Internal Critic

I think everyone has an internal critic; the little voice in your head telling you you're not good enough. That you're wasting your time. That you're worthless or hopeless or useless or that you'll never make it.

We all KNOW that we can't trust that voice.  But KNOWING and FEELING are two very different things and it's awfully difficult to push that voice aside when it gets insistent - which is usually just about the point when we need the most strength to make it through failures or setbacks in our goals.

And I'm not just talking about writing here. Any time I try to do something that I might possibly fail at, BAM! There's my internal critic, ready with a list of reasons why I shouldn't even bother trying.

Containment

I don't want to silence that critic completely. It is, at least somewhat, a voice of reason. A voice of possibilities and a warning of danger. I don't want to discount any wisdom behind that voice.

However, I don't want to cower in fear before it, either. I want to listen, calmly and reasonably, to what it has to say and then make my OWN decisions about what I want to do.

That same voice that tells me I should just give up on writing altogether if I'm going to write so many adverbs is akin to the voice that tells me jumping out of a plane is probably not the safest vacation I could choose.

I want to CONTROL and MANAGE the voice, not squish it like a bug. (Full disclosure: sometimes I want to squish it like a bug.)

Tool

This isn't my tool. Though I practiced a version of it before reading this blog post over at The Blood-Red Pencil (great writing blog, by the way), it never really CLICKED for me until I read it there.

Visualization.

1) Voice

Try this. Call up your inner critic in your mind's eye. Go ahead, close your eyes and just listen for a minute.  If you're anything like me, you have more trouble shutting the voice up than you do getting it to speak.

Can you hear it? Good.

Is it a male or female voice?

Interestingly enough, the gender of the person doesn't seem to affect the gender of the critic. One friend was actually really surprised to find that she heard her critic as male - she'd never really tried to visualize the voice before.

2) Appearance

Now that you've got the gender down, close your eyes and try to SEE the critic.

This one may take a while. The more detailed the mental image you can create of your critic, the more useful this exercise is.

Got that far? Awesome! The original post suggested that the critic might be human, inhuman, a column of smoke - really, anything. Don't try to force a single image - just let the voice talk and try to imagine what the speaker looks like.

My visualization is nothing like that of the original poster, but I found it fascinating to read the description of her critic.

3) Name

Okay, now can you NAME that critic? (I'll admit, I haven't reached this point, myself yet, but I'm working on it)

4) Introductions

Say hello to your critic for me.  Say hello for yourself, while you're at it. You are sort of meeting for the first time.

Do you LIKE your critic? Are they the kind of person you'd ask for advice, or take seriously? Are they goofy? Just plain mean? Hateful?

5) Maintenance

Every time you hear that voice, imagine your mental image of your critic saying those same things.

Makes it a little easier to separate the logic from the emotional impact of their words, doesn't it?

I'm going to follow the suggestion of the original poster at Blood-Red Pencil and write a few short stories about my critic once I've developed their character. I want to suck all that unwarranted power out of their voice. I'll still listen, but it's not some faceless shadowy voice any more.

How About You?

I'm too old to have monsters in my closet or unknown beasties under my bed.

Anyone else want to grab a flashlight and shine a light on your critics?