And that, my friend, silences the inner critic!
As if …
Crit does not take directions well, not even with a ‘Please, I am begging you’ tacked on the end.
Hiding under the doona doesn’t work either. It’s wormed its way into your head and, ergo, into your bed.
Blocking your ears? Nooo … that godawful noise isn’t out there. Stressing: INNER critic.
All writers have to contend with one, but writers don’t have the monopoly.
This bitchy, nit-picking predator of the psyche isn’t picky and choosy. It beats up on everyone.
For me, reasoning with it, ignoring it, overlaying its blah-blahs with positivity did rien, ništa, niets, semmi, gornisht, nada, which mean ‘nothing’ in French, Croatian, Dutch, Hungarian, Yiddish, and Spanish, respectively. The inner critic is fluent in every single language.
So. Grasping at straws, I turned to the advice du jour—the gurus’ ‘how-to’s’.
‘Don’t wait for it to blindside you,’ they said. ‘Face it. Give it a name.’
Tried that, but it didn’t warm to ‘Hey, Arsehole’. What can one say? Years of being bedevilled leaves one resentful, no? Anyway, consulting the self-appointed experts provoked the critic. Of course, it did: ‘See, you can’t even figure it out for yourself!’
Then, one fine-but-tearful day I heard 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 as letting it get its own way,’ said Ms Inner Wise.
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 (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 said parents and society.
I got that the same social forces that feed it also 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!
A goddamn challenging approach, with the crit no less snarky. Through giving it permission to speak, though, I discovered it serves a purpose:
- When it assumes the guise of the charmer (one of its many) and tells me how fab, fantastic, phenomenal I am, it cuts me down the second I soak up the pseudo praise. Not a bad thing. Keeps me humble.
- Its jibes can be demoralising. Not a bad thing. Lapsing into moralism stops me from seeing that some of what I’ve claimed as my straitjacketed values and attitudes aren’t mine at all.
- Its relentless trash talk can drive me to frozen despair. Not a bad thing. At the darkest point, I uncover hope in the hopelessness, which inspires me to continue free-falling through the bullshit and towards realness.
And so, because this beast is ingrown (albeit much like an ingrown toenail), and because I’m working at accepting all of me (and ‘no one’ likes to be left out), I have formed an unholy alliance with it.
Where it used to be at its very best–worst when I was being creative, when I was being me, letting it slag off intermittently means it 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?
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’?!
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.
interesting post . . . food for thought. I don’t think I have ever had much problem with my inner critic though. Maybe I need to self evaluate
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.
I also have the unfortunate task of having to shut down mine at times as well:-)
Very entertaining read:-)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.