We grow up with inner critics whispering in our heads, dropping not-so-subtle hints that we aren’t perfect. This blasted critic thrives on fear. So how does one tame that voice, slay that Debbie Downer that likes to taunt us? First, you must decide which type of critic you have.
Is your critic a…
Ruler-Wielding Schoolmarm: She believes you can be perfect. She has no qualms about making you redo that shizzle ONE MORE FREAKIN’ TIME. And if you don’t? There will be hell to pay in the form of bloody knuckles. Her standards are so high that only once in a school year can you reach her pinnacle of greatness—a smile and a nod and then BACK ON THE HORSE. Her favorite form of criticism: delivering a long list of “what if” situations as consequences that make you sweat, i.e. what if this book sucks, what if I never get an agent, what if it never sells, what if I don’t have a career in publishing because I’m a big fat poser.
Ball-Busting Bully: She thinks you suck at everything. She doesn’t care if you’ve reworked your novel to seeming perfection—you still have fat thighs, I mean fatty prose, in need of trimming. She will suck your positive energy dry until one day, your writing machine grinds to a halt. That’s her ultimate goal. To make sure you know that you aren’t good enough and never will be. Standards don’t matter. There are none. Her favorite form of criticism: to prey upon any weakness, no matter how small.
Ego-Stroking Princess: She canoodles you. Is that a word? Who cares! You must be on to some amazing break through because she knows deep down you are better than everyone else. So she pushes you to send that manuscript out with the 1812 Overture smashing in your head. Before it’s ready (you find out later). Standards? She sets them for you AND EVERYONE ELSE, because her bar is just…well, hers and it’s the best. Her favorite form of criticism: blaming everyone else when your manuscript doesn’t sell. Your crit partner should have caught that, those eds/agents just don’t get your work, they don’t have good taste. You’ll show them!
Yogi Zen-Meister: She makes you take a deep breath. Then relax into a sun salutation and channel that karmic flow into your fingers. She believes you can write whatever you like, as long as you find your center. She is at peace because she knows you can’t control much. Her standards are all about trusting yourself and the secrets of the universe. Her favorite form of criticism: you’re too stressed/anxious/self-indulged to find your rhythm.
(I, for one, kind of want to punch the Yogi Zen-Meister in the face. Still, I do aspire to a more flowy way of looking at writing, of looking at life.)
Taming the Beast Within
No matter what type of inner critic you have, there’s a time to silence it and a time to feed it. When the negativity gets too loud, exercise until your legs fall off, write senseless psycho babble in a journal, stuff your face with marshmallows, crowd your brain with Scandal episodes. Whatever you do, just TURN IT OFF for awhile. Come back to your work the next day with sass and an attitude. Throw that critic in detention, because let’s face it. You’ve got shit to do, books to write, and dominions to conquer. Ain’t nobody got time for all that negativity, and YOU are going places, regardless of the voices.
What type of inner critic do you have?