More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cutting the Inner Critic Down to Size

It happens to a lot of writers. We sit down to write with the best of intentions. Then about two sentences into our story, the inner critic pops into our brain. He announces, “That sucks canal water backwards.”

We try to ignore him, and we get about another sentence done before he chimes in with, “You’re using the wrong tense, and that comma’s in the wrong place.”

We struggle on, but a paragraph later he’s back, telling us, “You just used a cliché. No one’s ever going to buy this crap.”

At this point, even if we’re still trying to put up a fight, we may find that our muse has packed her bags and gone off to find a safe place to hide.

What’s a writer to do?

One option that’s worked for me is using creative visualization exercises. Here are a couple I like:

Exercise 1:

Picture your critic. Mine looks like Snidely Whiplash, the mustache-twirling villain from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons (therefore, I use male pronouns).

Shrink him down to a teeny-tiny size, as small as the importance he deserves in your life while you’re trying to create.

Stick him in a see-through but soundproof container. I like a nice orange plexiglass cube.

Watch him jump up and down with frustration because he knows YOU CAN’T HEAR HIM!

Pick up the container and stick it out of sight, in a room other that the one where you’re writing – I’m partial to a shelf in the hall closet. You can go back and get him when you need him, during revisions.

Exercise 2:

Figure out where in your body the critic is hiding in. You’ll know because that’s where you feel the tension.

Rip him right out of that body part. See the hole immediately close, and feel no pain.

Drop the critic on the floor or other flat surface.

Levitate an unabridged dictionary from the bookcase until it’s hovering directly over his head.

Drop the dictionary on top of him.

Many thanks to former ghost writer for Kermit the Frog and current sherpa life coach Regina Verow (, who taught me these exercises for taming the inner critic. As is the Friday afternoon custom here in Diva land, I raise my chocolate martini glass to you!


Robin said...

Gail, Thank you for the visual ;-]

Just a few days ago, Deb Blake and I were talking about that inner critic interfering with helping critique others work, as well. sometimes, we just want a READER, someone who will tell us if the plot flows well and ignore all the grammatical crap. As a recovering English major, I have yet to shut my critic up. I'm working on fitting him with a muzzle, and perhaps a glass of wine can charm him a bit.

Saranna DeWylde said...

Robin, I know what you mean. I know when I suck as far as grammar and whatnot. Eventually, I'll get to it. A lot of the times, I need to hear if the scene flows, if I'm wandering around like a drunk camel, or what's going on.

I love your ideas, Gail. They're right on!

Liane Gentry Skye said...

Ha, truer words were never spoken. Fantastic post, I think I missed it while I was nursing my aching fingers. :)

My inner critic paralyzes me sometimes, and Muse Struck was actually my exercise in shooting the witch in the foot. So far, I like the results, although Muse is a far lighter manuscript than any other I've ever written.

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