Five Ways to Kill Your Inner Critic

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

            I admit it. I have an inner critic who sometimes rears her ugly head. Her name's Edith.

            Edith lives in a ratty bathrobe and dingy house slippers that slap-slap-slap across the cracked and peeling-up linoleum floor. Sitting at an old kitchen table, she glares at me over her cat-eye glasses while she chain smokes. Edith's always glad to cut down my writing. So whenever she shuffles in, I have to tell her to "Shut up and get out. Now."

This is Edith and her grandson. He was never eager
to visit his grammy. Is it any wonder why?

          Most writers deal with an inner critic. How do we get rid of them?

          1.  One way to vanquish them is what I just did. Give your critic a name. A face. Be specific with the details. That way, you'll realize the voice that says your writing stinks is not coming from inside you... and you can then pull the welcome mat out from under their feet.

         2.  Realize how unreasonable you are when you expect perfection out of yourself. I read an article by Homaira Kabir and I lovedlovedloved her line, "I am my shadow as well as my light." We're a blend of the good and the bad, the brilliant and the sucky.

           If I wasn't writing this for WOW, I might put it in a cruder way. But since I am, I'll word it like this: you must empty your bowels before you have the room to enjoy the next delectable serving batch of bread pudding.
          Give yourself permission to write sub-par stuff, because it will make way for the stuff that sings...

        3.  Reverse the golden rule. Treat yourself the way you treat others. If a someone told a friend, "Your writing is a steaming pile of poop," what would you say to encourage the colleague and dispel the negativity?

         Whatever you would say to them, say to yourself. Aren't you worthy of decent treatment?

4.  Imagine the worst-case scenario.

        If I submit this story, the editor will definitely send me a rejection letter. In fact, he/she will be
        so appalled by my writing, they'll call me on the phone, to ensure I get the message that I should
        never, ever send any of my stories to any market on the planet. Just in case I try to slip through           the cracks, they'll send my name and picture to every other editor and publisher as a digital
        "not wanted" poster.

        Then they'll use my story to wipe their rear end after using the toilet...

        Most likely this will not happen. But just imagining the wild things that might happen might make you chuckle.

5.  Use that negative energy to do something positive. In a New York Times article Carl Richards wrote about an email he got from Chip Scanlan which said, "Whenever I'm blocked... I lower my standards. Correction, I do my best to not have any standards at all. I abandon my standards. I urge myself to write badly, and once I do that my fingers begin to fly, and the inner critic is powerless."

          Richards went onto write, "What might happen if you took all the energy that goes in to judging your work and put it right back into the wellspring of creating the work instead?"

     If you'd like to read an article about lowering your standards to free your creative flow, read this article.

        What clever ways do you have to get rid of your inner critic? Please share--we could all benefit from what works for you.

Sioux Roslawski is tattooed (only two words--on her wrist). She's also the member of two writing critique groups, and will gladly sit down and talk about the writing process--what works for you, what doesn't... just say the word (she really gets excited and starts gesturing and spittle-ing when it comes to writing). In her spare time (she teaches middle-schoolers) she reads, writes (mostly for Chicken Soup until she has the courage to venture outside of that box) and rescues golden retrievers for Love a Golden. If you'd like to read more, go to her blog.


Evelyn Krieger said...

I think Edith's twin sister has moved in to the attic in my mind. To fight her nasty temperament, I say, "Shut up!" out loud. I reread my list of publications/awards. I turn up the music and carry on.

Margo Dill said...

I've always heard that the best writers are the ones with the worst critic inside their heads. :) Writers with talent often think they have none. SO, if you think you are brilliant and everyone should read you, then you are doing something wrong. BUT if you have a strong inner critic, whom you must squash as you suggested here, then you are doing something right! :)

Val said...

My inner critic has been strong-arming me for about a year now. I need to exercise my writing muscles so I can wrest free of her grip.

It's not like sending something off will trigger the apocalypse. What's the worst that could happen? No response, or a written NO. Submitting would probably be easier that wrestling my inner critic. And it would really get under her skin!

Now I've given myself a pep talk. Thanks!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Evelyn--Edith has a twin sister? I hope she's not an identical twin. ;)

Margo--You've made a wonderful point. I think we've all met the writer who think of themselves as brilliant... even though they're actually boring. I personally know a few local writers who constantly doubt the value of their writing--but they're brilliant.

Val--You're finally getting what I've been saying. Write. Believe. Submit.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

My inner critic is a real bitch, but I'll be honest---she has her place. She's the reason I can kill my darlings without flinching, and she motivates me to work hard. I love it when she's proven wrong, when I can kick her to the curb. She always gets back up, but that's okay. The only time I want to silence her completely is when she comes near to convincing me I should Just. Stop. Writing. At those times, I let her do her worst, and after she's said all the nasty things she can say, I close the door in her face and get back to work.

A superstar romance author once told me that some of the worst writers are the ones who carry no self-doubt. Self-doubt, as crippling as it can be, keeps us on our toes, working hard, learning, improving, always striving to be better.

It sure is a stinker, though. *sigh*

Angela Mackintosh said...

This post is hilarious, Sioux! I love that you've named your inner critic, and yikes! That pic. ;) Your worst case scenario had me rollin'! Thanks for making me laugh today.

I get rid of my inner critic by sending my work to an editor or my writing group. I always think it's horrible, but when I receive feedback, it's very encouraging. My inner critic shrinks a little more each time. :)

Mary Horner said...

My inner critic is Lucille, and sounds like she is related to Edith!

Renee Roberson said...

So interesting--I have an inner critic but I've never given her a name. Might be a good creative writing exercise for me! I love everything about this post, especially the "I am my shadow as well as my light" part. I've learned how to filter the constructive criticism over the years. I got some feedback from the SCBWI writing contest one year that actually made me laugh, it was so negative and terse. I'm keeping it in a file for when I publish that manuscript one day.

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