Posts tagged writing
Writer Mindset: End the War with Your Inner Critic

Inner critic. Personal demon. Shadow. Dark side.

Whether you use one of these terms for your negative self talk or just call the problem Fred, if you’re a writer then you know all about that nagging, negative, pervasive, and sometimes downright toxic – thing – that tries to get in the way of our writing.

The inner critic is one of the most difficult problems writers face. That negative inner commentary takes a tremendous toll on our creativity, our productivity, and even the quality of our work. It leads us into procrastination. It creates avoidance and contributes to burn out. It steals our love for writing and fills us with misery and self-loathing. Under its influence some of us stop writing or never even get started in the first place.

Given the monstrousness of its behavior and the extent to which it harms us, maybe it’s not surprising that we talk about this common creative problem as though it were something separate from us, something alien and “other.”

When we come face-to-face with our darker side, we use metaphors to describe these shadow encounters: meeting our demons, wrestling with the devil, descent to the underworld, dark night of the soul...
— ~Connie Zweig, Meeting the Shadow

Using a metaphor offers a degree of separation that allows us to engage in ongoing warfare without ever fully assuming responsibility . It also ensures that we can never win. Because here’s the thing, people:

My inner critic, demon, shadow, whatever, is absolutely and indubitably part of me. And yours is part of you. Which means we are waging war with ourselves.

This cannot end well. In fact, as long as we live, it cannot end at all. And yet, below is a small sampling of the popular advice on offer for dealing with the inner critic problem.

Four Ways to Overcome Your Inner Critic

How to Stand up to Your Inner Critic.

Taming Your Inner Critic

Five immediate and easy ways to silence your inner critic.

These are all from page one of a Google search for “inner critic,” and they are all high-powered, informed, intelligent sites, including Psychology Today and TED Talks.

I have to confess that I’ve spent the last few years using similar language when talking about the critic. I’m sorry about that. And I’m out to repair the damage.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe. if you try to silence, tame, or overcome your inner critic, you are silencing, taming, or overcoming a part of yourself. Maybe it’s not the best and brightest and most lovable part of you, but who can blame it? It’s unheard, invalidated, unloved, and it’s naturally gotten a little ugly and muddied up because of that.

Psychologist Carl Jung theorized that we all have a shadow self which contains the unconscious parts of our personality that we do not want to own, usually because they are unsavory and unpleasant and we don’t want to acknowledge that we contain this darkness. Because these pieces of us are unconscious and untended, they can create all kinds of havoc in our lives. 

But it’s not only the ugly stuff that gets stuffed away into the shadow: 

...the shadow contains not just destructive aspects of the personality, but also potent, creative, and powerful capabilities. During our development certain traits and impulses were condemned by our family, peers, and educators, not out of care but out of envy, fear, ignorance or jealousy. Our proclivity to abide by social expectations also caused us to repress talents, innate abilities, and impulses which if cultivated and developed had the potential to make us more effective beings in the world.
— Carl Jung and the Shadow: the hidden power of our dark side

Our toxic, negative self talk has its roots in our childhood and early creative lives. It continues to live on because we believe the lies that we were told, and because we have unhealed wounds that continue to fester. We live in a condition akin to Stockholm syndrome, where we have internalized the words of those who want to keep us small and captive.

Dark, yes?

But stay with me, because there is hope – so much bright, beautiful, wonderful hope.

Jung believed that by embracing our shadow we can we become our best, brightest, and fully realized selves.

And I believe this is how we resolve the problem of the inner critic, by learning to dance with our demons. When we heal our writer wounds, transform our negative, toxic self talk into positive, encouraging messages, and forgive the people and events that created those wounds in the first place, we can reclaim a valuable and powerful part of our creative selves instead of wasting our energy fighting against it.

This frees up so much abundant, creative energy and joy so we can get to our writing and other creative work unhindered and actually aided by a helpful, thoughtful, critic that serves rather than impeding our progress.

Stay tuned for more posts on DIY inner critic transformation, or join me for my brand new Dancing with Your Demons: Transforming Writer Wounds class starting September 26.





Clear and Create - an amazing 2019 starts here
Clear & Create with Kerry Schafer

As we roll into the last month of 2018 -

  • are you filled with excitement and a sense of accomplishment over what you’ve accomplished last year?

  • are you ready to rock on forward into 2019, full of trust and enthusiasm and clarity about what you want to create in the world?


Let’s do it different in 2019

Don’t wait until January to start thinking about what you want to do in the new year.

Get clear on your intentions now.

I want to give you a gift:

A space of focused time to celebrate the wins of 2018, clear the losses, and get focused on what you want to create in 2019.

