Silencing your inner critic

With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to make excuses not to write. There’s shopping to be done  for Christmas and Hanukkah presents, trees to be decorated, cards to be mailed and office chocolates to be eaten. But wrapping presents at the last minute isn’t the real reason I’m not working on my novel right now. Instead it’s a nagging voice I know all too well. My inner critic.

This voice inside my head is trying to stop me from creating. I’m nearly three-quarters into my novel, but all of a sudden the critic has started whispering in my ear. She says things like, “Everything you write is crap. Who wants to read this anyway?”

It doesn’t seem logical. I’m almost there,  past the halfway mark. But having reached the “crisis” stage, I feel like I can’t move forward. What if the high energy crisis scene is ridiculous,  melodramatic or poorly written? What if the climax is even worse? My inner critic has convinced me when I sit down to pitch my novel at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, agents are going to laugh.

I’m still reading The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, using it as a tool on my writing journey. Martha writes, “Writers typically reach a crisis point about three-quarters of the way through writing a novel, memoir or screenplay…you feel ready to cry and throw up your hands. Deep creases on either side of your mouth sag all the way down to your chin.”

Normally these excerpts from the book comparing the writer’s life to the protagonist’s life cause me to roll my eyes, because I think it’s a bunch of baloney. But Martha may be onto something. In the past two days, I’ve gotten the stomach flu (resulting in 5 hours of non-stop vomiting) and received a medical bill higher than my monthly salary, not covered by my insurance. Blue Shield is definitely the Grinch who stole Christmas.

It feels easy to go into a tailspin, plummeting towards depression. But Martha has a few words of encouragement. She writes, “A story is about the protagonist reclaiming her own personal power. The same thing applies to you on your writer’s journey…Know your part in the breakdown and you will see it in your story, too. Take back your power.”

My inner critic tells me I don’t blog often enough, my story isn’t good enough and I should have read the fine print of my insurance plan. I’m trying to shut that voice out. Right now I need support more than ever. I’m lucky to have loving friends and family, a cat who snuggles with me when I’m sick, and a goal worth pursuing.

Granted, accomplishing this goal won’t be easy-but life never is. Rather than becoming a victim and giving up, I will continue moving forward. And the only way to do that is to tell my inner critic to  be quiet. I know this won’t happen right away. But I’m hoping with some practice, that nagging voice will be barely audible.

Let’s hope this weekend I can drown it out with some Christmas carols. Happy Holidays!


11 thoughts on “Silencing your inner critic

  1. Why is it that this wily gremlin always pops his ugly little head up, just when the going gets GOOD? It’s true, the inner critic is a constant companion of most creative people. No matter how many post it notes you put on the bathroom mirror –remember? The Saturday Night Live character, Jack Handy ( Deep thoughts– “I’m strong, I’m smart, I’m beautiful, and I LOVE myself!” ) there is always that nagging feeling that the critic speaks the TRUTH.


    Turning the critic into an ally is not the easiest trick in the book. Some people can tame their inner gremlin by acknowledging the critic as an annoying, pesky, Harry Potteresque creature. They shout back, boldly, “Thank you for sharing, but your opinion of me is none of my business!”

    Martha Beck, life coach and author of Steering by Starlight refers to the critic as our “inner reptile.” It’s the lower mind that wants to drag us into feeling lack and limitation.

    Those of a spiritual bent tell us that “every thought is an affirmation.” So don’t plant more bad thoughts than good ones. Well, OK, perfection IS the enemy of the good. But, does that mean when my inner critic is having a field day tearing me down, I am planting seeds of destruction for every creative next step? You get the picture, suddenly life turns to that proverbial doo-doo. The critic wins gleefully pointing out that you can’t even produce positive affirmations for yourself, so what makes you think you can write a novel.

    Power on Meredith! You’re more than two thirds done with your 2nd novel. Kick that critic in the butt and know your truth… You’re strong! You’re smart! You’re practicing your craft! And nothing’s gonna get in your way. Not even the stomach flu.

  2. “Rather than becoming a victim and giving up, I will continue moving forward.”
    YES!! I know you can do it! That stupid inner critic is just giving you a bad time. Just say, “Nice try, but I am currently accepting only positive self-messages. Good bye.”
    Go, Mere! You are awesome :)

  3. Lots of people are interested in what you have to say. We read this blog, don’t we? You’re not a famous author (yet), but you are an author and you do have fans. Good luck finishing!

  4. Been there! My inner critic NEVER shuts up, and does more damage to my ego than any agent or beta reader could ever. The good thing to know is that we ALL go through this. We all have moments when we don’t feel good enough or we feel we’re not working hard enough. Just know we’re all on the sidelines rooting for you! :o)

    I hope you have a very Merry Christmas! :o)

    1. Hi Angela! So glad you can commiserate, it makes me feel less crazy. (though of course I wish none of us had an inner critic!) I hope you have a Merry Christmas too. I’m going to try to get back on track this weekend :)

  5. Saw you over on Twitter – I’m glad I came to check out your blog. I’m at the same place in my novel and can relate to your feelings. It was nice to hear someone else express similar emotions.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I think it’s natural for writers to let the inner critic take over. The challenge is tuning the voice out and getting back to work. I’ve done some more writing since this post, so I feel a little better. But it is comforting to know we have similar emotions :)

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