Secrets Your Inner Critic Would Kill to Keep

SAMSUNGThis article is not for everyone.

Some writers really love the actual process of writing. Some writers have so many ideas they don’t even know what to do with them all. Some writers almost always feel confident and upbeat about their writing.

I am not one of those writers.

It is incredibly difficult for me to sit down and do the physical work of writing. I love tripping though Imagination-land in my head. I love talking about books and writing. I love to read novels, stories, and poetry. But when I sit down in front of the blank page I would rather be anywhere else.

I am also a very slow writer. I write about 5 pages a week, sometimes I make it to 10. I have never—never, ever—written over 20 pages in one week.

And almost every time I reread the first draft of anything I’ve written, I absolutely hate it.

For years, I assumed all of these things were indicators that I was not cut out to be a writer. My inner critic pushed me to compare myself to other writers, and to legends about writers, and to idealized fantasies in my head about what a writer was supposed to be and how they were supposed to work.

I came up short every time.

Then…I discovered that my inner critic is not my voice of truth. In fact, it’s not even my voice at all. The voice of my inner critic comes from a place of fear. My inner critic likes to mislead me into thinking that if I listen to fear I will be safer, I won’t be laughed at, I won’t lose anything.

After all, it is true that is if you never put yourself out there, you might feel safer.

And if you never put yourself 100% into finishing your novel, you won’t run the risk of it being laughed at.

And if you never try to move out of your comfort zone, you won’t ever lose the familiar.

But when I started writing again seven years ago, I decided things were going to be different between me and my inner critic. No matter how much fear it tried to pour all over my hopes and dreams, I would keep going. I would keep pushing forward, no matter what. So what if writing is hard for me? So what if I’m a slow writer? So what if I cringe when I reread my rough drafts? I still get to try.

In seven years I’ve written four novels. I’ve written eight short stories. Now, I’m writing a blog. And the only thing I did was show up for myself and my writing, week after week, and promise the universe that I would get those 5 or 10 pages down on paper. And I did this in spite of being possibly the world’s worst procrastinator, while simultaneously competing for an Olympic gold in low self-esteem.

If I can do it, you can too.

You don’t have to be amazingly awesome at writing right out of the gate. You don’t have to have an idea that no one’s ever had before. All that’s required is that you show up and write. Even one page once a week will do it.

Warning: Your inner critic is not going to like it. It’s probably going to throw a temper tantrum or try to undermine you sneaky-style at first. Because the number one thing your inner critic is truly terrified of is you stepping into your own power. Once you take that step it’s very likely you’ll discover that you never needed your inner critic to survive. Quite the opposite: It always needed you.

To follow your dream as a writer, it’s most helpful to practice positive thinking and persistence. That means, the Beast of Self-Judgment is not going to get you again. That means, one bad day no longer has the power to significantly set you back. The future is full of more days in which you get to try again. And if you do have a bad day, it’s not something to beat yourself up over. That’s an inner critic strategy and we’ve determined the inner critic is destructive and unhelpful, if not outright insane. So if you have a bad day, or feel down about your writing, the new strategy is to show yourself loving kindness and gentle compassion.

And then get up the next day and try again.

Persistence and positive thinking come from a place of love. Moving out of fear and into love, using love as your new operating system, and consistently practicing love towards yourself—these are all radical shifts to make. However, once you shift into a life that includes mostly love and not so much fear, your creativity and writing will show the difference. And because you already know what every writer should know

You will find the strength to show up every week for yourself and your writing.

You will trust and have faith that your book is already inside you, waiting to be born.

You will accept yourself as the unique, beautiful writer that you are, and you will spread this light to others around you.

And you will get up, day after day, and keep on trying again.

The next time your inner critic speaks up you can choose to listen to your own true creative essence instead and expose your truth.

Your inner critic voice is not you. And YOU already know what to do.

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53 Comments

  • Reply kabirgandhiok 28 June, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Motivating and inspiring, thanks for posting this 🙂

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Thanks for reading!

      • Reply benjaminsreclaimedart 28 June, 2013 at 11:01 pm

        writecity posting on the inner critic link?

        It’s more of an authentic post if I leave that question there. The draft was blank, a sleeper with a reminder to wake.