Why should you do this?

You may have noticed that the world is a little crazy right now. And this means creative people are needed, now more than ever. You’ve been given a gift, and you can use it to make yourself happier and the world a little better.

Despair, procrastination, and the other things that keep you from your creative work serve no one.

This is FREE - my gift to you.

Join me on December 13, 4 pm PST. It will cost you only your time and you’ll have a whole head start on creating the 2019 you dream of.

Write at Your Edge - The Art of Setting a Motivating Goal

I've been thinking a lot about goals lately, for a lot of different reasons.

For one thing, I'm taking a look at my own goals right now, because when I quit my day job a couple of weeks ago I told myself that I had a year to build a self sustaining writing and coaching business. And now that I'm lucky enough to get to do writing and coaching every day, all day, I'm so incredibly in love with life and I want to keep doing this FOREVER. Literally. If you're hoarding some secret elixir of life somewhere, I really need to get some from you because I need about another hundred years to do all of the things I want to do.

I'm taking a class right now that asks us to create what they call a BHAG - which stands for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. I have (naturally) flipped this to B-HAWGs - which stands for Big, Hairy-Ass Writing Goals. They feel a bit like being mooned by a troll. Or, maybe more like this:

Yes, you can conquer this hairy beast!

Yes, you can conquer this hairy beast!

One caution before we proceed. B-HAWGS and B-HAGS need to be treated with finesse and caution. If they are too big and too hairy, they can immerse us in overwhelm, fear, avoidance, and procrastination. But if they are too tiny, then we can just lie around on the couch with a drink in one hand, muttering, "I can squash you like a bug, any old time I want."

With that understood, let me ask you a question. Do you have a creative goal? Is it well-defined and time limited? Does it give you a little buzz of adrenaline when you think about it?

Here's a hint: if your goal has got the word "someday" in it, it's not a BHAG or a B-HAWG or really even a goal - it's just a wish.

These tend to sound like this:

Someday I'll write my novel.
Someday I'll quit my day job.
Someday I'll lose weight.
Someday I'll learn how to make candles
Someday I'll call my mother. (This one is for me, because I've been forgetting for like three days now and maybe I need to actually put it in my planner.)
I've got a book in me, somewhere...

If you are a nebulous goal setter, I challenge you to set yourself a real goal. Make it one that raises your blood pressure a little bit. Give it a timeline. Write it on a calendar. Say it out loud.

BUT - be careful not to make your goal TOO hairy.

Once you have a good, real, adrenaline inducing goal, fear might kick in. I maintain that a teeny tiny little bit of fear is motivating. But too much fear drives us into overwhelm and fear paralysis. So if you're stuck or blocked and you DO have a goal, take a minute to see if that needs to be tweaked.

Is it realistic? Are you being fair to yourself? Are you making allowances for other things going on in your life?

Maybe you've got a chronic illness or you have a change in your living situation and you can't accomplish as much right now as you used to be able to, or as you might be able to do a few months from now. Consider adjusting your goal to reflect what is realistically possible for you.

HINT: This changes with health, grief, family circumstances, and the weather. It's okay to tweak a goal when the situations change. As my good friend Wes used to say: "Drive as fast as the road conditions allow, always remembering that you are part of the road conditions."

What are YOUR road conditions? If you're in a place where it's foggy or snowing or the road is washed out, then you need to rethink the timing of your destination.

There's an art to setting a good creative goal - finding the edge that motivates you without shutting you down.

Listen to the podcast version here: Creativity Quest with Kerry Schafer, part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network

If you are a writer, and you want a B-HAWG of your own, I'd love to have you join an exclusive group for writers with serious, BHAWG goals for 2019: Write At Your Edge. (If you don't have a big scary goal yet but you want one, I can totally help with that! Email me to set up a goal setting coaching session, or wait and take the goal setting class I'm going to offer in January.)

Write at Your Edge offers support from me and other writers, weekly write ins, a monthly writer group, discounts to classes I'll be offering and more. Join Before January 1 to get the Intrepid Writer discounted rate and a special journal to help you on the way.

Self Talk Radio: How the Inner Critic holds us back

The inner critic.
Being hard on yourself.
Maybe even "being a realist."

Whatever you call it, negative self talk is a prevalent behavior that's been coming up a lot lately with writer friends, coaching clients, and even popped up as an issue of concern on a podcast I was listening to yesterday.

I'm going to guess that it affects you too. I know it certainly affects me. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could be our own best cheerleaders, encouragers, and motivators, rather than our biggest critics and demoralizers? Imagine how many creative risks we might take, how many new things we might explore, how much more good we might do in the world?

