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.

 

 

 

 

Embrace Your Full Throttle Creative Life
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What do you do when everything falls apart? That time in your life when you lose your career, your house, your sense of purpose and your self esteem?

If you’re Matt Buchman, you hop on a bicycle and head out on a round-the-world bicycle trip. And then, somewhere along the way, you get a book idea and you start to write and your first novel is born.

Matt joined me on Creativity Quest to talk about all of this - along with the creative openness that led him into writing a wide variety of genres, from Sci Fi to thriller to romantic suspense to straight up romance with a few other side trips along the way. You know that thing wise publishing people say about picking one genre and sticking with it? Matt is evidence that you can follow your creativity wherever it wants to go and be successful - he has 60 books in print and is a full time writer.

Also? Quilting. Who would have guessed, right? But it’s on the list of his creative outlets.

It’s taken Matt over twenty years to get to the place where he felt he could properly tell the story of that fateful bicycle adventure, but you can now pre-order Mid-Life Crisis on Wheels. Also watch for his thriller, Drone, coming soon.

Listen to the podcast below or at any of the following podcast outlets:

Scratch and Sniff Inspiration: a conversation with Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor
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The most awesome thing about hosting a podcast is that I get to hang out with my guests and talk about creativity and writing. And one of the primary things I brought away from my conversation with Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor is that I need to write books that require really fun research.

And I mean really fun, as in hanging out on the Cote d’Azur, visiting French parfumeries, and even taking perfume making classes! Clearly I write the wrong kinds of books. Research for Everything You Are took me to Seattle, where I got lost (briefly), sampled many different coffee roasts, explored the lobby of a hospital, and took a long walk in a park. All of this was fun, but not like hanging out in France and learning how to make perfume.

Of course, writing historical fiction requires a lot more research than I usually get into, and both Heather and Hazel are meticulous and professional about the research they do for their books, so immersion on location is necessary. In this case, with Meet Me in Monaco, a novel that unfolds around the events of the marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco, the decision to structure the book around a special fragrance designed for Grace by a struggling perfume maker is nothing short of brilliant.

As a side note, the quest of the character Marie to create an exquisite perfume that will not only fulfill her personal desire for the ultimate fragrance but also save her floundering business reminds me very much of how it can feel to be an author. For Marie, inspiration often comes from the scent of everyday things: a leather jacket, tobacco, a field of flowers.

Smell may be the most powerful of all the senses for evoking memory and emotion, and the use of fragrance in Meet Me in Monaco has served the book well, eliciting endorsements like this one, from Kate Quinn, NYT bestselling author of The Alice Network:

A fragrant French bonbon of a book: love, glamour, perfume, and paparazzi all circling around the wedding of the century...”

We joked about the book being born of “scratch and sniff inspiration,” which I honestly think we all could benefit from. Next time I’m stuck in my writing, I’m going to go on a sensory tour just smelling things and see what happens!

You can listen to our conversation on my Creativity Quest podcast at any of the links below. If your favorite podcast app isn’t included, do a search - chances are good you can find and follow Creativity Quest on your favorite podcast site.

Enjoy!

You Can Re-write the Story of Your Life
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Even if you’re a writer, it may have escaped your notice that writing can completely change your life. And I’m not talking about writing that runaway bestseller that earns you a gazillion bucks and a blockbuster movie (although how cool would that be?)

I’m talking about writing to build healthy relationships, improve your physical or mental health, maybe even become a better human being and figure out who you are as a human on this planet.

Meet my friend Lara Zielin. A few years back, she experienced a personal and professional crisis that sent her reeling, but then she got this big ah-ha moment and realized writing could help her find her way again. Within a year of that realization, her life and heart had been transformed, all because she’d put pen to paper.

You can read the book she wrote about that journey, Author Your Life, right here among other places.

Lara loves this work so much she has put together a FREE online summit called Author Your Life: How to Use Writing to Kick Fear in the Teeth, Send Obstacles Packing, and Create the Life You Want.

I’m honored, humbled, and super excited that Lara invited me to be part of the summit, along with 20 other experts, to discuss the power of writing to change everything.

In the summit, I’ll be on my soapbox demolishing the myth that creativity and writing are frivolous. Writers need to write! Even if you don’t think of yourself as “a writer” or “a creative” it can still be an amazing, heart-healing power in your life.

You can join this free event by registering right here: www.authoryourlifenow.live

And when you do, you’ll hear incredible experts using writing to unleash change as well as practical how-to advice so you can put this into practice yourself. This includes how to use writing to:

• Silence your inner critic
• Face fear and get un-stuck
• Connect to your community
• Embrace and high-five your authentic self
• Change the story you tell yourself about work

And much more!

Register now if you’re ready to grab a pen (or a crayon or whatever) and get your breakthrough. www.authoryourlifenow.live

The Healing Power of the Creative Arts: an interview with Deborah Tobola
He writes because it is the only thing he can do

when all around him others do too much or too little.

He writes because, whether he knows it or not,

he is in dialogue with God, translating the aching world,

making sense of things too terrible or beautiful

to believe, serving them up for others to take in,

word by word.

— Deborah Tobola, from To a Poet in Prison
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I’ve been making sense of the world through story ever since I was a child, first through the books I read, and then through the poetry and the stories I wrote.

All through my adolescent years and the betrayals and growing pains of high school, during the harsh realities of life and death I first encountered in nursing school, and especially in the wake of my father’s early death and the tragic death of my first husband, writing was my salvation and my lifeline.

Deborah Tobola has lived her life around this belief, taking poetry and drama and music into the dark space of a men’s prison. As we discussed during our interview, art gave these men a voice where they had been silenced. It humanized them in a system built to punish and dehumanize.

Her memoir, Hummingbird in Underworld, recounts the life events that led to her work in prisons, intermingled with stories of the work that she did there and the men whose lives she touched.

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Alternating between tales of creating drama in prison and Tobola’s own story, Hummingbird in Underworld takes readers on an unforgettable literary journey—one that is frank, funny, and fascinating.

Listen to the podcast below, at the following links, or find it on your favorite podcast app.

Soundcloud

Apple podcast

Anchor FM