When was the last time you heard this?:

  • You’re wasting your time writing this garbage
  • You’re just a dreamer!
  • Why do you think anybody cares what you have to write?
  • Nobody in your family ever did this before!
  • When you fail, you’re going to be a laughing-stock and look at all of the time you wasted!
  • You failed before and you’ll fail again—don’t even try!
    Writers are moody, on drugs and their families abandon them. You don’t want to become like that, do you?

If you have but it’s only come from your head, then you’ve been visited by the Inner Critic! As writers we constantly hear the Inner Critic because we’re doing something that’s not traditional “work.” We hear the IC because it’s trying to talk us out of being creative and different. Perhaps it’s saying that the world doesn’t need another poem or that we’re recycling an old idea no one will want to read about again. As writers, we will always find the IC lurking around corners and it’s our job to control it so it doesn’t control us.

What is your inner critic?

It’s an internal voice that nags, warns or shames you out of things you want to do. Basically it’s a survival instinct against criticism and rejection designed to keep you in your comfort zone, i.e. watching TV rather than work on your novel. It’s the adult to our creative child. It’s our fear of failure and of making a big mistake. On that note, the bigger the plan, the bigger the IC’s nags. 

But here’s a news flash for you: all writers are failures; they just know how to tame their inner critic through learning about it, recognizing it and forgiving themselves.

The IC loves giving you Negative self-talk. There’s a strong connection between

perfection and procrastination that feeds into the IC’s wicked maw. Here are a few examples:

Ex: this project has to be perfect or they’ll all think I’m dumb. So I’ll not start it until I get more research done

Ex: If I can’t do it right, then I won’t do it at all, so the piles of paper can still collect dust on the kitchen table

How Do We Manage Our Inner Critic: Learning, Recognizing and Forgiving

I.                   Learn

What does this critter called the Inner Critic look like? Give it a face. Is it your former French teacher, your mother, a demon with a long scarlet tail?

As mentioned earlier the Inner Critic likes to hang around corners, but he/she doesn’t like to have the center stage. When you start keeping tabs on your critic, or shining a light on your IC, it’s suddenly not as powerful anymore.

You can do this via writing down when the IC appears and even keep a log. Use Post It Notes, too, to see where these criticisms are coming from. What time of day do they seem strongest? Do they come after you’ve worked all day or after dinner?

Note: if you ignore your Critic, it will grow like dam waiting to burst. Keep tabs on it, say hello to it, but don’t take it seriously!

II.                Recognize

When you hear it start to chatter, be the Boss of your Critic, thank the Critic for his/her time and then send it packing!

III.             Forgive Yourself

Replace the Critic’s negative talk with a positive affirmation, such as “I am a creative person who is bursting with new ideas!”

You’re not perfect and you never will be, but so what? You’re a wonderful, competent person. Strive for excellence instead of perfection and you’ll likely accomplish more with less stress. Next time tell yourself, “I will strive for excellence” instead of “it has to be perfect”

Forgive yourself for all of your past mistakes and for all of your future mistakes. Let go of your self-branding or what your third grade teacher told you about being undisciplined. Tell yourself: maybe I am or maybe I’m not undisciplined, but in any case I’m forgiven and I can do better!

Don’t let yourself get into your own way on the path to success! As a writer, you’ll always have the Inner Critic in your life, but you can manage the Critic and do your own thing anyway. Grab the life you deserve and don’t let a silly Inner Critic stifle your passion and creativity to prevent you from being the amazing writer you are meant to be!