The first step to solving any problem is understanding it, so let's tune in to Self Talk Radio KERRY, a station that is playing continually in the background of my consciousness, usually without my awareness, and see what's playing.

(NOTE: When I wrote the first draft of this I included stuff other people have said and kinda made stuff up. This is the honest transcript, because I want you to know that whatever is going on in YOUR head, you are not alone.)

What makes you think you can pull this self employed thing off? You'll be crawling back to the day job before a year is up.
Getting a little big for our britches, aren't we?
Maybe you used to be able to write, but you certainly can't write now. Nobody is going to read this shit.
I don't know what you were thinking to start this podcasting project, because you know you'll just get bored and drop it and nobody will ever listen anyway. All full of ideas, but you never finish anything.
You know you're going to fail, so why bother to start...

Yikes. Okay. That was helpful.... NOT.

Know this. If your private self talk station sounds anything like this, you are not alone. Pretty much everybody I know deals with this type of self criticism on a regular basis.

Recently, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise with Cruising Writers, hosted and run by Christina Delay, my business partner for Creative Wellness Retreats. I facilitated a group for the writers on the cruise about our inner critics that turned out to be surprisingly powerful, even for me. We all took a few minutes to download the negative self talk going on in our brains (something I'm going to invite you to do in just a few minutes.)

One of the writers stopped writing, looked up at me, and said, "This is so mean."

Well, yes. It is mean. And it got meaner.

Because the next thing I asked them to do was to choose one of those things they were saying to themselves, and then deliver that line to somebody else in the group. There were actual tears, here, my friends. Not from the person the line was delivered to, but from the deliverer. Things they had been saying to themselves unconsciously for years made them cry when said out loud to another human being.

I would never look at another human being on a journey and say, "You're totally going to fail at this," or "Your writing sucks, dude."

This isn't being a realist. It isn't tough love. It's mean and hurtful and not helpful.

Imagine the damage done by having this kind of toxic garbage playing in your subconscious day in and day out, year after year after year.

Now, are you ready for the good news?

You can change it! You can convert the Self Talk Channel into a motivational channel that will encourage and inspire you rather than dragging you down. I'm going to give you the steps of a simple practice, drawn from Kaizen-Muse coaching, that you can implement to start this transformation.

1. Awareness. Start tuning in to that negative voice so you know what it's saying. Much of its power comes from the way it runs in the background, influencing you while you're busy doing other things. Take five minutes to free write the critical messages. Don't stop to think or analyze, just scribble them down.

2. Draw a big heart around them. Write a message like, "This is normal, I accept that everybody does this." Or, "I am not alone with this." Or, "Thank you for sharing." (Do this step, even if you want to skip it. It's important. It takes some of the energy away from the critic.)

3. Reframe. Look at those things you've written down and see how you might turn them into encouraging messages. Imagine you are delivering them to a friend you love and believe in. What might you say then?

Try focusing on a positive aspect. For example, I'm converting "You know you're going to fail, why bother to start?" into "You're awesome for starting this project. I love your energy and enthusiasm!" That feels so much better. It gives me energy to keep going, rather than fulfilling an expectation of failure.

Or, reframe the negative into a positive question. Like this:

"Nobody is going to read this shit," becomes "What if this grows into an awesome book and my readers love it?"

Again, this question makes me want to keep going. To keep writing. It gives me permission to grow the book, to develop it into something good even if it isn't awesome yet.

4. Say nice things to the woman or man in the mirror. I got this one from the podcast I was listening to yesterday - LOA Recon with Jeannette Maw. What you do is say nice things to yourself, every day (or as many days as you remember - no beating yourself up for missing!) while looking in the mirror. I think Jeannette mentioned a magic number to aim for - like 40 days, or something - but anything you do will help.

One important rule: You don't get to beat yourself up for your negative self talk.

A funny thing happens when we start in to change this pattern. We start beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up, in an ongoing endless cycle. Funny how we're like that, right?

It's taken a lifetime to develop this pattern, so don't be surprised if it takes some time to shift it. Hey, if you’re reading this, you've already taken the first step! Now, where can you find a few minutes to do the exercise?

I do have some more resources for you to take this work deeper. I made a little video, and my 2nd episode of the Creativity Quest podcast with Authors on the Air Global Radio Network is on this topic and will be up later today. If you missed the very first episode, on Becoming the Fear Whisperer, you can listen to that here.

I'm also offering coaching calls where we can work together to create an individualized plan for transforming your self talk radio station into positive motivation.

Reprogramming this one thing makes such a powerful difference, my friend. Undertaking this work is one of the most important steps you can take toward being your best, most creative self--which in turn makes the world a better place for all of us.

Happy Creating!