Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That. You, Dear Writer, Are Going Places

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?

Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

21 Replies to “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That. You, Dear Writer, Are Going Places”

  1. I suppose mine is the bully. She has me cowering in the corner often lately, taunting me about how I’m not good enough, my work’s not pretty enough, and no one will ever like me. Yeah, definitely the bully. Don’t worry, I’ll tune her out soon.

  2. I’ve been following this blog for a few weeks now, but have never posted. All of you ladies are awesome. Thank you for sharing your journeys with us.

    I think my inner critic must have split personalities. Some days she is the bully. She glares at me and threatens me with bodily harm for continuing to write. If I don’t stand up to her, she punches me in the gut and deletes my work. She can get down right mean. The next day she tries to befriend me and tells me to take a deep breath and not worry about writing. She wants me to go outside and breath in the fresh morning mountain air. She whispers that everything will work out magically. Then, a few hours later she yells at me because because my writing sucks and I should have been writing instead of taking a breather. Geez, this multi-personality monster can’t make up her damn mind and because of that I realize that she is weak. She really doesn’t know any better than me. She is afraid.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Andrea! 🙂 We love to hear about your processes,too.

      I feel your pain on the critic with the personality disorder. Mine is mostly a schoolmarm, but I do have moments of the yogi–thank goodness, or I’d never have any peace!

  3. I wish I had the zen-yogi inside me more of the time! The funny thing about that inner critic is that it pops up when I’m already doing well. When I’m under stress, I’ve got a combo schoolmarm/bully on my hands. Funny (so not funny) how that works.

  4. Schoolmarm? Oh, yeah. She rules. Terrorizes me. The only thing that keeps her even slightly at bay? Word sprints, NaNoWriMo, Book in a Week. Any kind of “write as fast as you can without stopping” maneuvers. This is because I KNOW (thanks to Schoolmarm) I’ll be redoing it anyway, so might as well throw some crap down on the paper–er, the screen. I have to use those “permission to suck” high-speed lanes or I’ll stay paralyzed rewriting the first paragraph over and over and over….

  5. Ball-busting bully.

    “Shut up. I know I should write more. Yes, I know I should include links to all my books. Give it a rest. Okay, so I don’t know the difference between affect and effect, but I can tune you out. Stop laughing. I will. Get up off the floor. There, I’m shutting my mind. I can’t hear you. Nope. I’m hitting send. Oh, you dare me? Just watch this.

  6. I am afflicted with the Schoolmarm. Nothing is ever good enough, and the world is constantly tossing and turning with what-ifs. How I’d love to have that Yogi Zen-Meister instead! Great post, Heather.

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