        Now that I think about it, I get to ask her again if I can put it into this one. LOL!! So on with the original text:

  • Reply amdobritt 28 June, 2013 at 9:17 am

    I get nervous when I go back and read through what I’ve written. Always thinking what the hell am I doing? But I can’t stop writing. It’s a part of me and who I am. I’ve learned to acknowledge the fear in me, each day tell it good morning but to stay out of my way. 😀

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 9:24 am

      I love that: “Tell it good morning but to stay out of my way.” Well said!

      • Reply amdobritt 28 June, 2013 at 10:36 am

        Way I see it, it’s always going to be there no matter what, so might as well be polite. 🙂

  • Reply heirloomltd 28 June, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I love the idea of “showing up for myself.” Well said.

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Thank you! I think sometimes showing up for ourselves is way harder than showing up for anyone/anything else.

  • Reply Morgan 28 June, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I think an inner critic is entire different from an internal critique. One is good, the other isn’t.

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 9:25 am

      I agree. My internal critique voice is calm and measured. My inner critic is shrill and yells into my ear most of the time.

  • Reply wordrew 28 June, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Lauren,
    I am new to the blogging scene and your articles continue to inspire me and kick me in the butt to break through my fears and just keep writing. This article is exactly how I have felt for a while now, and probably the way I would have angled my first post had I actually sat down to think about my blog post before writing it.
    You rock. You are an allstar. Thank you for the motivation!

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Thank you so much for reading. I’m new to the blogging scene too, and I never suspected the wealth of encouragement and kindness I would find here. Writing a blog is definitely challenging, but so worth it. Thank you so much for these kind words!

    • Reply Scattered Spools 29 June, 2013 at 6:35 am

      agree!

  • Reply Madison Woods 28 June, 2013 at 9:53 am

    When I give my inner critic time to berate me, he does a really good job of it. I’ve gotten better at shooing him away though, and for that, I am grateful. Great post, I enjoyed it!

  • Reply Sandi - aka Purple Shoes 28 June, 2013 at 10:05 am

    This was very timely post Laura. I have lots of ideas for writing and I tend to write on scraps of paper, notes in my phone, Evernote, notebooks at work etc, but to get it all to the actual paper is sometimes daunting. I have committed to a weekly blog. My personal deadline being every Thursday night. Last night I was headed upstairs and my boyfriend was feeling neglected he muttered something about my stupid blog and for a minute my inner critic agreed. I told him to hush along with my inner self and forced myself back upstairs to complete my work. I enjoy your writing so keep up the good work.

    • Reply Sandi - aka Purple Shoes 28 June, 2013 at 10:06 am

      My apologies!!! Lauren!! not Laura… I’m so glad it’s Friday.

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 10:38 am

      It’s definitely challenging to balance our time! Between writing, working, spending time with family and friends, and taking time for ourselves, it frequently happens that one area or person feels neglected. I struggle with this all. the. time. Keep forging on! 🙂

  • Reply colorfulpen 28 June, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I see a lot of myself in this…the procrastinating, comparing myself to others, low self-esteem, being a slow writer. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation to keep pushing forward in the face of all these things!

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 11:27 am

      I’m so thankful others are connecting with this. For years I thought I was the only writer who struggled with the feelings of being not good enough. I was even worried that if I posted this people would think I was crazy! From all the great responses I’ve gotten this morning I see that there are a lot of us out there struggling with the same stuff. Thank you so much for reading and letting me know it resonated with you too.

      • Reply colorfulpen 28 June, 2013 at 11:29 pm

        I meant to ask earlier if you’d mind if I reblogged this post?

        • Reply writecity 29 June, 2013 at 8:10 am

          Of course! Please reblog! I’m totally honored 🙂

  • Reply benjaminsreclaimedart 28 June, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I can dig it! Well done! You’ve helped me to remember to post about the book: The Four Agreements. I have consistently used it as a resource in the past to bridge this river of doubt and frustration, this self critical analysis. gone awry. Be impeccable with your word. Impeccable comes from the way craftsman would describe a marble fit to carve or build with. It means “without sin”, and is meant to apply to words spoken and thought. Thanks for the like on .Simple Ways, I just started the blog, and attention is fun.. May I put this posting in a link in my recommendation posting, for The Four Agreements?

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Yes, you can definitely link to this post! And thank you so much for reading! I’ve been meaning to explore the Four Agreements for years and years, but have never gotten around to it. You’ve inspired me to get my hands on a copy. Thank you!

