3 Signs the Inner Critic Has Sabotaged Your Writing and What to Do about It

FishEvery writer has the voice of their inner critic somewhere inside their head. It might be a judgmental parent, or a toxic friend, or even someone from a long-ago writing group who made one hurtful comment about your story that stuck with you forever.

We all know the inner critic when that voice shows up.

The problem is that we don’t know what to do about it.

The reason most writers can’t conquer the inner critic on their own is because it’s impossible to see around your own perspective. You can’t get outside of your own head. This is why our beliefs and the way we feel about ourselves shape so much of our experience. We only have one pair of eyes to see out of, and no matter which way we swivel our vision, we’re using the same two eyeballs.

You know your inner critic has taken over your writing life if:

You write in small amounts and then pick those sections apart until you want to cry.

You go for long periods of time without writing and feel massive guilt about it.

When you’re writing—or reading something over that you’ve written—you hear the inner critic loud and clear telling you everything that’s wrong with you as a writer.

It is possible to make a shift and strengthen your confidence to the point where the voice of your inner critic fades, or even falls silent for long periods of time. During these periods you can get some serious writing work done, like writing-an-entire-novel serious.

But you can’t do it alone.

That’s where coaching comes in. Much of the work I do with writers focuses on finding the part of the writer that knows they are a writer and knows they can do it. The part that knows they have it in them to write a book. We use methods that replace the voice of the inner critic with the writer’s own true voice, the unique expression of themselves as a creative being. And we do it together, my help reassuring the hesitant writer that they have a constant advocate.

Some of the tools we use are:

Weekly timed sessions of non-stop writing to make sure writers write, and don’t stop to reread or edit

Exploration exercises that help characters come out and play on the page

Phone calls or Skype sessions in which writers can unburden themselves of every fear and worry nagging at them and get support and advice

My role as a “first reader” for writers who need feedback or encouragement to keep going

Coaching includes all this and more. Every writer is unique and has different creative needs. I gently work with each writer to come up with a solid plan to get them writing and actually feeling good about what comes out on the page.

If you’re interested in coaching, you can find more info here:


Or you can email me at writecitysf@gmail.com to set up a free consultation. Consultations come with no expectations and if you decide not to sign up for coaching at the end of our session, that is totally fine. I love talking to writers no matter what the outcome and consider every minute worth it.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want read:

Why Do Some Writers Have So Much Trouble Actually Writing

What Is Coaching and Why I Do It

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  • Reply Peter Nena 11 November, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Hi, Lauren!

    I understand this post. I manifest all the three signs. There was a time when I wasn’t plagued by the discouraging fella–and I wrote a lot in those days. I wrote like mad and with undiminished confidence. But a meeting with a certain publisher in Nairobi awoke the monster. Now I can hardly read what I have written. I feel incompetent. Sentences, after I have typed them, acquire a certain dispiriting stale and lacklustre texture; the initial excitement they inspired is extinguished as soon as I can read them on the screen. Most people say “You write well” but the monster says “Don’t even think about it!” He wins. Consequently, I write less and less. I write only because I can’t help it.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 12 November, 2014 at 9:02 am

      The important thing is that you are still writing, you are still carrying on in spite of the voice of the inner critic. Also, I just checked out your blog and you do write well! You should be proud of your work.

  • Reply Glynis Jolly 12 November, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Although I will go back and read, just edit that, and that go back and read again, I don’t do it on a daily basis. It may happen once or twice a week. My problem is that I get caught up in individual words, wondering if they are the words that really describe the way I want them to. The dictionary and thesaurus are always just a click away. It makes the writing slower than I’d like but I can’t stop myself from looking for those perfect words.

    I’d sign up for your coaching except there isn’t anyway I can afford it. I’ll just keep plodding along and read your blog.

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 15 November, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I love your advice on the blog and am grateful, but cannot run to more specific help all the way from the UK. I have just mortgaged my soul to publishing my third novel. When I sent it to the printers I had big reservations and I know of some major areas of my writing that need improvement. However, by handling the printed copies and not opening them at all, I am growing in confidence. More than a third of my print run (300) has either gone or is spoken for and the official publication date is not until December 5th.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 17 November, 2014 at 9:35 am

      That’s wonderful Hilary! Congratulations!

  • Reply 8 Tools to Overcome Resistance, Uncertainty and Let Your Writing Flow | Inspire Portal 18 January, 2015 at 5:26 am

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