better. Since being diagnosed and starting treatment for my ADHD, I've made HUGE strides in my writing success with NaNoWriMo. From first-hand experience, I think it is an excellent tool for the ADHD writer.

IT'S NOVEL!
Sorry about the pun but it's true. The easily distracted and busy-brained are quick to get hooked on the new and shiny. NaNoWriMo is just that new and shiny thing that gets us excited and hyperfocused, and it's just long enough to keep us engaged. Despite the stereotype that we are lazy and lack motivation, we know we can be incredibly motivated and hardworking when we're excit…

Break Your New Year's Resolutions Right Now!

Happy New Year, Writers!

Did I grab your attention with that title? I hope so. Too many of us, whether the intention is to write more or lose weight, the allure of starting fresh with a New Year’s resolution is very seductive. We tell ourselves that we will get back on track, especially considering how the holidays tend to derail everything in our lives for several weeks. It’s a promise we make to ourselves that most of us inevitably have to break. Why does this matter for us writers?

Well, like any habit we struggle to be consistent with that takes the dedication and will-power it’s far too easy to fall off the wagon. Then we’re left feeling like failures, and if you’ve been following along that kind of hit to our self-esteem makes for a poor environment for maintaining a writing habit. Once the negative thoughts set in it’s hard to turn them around and if you’ve started and failed a writing habit before it’s just one more example your psyche can hold against you later when you sit d…