      • Reply benjaminsreclaimedart 30 June, 2013 at 8:19 pm

        Your welcome! Thanks for the permission. I have two new posts since I wrote the Four Agreements recommendation, that relate directly to the inner critic, and am going to post them with your link:) Draft Craft, and Blog Draft Chrysalis Craft. I hope you like them. I enjoyed how your post reflected on the writing process, it’s a big challenge for me to get it right. Thanks again!

  • Reply ajabba 28 June, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    This is really inspiring. It’s easy to fall under the wheels of that inner critic and persuade yoursel to put te pen to rest.

    • Reply writecity 28 June, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

    • Reply Scattered Spools 29 June, 2013 at 6:34 am

      I was once told; just because a feeling is strong doesn’t mean it’s true. The self-critic can be a very loud voice, but it’s really a bully. 🙂

  • Reply MerylF 28 June, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Yep, that sounds like me. I hate my first drafts. I always have the critic on my shoulder shouting NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Even being published doesn’t make the critic go away. So I’ve learned, like you, just to push on and keep writing. And some days, he does shut up and let me write in peace. Maybe one day he’ll go away altogether. Who knows?

    Well done you on making that realisation and writing regardless. Good luck!

    • Reply writecity 29 June, 2013 at 8:08 am

      I never expected how many other writers out there feel like this! Not until I posted this article…It’s had the surprising result of making me feel not so alone, like I belong to a community of writers who deal with the same issues. Thank you so much for your comment. I will keep pushing on!

  • Reply The Four Agreements | Media I Love 28 June, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    […] I was enjoying a blog posting about a writers inner critic, and how Lauren, the author, moved passed doubting her talents, I […]

  • Reply E.K. Carmel 29 June, 2013 at 4:34 am

    I nodded my head in understanding all the way through this post. I look at uber-prolific writers like they’re a completely different species. Glad to know I’m not alone in writing slowly. I’m still struggling with the balance between writing and family, but I’m finally getting into a better headspace. That makes a big difference. Thanks! This is what I needed to read today.

    • Reply writecity 29 June, 2013 at 8:12 am

      Haha, I know the “different species” feeling. And I, too, struggle mightily with the balance of time and my presence. Writing takes a lot of energy, time, and presence, but there are many people in my life who deserve a piece of that energy, time, and presence as well. I think it’s like anything else in this messy process of being a human–ongoing!

  • Reply colorfulpen 29 June, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Reblogged this on My Dear Muse and commented:
    I found this blog post yesterday to be inspiring, motivating, and timely! I nodded my head throughout, thinking ‘this is so me’ – the procrastinating, comparing myself to others, the paralyzing fear that keeps me away from the page in favor of doing something, anything , other than writing. I’m sure I’ll refer to this often for the truth that it is and the kick in the butt that it offers.

  • Reply Meka 30 June, 2013 at 8:07 am

    I loved this, so shared it and wrote about it on my Love Mekanism blog as a challenge for those following my journey. As a business and tech writer, I learned early that I enjoy the process of writing and the magic of filling a blank page with my take. Luckily in that career, most just needed a place to start or guideline and were largely happy to edit, copy, and paste while I was just happy to write with anonymity, and get a pretty decent steady paycheck while keeping my own writings to myself- well… maybe a lover or two along the way, but that’s the extent. But having to edit was paralyzing, so if it weren’t for those with the talent and patience to get it right, I wouldn’t have had a career at all to build on, but writing about myself and my own thoughts and life is completely new. It feels like words are the easiest hurdle, and the mind is the real challenge. Isn’t it usually never really about the thing? It’s at least about being afraid of what they would think of my flaws, how I- err my work looks, or how they will judge me and my value based on the contents spilled from my heart or my ability to interpret a difficult concept . Maybe they were, but me, as a professional- couldn’t imagine anyone separating the two because I couldn’t. Today, editing still feels a hot mess but less so because I’m just happy to get anything down. At this stage of personal growth, I would’t ask for approval because this- where I am now is what I’m working with now, and I’ll take it :). That aside, I am not immune to delightful joy of reading that I am ok, indeed. From my heart, for the timely words spilled from yours, to you– thanks for writing this!

