Have you ever sat down to write, ready to let your words flow onto the screen or page, only to have a thought pop seemingly out of nowhere:
“Is now really the best time to start this?”
You hesitate, and suddenly you’re thinking things like:
“It probably won’t be any good anyway.”
"Who would even read it?"
“What’s the point when you never finish anything?”
These are your endlessly repetitive Inner Critics, delivering their usual stream of negative, discouraging and even belittling commentary.
At some point in the past they’ve snuck into your head and made themselves cozy, and now they just won’t stop talking! They’re especially noisy when you’re trying to do your creative work. If you consistently listen to what they say, you will get very little writing done.
Luckily, there are ways to turn down the volume on your Inner Critics (and replace their commentary with more loving and helpful self-talk).
Once you know how to transform the effects of Inner Critics, your writing will be free to flow more easily and more frequently.
Instead of resisting your next writing time, you’ll reclaim your natural joy in the creative process.
Here are 3 ways to begin transforming the effects of your Inner Critics and free your writing...
1. NAME your Inner Critics
Inner Critics may be so merged with your everyday thinking that you see them as an inseparable part of who you are. You might say, “That’s just the way I am, I’ve always been a procrastinator or perfectionist,” or, “I know I'm lazy and quit too easily.” But your Inner Critics are not you. Naming them is the first step to escaping their influence.
Begin by paying attention to your inner commentary and noticing any critical messages. How do you feel? If you feel defensive or down on yourself — that’s the sign of an active Inner Critic. Experiment with following the uncomfortable feeling back to a specific thought such as: “You’ll never be a real writer,” or, “You should be writing more.” Once you find a thought that makes you feel less than or not enough, you’ve found an Inner Critic.
Here are few of the most common Inner Critics. See if these messages sound familiar.
Pusher/Overachiever: No matter how much you’ve done, it’s just not enough. You’re always behind and need to work harder to ‘catch up’ and do MORE.
Perfectionist: You’re never finished. Nothing is good enough to share yet, and possibly ever.
Comparer: Everyone else’s writing, output, process is better than yours. Every time.
Procrastinator: Are you really sure this is the best idea, approach or style? You’d better keep planning, researching and thinking. Better not to start, or start later. Later rarely if ever comes.
Hopeless: What’s the point? Why begin? Who will ever read it? Nothing will ever work. I've tried before.
Which of these is most active in your mind? And it can often be more than one. If you’re noticing other repetitive negative messages, try giving them a name. This will increase your awareness and change the effect that they have on you and your writing.
2. THANK and acknowledge your Inner Critics
I know this might sound like a terrible idea, why would you want to thank or acknowledge them?
Inner Critics are not your enemy and they’re not trying to make you miserable. Quite the opposite! Your Inner Critics represent beliefs you learned from an early age, intended to protect you from danger and disappointment. But these well-meaning protectors have grown out of proportion to what you need now as an adult.
Recognize your Inner Critics for what they are: misguided, short-sighted characters who are not able to give you the best advice anymore. Thank them for their efforts and acknowledge their attempts to protect you. Know that you are in charge of your life and your writing now, not these remnants from the past.
3. TALK with Your Inner Critics
If you try to just ignore Inner Critics they tend to come back louder, larger and more disruptive, determined to do their best to "protect" you. Instead, talk with your Inner Critic using the following 3-step process to minimize their interruptions and, over time, to even transform them into a true helper.
Choose one Inner Critic, maybe the one that is most active in your mind right now, and visualize them entering the room and sitting across from you.
Ask this Critic to tell you its concerns and complaints and calmly write them down. Ask clarifying questions as needed. It’s important to actually write out the list on paper, to get the conversation out of your head. By doing this, you’ll have already begun to transform your relationship with this Critic.
Take a few slow, deep breaths. Invite the wisest part of you to come forward and help you reframe the list. Calmly and purposefully respond to each item with an affirming statement. This is not about arguing with your Inner Critic (that will only keep you stuck in a power struggle). The intent is to lovingly but firmly take charge and state what is true and right for you.
For example, your Critic’s complaint may be: Your writing life is pathetic. You keep repeating the same mistakes and you never _____________.
Your reframing could be: Actually, my writing life is pretty good. I’m proud of _______ . I’ve made mistakes and I’ve also realized that mistakes are part of the creative process. As long as I keep showing up with my generous heart I am making progress. I’m inspired to give less time to fears and worries and more time to self-love and awareness, so I can feel more creative more often.
Be aware that Inner Critics are persistent and will sneak back, and subtly change their messages to slip through your new, more loving self-talk. Keep transforming these misguided protectors using these 3 practices — naming, thanking and talking with them.
Let them know you are now in charge and that they don’t need to work so hard. And then you will feel free to write more creatively, joyfully and abundantly!
PS - Enjoy the insights included above? If so, you're invited to download SARK and Dr. Scott Mills' free hour-long audio, Freeing Your Writing Voice: