It seems like our inner critics have gone above and beyond lately to make us doubt our writerly abilities.
They spew criticism we would never tolerate from friends and family. They micromanage our writing in ways that are only permissible from people who sign our paychecks. If a critique partner dared to talk to us about our work this way. . .I shudder to think of the bloodshed involved.
Yet this brutal inner critic’s voice that knocks us to our knees, sobbing, is the very one we cater to. It’s definitely the loudest, drowning out the encouraging voice of the muse, along with the much more interesting ones of our characters.
The inner critics know we listen to every word they utter, but even worse, they know we believe them.
They are like weather forecasters who predict it will be sunny for the weekend and then it rains the entire time. Even then, we continue to have complete faith the next time we hear, “We’ll have sun and a high of 80″, even though a hurricane is flattening the trees in the front yard.
Inner critics make us react the same way. Yet how do they manage it?
Here’s just a few of their methods:
“With this manuscript, failure is not an option. It’s a certainty.”
“Snore, bore, and chore. Alex, I know this one. What are three words to describe this manuscript?”
“Do you really think it’s any good? I mean, I like it, but I’m not sure I like it like it. It’s not anywhere near as good as all those other books you buy. You know, those ones that actually got published. And it’s not like you’ll never get published. It’s just that there are a lot a lot a LOT of really good writers out there to compete with. I’m just sayin’.”
On days when I’m feeling charitable (maybe once or thrice a year), I could argue that the inner critics are merely trying to protect us, from harm, or ridicule, or heartbreak.
But if that’s true, then why are THEY the ones heaping us with harm and ridicule and heartbreak?
There’s plenty to be learned from our inner critics. But first we need to rehab them, so they can be useful, productive members of the writing team.
Anybody can point out problems. It takes somebody creative to provide solutions.
First off, let’s not take the inner critics at face value anymore. They have to get specific with their concerns. When they say, “this sucks”, they need to explain what in particular is causing them heartburn. Pin them down and make them deliver some practical advice we can apply to our manuscripts. No more blanket statements allowed.
Next, insist that the inner critics wait their turn. If their relentless condemnation keeps us from producing anything, they won’t have anything to whip into shape later, right? The role of inner critic is an important one, but it is dependent on proper timing. So write, then critique. It doesn’t work the other way.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if this inner critic rehab doesn’t work perfectly the first time you try it. It might take a little time since the inner critic is an old dog, and you know how they are with new tricks. But hang in there. Revisions aren’t perfect the first go-round either. But isn’t the finished result worthwhile?
So let’s share some of the lines our inner critics spit out and see what we can do to rehab them. By the end of today, we ought to have some factory-reconditioned, refurbished, better-than-original inner critics to work on our manuscripts.
I originally wrote this last year, but the Inner Critic needed another visit to rehab. Hope yours benefits from this too!