Beat Your Inner-Critic

In the previous blog in this series, I talked about your inner-critic who is like the school bully that beats you up from inside. He or she is the part of you that kicks over your own sandcastles.

I mentioned that one of the ways I keep my inner-critic at bay is to remind myself of the simple pleasure that I receive from writing.

  • I love splurging words on paper. It’s joyful and exhilarating.
  • I can express myself and no one will interrupt me.
  • I find writing down my thoughts and feelings helps me think more clearly and I feel less muddled.

I know that the writing is its own reward and it does not have to meet someone else’s standards to be acceptable. I’ll also add that it doesn’t have to meet any of my own standards either. Remember, the idea is just to write without judging the quality of what you have written.

Well, after that lengthy recap, I’ve just got room for one fresh sentence. Isn’t recycling wonderful? Actually, I’ve still got room for one fresh idea and it’s a cracker!

Imagine you’re part way through a session at the writing gym, developing your bum glue. Your inner-critic attacks, whispering to you that your writing is boring rubbish and you’re wasting your time. You try to ignore it and keep writing but it won’t let up.

What do you do?

You can continue to try and ignore it, but you have another option.

Give your inner-critic a big hug and invite it to join you in the writing gym. That’s right, it’s part of you and it’s joined you at the gym, so let it join in your workout. Write in the voice of your inner-critic; spray its words onto the page.

“I’m a dreary, zero-talent doofus with nothing important to say.”

Are you going to stop there? No way, soldier. Rule number one at the gym is that you keep the pen moving.

“I’m sad. I’m pathetic. I’m boring. If being boring was a sport I’d be an Olympic gold medalist. The biggest contribution I can make to writing is to cut off my hands.”

Keep going. Make that lazy, bludging inner-critic, who has been hitching a ride on your back, do some work for a change. Listen to its voice. It’s whining. It’s dull. It will start to repeat itself.

“I’m sad. I’m pathetic. I’m so boring even my inner-critic is boring.”

Once it has run out of things to say, you can thank it for its contribution and go back to what you were writing before it interrupted. It usually stays quiet after that.

Once you’re aware of your inner-critic you can have some fun with it. You can play ‘dress-ups’ and give it a voice and personality. It might be like Gollum from ‘Lord of the Rings’ having a bad hair day: “I can’t keep my comb over flat, Precious.” How about a particularly nasty, sarcastic teacher like Snape from the Harry Potter books? My inner-critic was the inspiration for one of my characters in the Nobody’s Fool Quartet. Twist, Prince Dorian’s sarcastic and spiteful fool is my inner-critic dressed in motley.

The best thing about engaging with your inner-critic is that you become aware of it. It likes to stay hidden and drip its toxic words into your mind as though they were nothing more than your everyday thoughts. It wants you to accept what it says as true, without challenging it. And it doesn’t just want to spoil your writing: in all areas of your life, it will be looking for ways to put you down and make you under-perform.

Visiting the writing gym regularly allows you to see your inner-critic clearly and you realize just how much influence its voice has over the rest of your life. You will not be able to silence it completely, but you will learn to pick out its voice from among your other thoughts and challenge what it is saying.