SHUUUT UUUUUUUP!

Does that work for you? Mostly, it does nothing for me. Zip. Nada. Bupkis. The inner critic won’t listen.

All writers have to contend with one, but writers don’t have the monopoly. This bitchy, nit-picking predator of the psyche doesn’t pick and choose. It assails everyone.

I couldn’t silence mine—and I was loath to even call it mine—so I grasped at straws. I listened to the advice du jour—the gurus’ ‘how-to’s’. (And of course, that provoked the critic: ‘See, you can’t even figure it out for yourself!’)

I tried on all the strategies. I tried to reason with the critic, to ignore it, tame it, conquer it, rise above it. I tried to overlay its blah-blahs with positivity.

All of these fit for a bit … like a soggy Band-Aid. The critic just mocked me and amped it up.

Then, one fine day, I listened to the wise part of me. It whispered, ‘Let the critic have its say.’

You’re kidding, right?

‘Letting it have its say is not the same thing as letting it get its own way,’ said the wise part.

Why the Critic Will Never Shut Up. Ever.

I took my sage’s advice because I got that this critic is an innate aspect of the psyche (just as much as the sage is).

The critic was not constructed by disapproving parents, or by a society that promotes unrealistic standards of perfection—it was, and is, only fed by them.

I got that the same social forces that feed it promote ways to obliterate it. But I’ve learned that by giving the critic a voice, it no longer needs to have authority over my psyche and life.

Speak Up … Then SHUUUT UUUUUUUP!

It’s a damned challenging approach. The crit is still just as snarky and obnoxious. I don’t like it, but I tolerate it—we have an unholy alliance.

And as I let it speak, I discovered it has purpose.

  • When it assumes the disguise of the charmer and tells me how fabulous I am, it tears me down just as I start to believe the pseudo-praise. Not a bad thing. It keeps me humble.
  • Its jibes can be demoralising. Not a bad thing. Being too moralistic stops me from seeing that some of what I’ve claimed as my straitjacketed values and attitudes aren’t even mine.
  • Its taunts can drive me to a frozen despair. Not a bad thing. At the darkest point, I uncover hope and fire. These inspire me to risk facing its wrath as I cut through its bullshit to reveal the truth.

My critic is at its very worst when I’m being creative, because I’m being me—in all my mess and in all my glory. But even if there was no mess, if there was just glory, it wouldn’t be glorious enough for the critic. It would keep messing with my head.

Still, I accept its presence because it’s a natural part of me—aargh!—and I’m working to accept all of me.

So, I let this irritant have its say. And ever since I started to do this, my creativity has taken off. The critic no longer needs to block the flow to get my attention, and it doesn’t need to attack anywhere near as often.

How do you manage yours?

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Comments

  1. My inner critic is lately all about hacking away entire stanzas of beguilingly clever words for pretty much no other reason than that I had fallen in love with them… but then the really crazy stuff starts happening — my originally intended meanings become unmasked, naked for the world to (gasp!) judge, but more importantly, to understand. Yes, that nit-picking soul-sucker lets us see ourselves as we fear the world might see us, and if we stop fighting her, she can work some magic! It’s scary as hell, but strangely empowering.

    Love this post!

    • Thank you, Steph!
      Yep, that ‘nit-picking soul-sucker’ can indeed work magic if we’re brave enough to let it. I think if we keep writing our ‘beguilingly clever words’, which means we’re being ourselves, and if we dare to share those words, the world will start to see who we really are, because as the critic loses its grip over our psyche, WE start to see who we really are.
      And then there’s an additional benefit — I love that I can call the critic every filthy name I can think of, and it still sticks by me. Who else is that ‘loyal’?!

  2. Once again you hit the nail on the head with your musings. Perhaps I’ve said it before but it does make me realise that as much as we all strive for individuality, we are closer than we realise in our inner world. Your writing is beautiful Paula, so please keep on writing. Suzi

    • Thank you, Suzi! And I agree with your observation. If only more people had that awareness of our soul connection … but then, that would entail cultivating a relationship with the dark forces in the psyche, a tough thing to do in a culture that wants to eliminate the (perceived) negative.

    • If you haven’t had many problems with your inner critic, then you are truly blessed! Perhaps you already embrace that innate aspect of psyche.
      I think that problems arise for many because our modern (Western) existence is de-souled and our modern stories have pegged the critic as a dark, negative ‘demonic’ force. (My post ‘Are You Sleeping with the Enemy?’ looks at how the notion of ‘demon’ has been misappropriated: demons are not ‘evil spirits’, but rather, guiding spirits.)
      I appreciate you stopping by, Segilola, and thank you for your comment.

    • The idea of shutting it ‘down’ is interesting. It probably suggests containing it more so than shutting it ‘up’ does. (We shut down our computer, but the information is still contained by it.) Words, semantics … I can’t help myself! The bottom line is, the critic’s ultimate purpose is not to stymie creativity.
      Thanks, Jenita, for reading and commenting.

  3. It does serve its purpose, but it’s hard to not let it take over. I deal with it by reading quotes from Andy Warhol. He was highly criticized by others, and never seemed to care. His standard response to criticism was, “So what?” Sometimes I say that to my inner critic, too.

    • I agree, sometimes it’s hard to not let it take over, particularly when it attacks when you’re tired or vulnerable. And being creative in dealing with it is difficult when it blocks your creativity. But ‘So what?’ is a fabulous question to counter its fault-finding … It’s one that can’t really be answered! I’ll remember this one for next time!
      Thank you for reading and commenting, Shoshanah.

  4. I really enjoyed this post, Paula! It’s fun as well as helpfulI love that you came to the conclusion that your inner critic brings you to a deeper sense of purpose and awareness. My inner critic has the biggest, flappiest mouth and will never shut up. I’ve learned to accept her as a grumpy friend — sometimes, she’s right. Sometimes, she’s wrong. But if I don’t listen, she gets louder, and that won’t do!

    Thanks again!

    • Ha … yours and mine must crawl out from under the same rock, then! (When mine surfaces, the bitch takes up residence behind the MIRROR!)
      More power to you for accepting yours. As ugly as the criticism can get, it’s better to be able to hear it, than to have it gagging and festering and making you feel like crap!
      Thanks for reading, Sue. Your comments are very affirming!

  5. You should listen to what your inner critic is saying and then fix whatever’s wrong.

    If you ignore the problems in the work, then they’ll remain and your work will be inferior. Remember: bad writers see what’s good in their work, while good writers see what’s bad.

    • ‘Bad writers see what’s good in their work, while good writers see what’s bad.’ An interesting take, and so true! Although, I’d probably qualify the last part: Good writers see what’s bad AND good because they have the courage to keep looking into the critic’s habitat—-the murky depths—-defuse its fault-finding, and free up the creative spirit!

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post, Chuck, and for your incisive comments.

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