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?