How to Silence Your Inner Critic and Keep Writing

Wednesday, May 02, 2018
overcoming writer's block - crumpled paper on wooden floor - crushed paper
Photo via photosteve101 CC license

This weekend I was working on a story that I battled with long after I walked away from my writing session. Where was this inner conflict coming from? My inner critic (or as I like to call it, "The Anti-Muse"), who was making snide remarks about my story. While I'm usually pretty good about ignoring the criticisms and discouragement of my Anti-Muse, one or two remarks wormed its way into my psyche. I could sense the looming doubt about the story I was working on. Have you ever been there? Have you ever thought your Anti-Muse sounded reasonable?

It's a dangerous place when the Anti-Muse becomes the voice of reason. So when this happens, there's a few things you should do.

1) Acknowledge it and keep writing.

I think all an Anti-Muse wants is to be heard. Acknowledge its remarks that the story has been told before (sure, there are probably plenty of fairy tale stories out there, but not by me). Acknowledge that yes, this is a terrible first draft (aren't they all? That's why second and third drafts exist). And while the Anti-Muse waits for you to walk away and visit Facebook instead, what you must do is keep writing. Sure, your Anti-Muse may seem like it has a valid point, but trust me, it doesn't. The best response to these criticisms? "So what." Tell your Anti-Muse, so what and then take up your pen (or computer) and write.

2) Get encouragement from other writers.

What has silenced my Anti-Muse is being involved with a group of writers (which I found through WOW! actually) who I report into weekly. Sure, my Anti-Muse still waggles it's finger about how terrible things are looking, but getting encouragement from other writers is an incredible source of inspiration. If you are battling your Anti-Muse, seek out a writing community, whether it's online or in your home town. Find another writer on your twitter feed that you can adopt as your writing buddy. There's also Facebook groups you can join as well that you can utilize to get a writing buddy that can coach you and encourage you through your process (here's one I'm part of that I created after an online community I was in dissolved). This is the best way to gain confidence as a writer and keep writing.

3) Stop comparing yourself.

One thing that gives the Anti-Muse a lot of energy and strength is the comparison game. This game usually starts when you wander through social media and you see all of your writing friends talking about their successes and publications. While we all want to cheer each other on, sometimes after a bad writing session, it can be salt in a wound. When your book or short story or essay isn't going anywhere, it can be tough to read about someone else getting a writing contract or getting a writing piece published. Whenever I am down this terrible road, I remind myself that plenty of writers gain success at different points in their life. In fact, one of my favorite books (and movies) Primal Fear was written by an author who didn't get their first book published until they were 50. One famous writer Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't start writing until she was 44 and didn't make a name for herself with Little House on the Prairie until she was 64.

We're all on a different journey so the most unhelpful thing you can do to yourself is wonder why making it big hasn't happened to you yet.

Remember the last thing your Anti-Muse wants is for you to keep writing. So the best advice of all, is to discipline yourself to ignore the voice of the Anti-Muse completely and get that writing done. 


Karen Wojcik Berner said...

You are absolutely right, Nicole. Squash that anti-muse and get to work! I think every writer needs to hear what you have to say today. Thanks.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Excellent post, Nicole. I don't think there's any other career where we have to battle our Anti-Muse so frequently, so your post is much needed. I like your first tip and it's one I haven't really heard of before: acknowledge it. You're right, we should just say, "So what," and maybe "&*#$ off!" LOL Keep writing is definitely the key. Thanks for this!

Nicole Pyles said...

Thanks Karen!

Nicole Pyles said...

Thanks Angela! I learned the trick to acknowledge the anti muse with how I handle anxiety. Acknowledge it and move on! :)

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