Top 5 Ways to Embrace Your Inner Critic (and Stay Smiling)

christina esdon author photo~ By Christina Esdon

Over the past few weeks I’ve read some wonderful novels. The writing was lyrical, the plots engaging, the dialogue sparkling. Once I turned the last page. I was heartbroken. Not only because the book was done, but because I knew my writing stunk like rotting bananas compared to their stylized masterpieces. I stomped over to my computer and hovered my cursor over the “delete” button. With writers like Kristan Higgins, Sarah Jio, Sarah Addison Allen, Jill Shalvis, and Nora Roberts creating wonderful book, why should I even bother?

Don’t you love that Inner Critic? That Nattering Ninny that lives in your head and tells you not only does your writing suck, but your belly is too jiggly, and the cookie dough ice cream you had before bed? Stupid idea, dumb-dumb.

Inner critics can be harsh, they can keep us from living out our dreams. I don’t know about you, but writing is my dream. So what should we do? Get out our torches and go after the Beast? Banish the bully? Vote her off the island of Psyche? In the long run, that isn’t helpful. Instead, here are some ways to embrace your Inner Critic without sacrificing your innermost desires.

  1. Chat with your inner critic. Even the meanest bullies in school are bullies for a reason. What’s the job of your Inner Critic? Is it to protect you from failure? To keep you from being happy? To remind you to keep your expectations in check? How old does your Inner Critic feel? This is not a thinking exercise. Drop down into the feeling. Is the critic a scared little toddler? An insolent teen? Knowing your Inner Critic’s point of reference is important.
  2. Show some compassion. Our Inner Critics are there for a reason. They’re doing a job. We may not like it, but that Inner Critic is just doing what she knows how to do from past experience. If you had times in the past when you felt not good enough for any reason, that Inner Critic might have swooped in to make sure that didn’t happen again. So thank your Inner Critic for doing its job. It mustn’t be easy to have to be protector for all new and scary things.
  3. Compromise. What does your Inner Critic need in order to let you carry out your dreams? Sometimes having a plan, or knowing that there are outside supports in place (courses, critique partners, friends, family) in case you feel overwhelmed will calm down the Whining Wendy in your mind.
  4. Be kind. Nobody’s perfect. There will be times when you are overwhelmed, times when you’ll forget the plan, and that Inner Critic will be having a hissy fit about your current attempt to write your first book – oh no, not just one book on your first attempt – a whole damn series! (why, oh why, did I do that?) Be kind to yourself. Even the best writers had to start somewhere. With every mistake you make, you learn. Every critique, every contest entered, every course you take, you learn. (That was starting to sound like a Police song there for a bit)
  5. Form a partnership with your Inner Critic. Remember, you’re Inner Critic has some good ideas. If you don’t think something is good enough, it might not be. Maybe Ms. Critic thought you were being a bit careless with your proofreading (Not me. Nope, not me at all.) and that worry is an flag to go back and check. Or maybe it’s high time to admit you’re so immersed in your own manuscript, you need someone else’s eyes to help out. Your Inner Critic is trying to help. Listen and learn. Maybe the worry is irrational and unfounded. Go back to the first step and have a chat with that Cranky Cathy in your mind. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a hint of reality. Check it out. Listen. Learn.

After I sat at my computer, ready to get rid of everything I had ever written, I had a chat with my Inner Critic. Poor thing was scared that she would get laughed at for putting herself out there and trying. I listened with compassion and decided to come up with a plan. Inner Critic and I would work together to make sure before I submitted anything it would be my best work. I would ask others for help and join a critique group. I would keep learning be reading books that demonstrated great writing. Instead of feeling like a failure, I was going to take notes.

Try. Fall. Learn. Grow. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Christina Esdon is a hopeless romantic and dreamer extraordinaire. She loves to see the world through rose-colored glasses (literally) and has the uncanny ability to find humor and joy in the small things in life. When she isn’t writing, she is probably at her day job, far away from her “Christina Esdon” persona and is helping her clients heal from trauma.

Her first novel, Work in Progress is now available through all online book retailers. She is currently working on the next installment in the series with her Inner Critic on standby.

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