Strategies for Handling Your Inner Critic
- the voice in the back of your mind that judges, evaluates, criticizes, analyzes, and finds faults in your work, often becoming a detriment to your pursuits. When tamed and learned to use properly, the critic can become an asset rather than a hindrance. See below.
- a person who judges, evaluates, or criticizes: a poor critic of men.
- a person who judges, evaluates, or analyzes literary or artistic works, dramatic or musical performances, or the like, esp. for a newspaper or magazine.
- a person who tends too readily to make captious, trivial, or harsh judgments; faultfinder.
Archaic. a. criticism. b. critique.
You are Fired!
Every morning, as I sit down to write, I hear my inner critic say things like “What you produced yesterday was awful. You call that writing?” and “A child can write better than you can.” and “Do you really think you have what it takes to successfully write a novel?” Then, my critic concludes, “I don’t think so. You are fired.” Every morning, I overcome the negativity of my critic, hire myself back, and begin writing.
How do you overcome your inner critic? Let’s call your inner critic Gladfly, because he is a constant criticizer of both you and your writing. When Gladfly starts tearing you down, it is imperative to have an arsenal of defensive strategies at the ready.
How to Fight Your Critic
Don’t listen. This is the time when it is important not to entertain Gladfly in the negative and often harmful comments that spill from his mouth. You have to learn the right time to listen to Gladfly and that time is during revision. (More on this below.) But in the beginning, during your rough draft, don’t let your inner critic’s voice into your mind. Create a barrier that stops him before the comments begin to flow. It is during the rough draft stage that you need the freedom to just write without Gladfly bearing down on you and ripping your work apart. Be creative. Let your imagination spin freely during this phase.
Hang up positive affirmations. To combat Gladfly’s constant bombardment of scathing opinions, write down some positive affirmations. Make them meaningful to what you are currently working on, whether it is a novel, screenplay, short story–whatever. For example, I am working on a novel and my affirmation says, “I am a writer! What I have to say matters. People are waiting to read my book. I love to write.” Hang up your affirmations in a conspicuous place that you will see while you are writing. Mine is in bold handwriting on a post-it note at my desk where I see it every time I look up from my computer.
Read inspirational writing. You are already doing one of things you can do to fight Gladfly’s condemnation–reading about writing. Congratulations. Reading about writing educates you on your craft and builds your confidence in your writing as well as your self-esteem. A writer’s self-esteem is an important element to their writing and is tied heavily to your inner critic. The lower your self-esteem, the more you will hear Gladfly’s disparaging words. Reading articles and books on writing builds your self-esteem so it is easier to overcome your inner critic’s fault-finding. Some of the best places to find inspirational writing are:
Writing magazines–go to the bookstore and browse to find your favorite; there are a number to choose from
Writing websites–try Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest for starters
Blogs about writing–try Writer Unboxed and The Writer
Books–a few of my favorites are:
- The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Despite what you may think about Gladfly, your inner critic is not all bad. There are times when he is important to your writing and should be used for the betterment of your craft. You must learn to balance Gladfly’s criticism because his eye for detail is imperative during the revision stage of your writing. It is then that you should hone in on the feedback you receive from your critic and weed out the useful from the unhelpful.
If you have done the work above before your revision stage, chances are your ability to weed out the good comments Gladfly makes from the bad comments will be much higher.
Critic – Origin: 1 1575–1585; < Latin--criticus < Greek--kritikós–skilled in judging (adj.), critic (n.), equiv. to krit(es) judge, umpire (kri(nein) to separate, decide +-tes agent suffix) + -ikos -ic