    • Reply writecity 30 June, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this part of your personal journey with writing. You are incredibly inspiring and so brave to be honest about your struggle with editing! I am fast learning that there are a lot of writers out there who are just as hard on themselves as I am. I’m so happy I put up this post and received all this feedback. It lets me know that we really are all in this together. Thank you so much again for sharing, so grateful for this contribution 🙂

  • Reply New Challenge Part 1: Finish a Project | Love Mekanism 30 June, 2013 at 8:12 am

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    […] have a safe haven now, and it’s a campaign….A refuge to escape the doubter, the internal critic, the move on before it’s as good as I want it to be switch. It’s a secret sanctuary in […]

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  • Reply g.e.b. 1 July, 2013 at 6:30 am

    I am not one of those writers either…not yet 🙂

  • Reply jumpingfromcliffs 1 July, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I differ in that I love the process of writing. For me, it’s the most fun part of the whole process. I still always think my first drafts are terrible though. And I believe that’s how it should be, it’s part of what keeps us all crafting at our work rather than sitting back and being satisfied with a piece that shouldn’t ever see the light of day. The inner critic is indeed a terrible beast; to me, his voice is that of my friends who’ve said “I’d love to read your book.” My stock response, goaded by the inner critic, is: “Oh, it’s not quite ready yet, I’m just re-editing.” By which I mean: “Oh no! I can’t possibly let X read it, they’ll think it’s rubbish and I’ll be mortified.” I somehow suspect I’d still feel the same way even if I wrote a bestseller.

    • Reply writecity 1 July, 2013 at 10:29 am

      I have that same problem. Friends will ask to read my book, and I always think “Oh they don’t really know what they’re getting into.” I’m working on trusting the instincts and requests of other people. After all, they are grown-ups and can decide for themselves 🙂 It’s still a struggle every day though…

  • Reply tyunglebower 1 July, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I’ve never been in the, “I have to write so much that the words just pour out of me no matter where I am..all the time…” camp. To me writing is often like cutting through a jungle with a machete. If there’s a jewel on the other side of it, it’s worth the hacking. But if there’s nothing there that interests me, I don’t have the energy or desire to hack through the vegetation just for the sake of hacking.

  • Reply The Russian Quil 1 July, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    You’ve inspired many people here and I am honoured to say I am one of them. Writing will always be the passion of my life and I’m sure if I tried I could get it done. I guess this is my way of saying I can relate. It feels like the whole world is telling me to love myself and encourage myself. Thank you for being who you are and a result a part of the world which encourages me through these dark times.

    • Reply writecity 1 July, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      “The whole world is telling me to love myself and encourage myself.”

      Hmmm…it sounds like the universe is sending you a clear message 🙂

      Thank YOU for sharing, and I hope you keep pursuing that passion to write (or start writing again if you’re not at the moment). It sounds like you already have the first requirement, a strong honest heart.

  • Reply Cate Russell-Cole 1 July, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Lauren, this is an excellent post. I am going to reblog it onto my Resources for Writers blog. Hopefully that will bring you more traffic, and if nothing else, you’re going to encourage my readers greatly! Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your creative journey with us.

    • Reply writecity 2 July, 2013 at 8:15 am

      Wow, thank you so much! I am so honored 🙂

  • Reply Cate Russell-Cole 1 July, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Reblogged this on "CommuniCATE" Resources for Writers and commented:
    This is real, honest and the key to success as a writer lies therein… thank you to Lauren for sharing her journey with us. As you know, I only pass on the great stuff!

  • Reply CozyBooks-and-Life 2 July, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Just having to scroll down so much to post tells me a lot about how true that post was. I am very hard on myself when I write, and have to stop myself from just going back and reworking the same chapter over and over again until I’m satisfied with it to some degree. I have finally taken to simply underlining passages I know will bug me forever until i improve them, and then move on. After I read this I immediately went back to work on my novel–so thank you!

    • Reply writecity 2 July, 2013 at 9:43 am

      “I immediately went back to work on my novel.”

      You have no idea how happy this makes me!!!

      Thank you for stopping in and reading. And thank you for forging on with your writing work.

  • Reply thunderhawkbolt 2 July, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I sit back and rely on the words of Hemingway; “The first draft of anything is sh*t.” Of course, I extend that out to at least the fourth draft of my own work, but just knowing that he felt that way about his own work makes me a little less harsh toward my initial ramblings.

    My inner critic isn’t dead yet, or even limping a little for that matter, but every now and then I distract him/her with something shiny long enough to get some real work done.

    • Reply writecity.wordpress.com 2 July, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Haha! I love it! I’ve gotten to see a few different variations on how writers envision their inner critic. These could be great stories all on their own! Thank you so much for this wisdom on Hemingway. It IS comforting.

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