Turning Towards the Inner Critic

book cover: Mindfulness

It is essential to separate the creator and the editor, or inner critic when you practice writing, so that the creator has plenty of room to breathe, experiment, and tell it like it really is.  If the inner critic is being too much of a problem and you can’t distinguish it from your authentic writing voice, sit down whenever you find it necessary to have some distance from it and put down on paper what the critic is saying, put a spotlight on the words—“You have nothing original to say, what made you think you could write anything anyone would want to read, your writing is crap, you’re a loser, I’m humiliated, you write a load of rubbish, your work is pathetic, and your grammar stinks …”  On and on it goes!

Say to yourself, It’s OK to feel this.  It’s OK to be open to this.

You can learn to cultivate compassion for yourself  during this internal process by practicing Mindfulness Meditation.  Sit up straight, close your eyes, bring your awareness to your inner experience.  Now,  redirect your attention to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen … expanding as the breath comes in … and falling back as the breath goes out.  Use each breath to anchor yourself in the present.   Continue, concentrating on the breath for several minutes.  Now, expand your field of awareness to include the words of the inner critic.  Turn your attention to where in your body you feel the unpleasant thoughts, so you can attend, moment by moment, to the physical reactions to your thoughts.

 “Stay with the bodily sensations, accepting them, letting them be, exploring them without judgment as best you can.”—Mindfulness, Mark Williams and Danny Penman.

Every time you realise that you’re judging yourself, that realisation in itself is an indicator that you’re becoming more aware.

The thing is, the more clearly you know yourself, the more you can accept the critic in you and use it.  If the voice says, “You have nothing interesting to say,” hear the words as white noise, like the churning of a washing machine.  It will change to another cycle and eventually end, just like your thoughts that come and go like clouds in the sky.  But, in the meantime, you return to your notebook and practice your writing.  You put the fear and the resistance down on the page.


Do you struggle with an inner critic?  Any words of wisdom you’d like to share?


24 thoughts on “Turning Towards the Inner Critic

  1. Nicely put. We all struggle with the inner critic.
    A very good book on Mindfulness is Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It has Immensely helped me. You cud have a look or may be do a write up on it to. A very comprehensive guide to ‘watch the Mind’ ..
    Kp penning.. 🙂


  2. Thank you, Libby, for sharing this encouragement and reminder of how we can use mindfulness to get past our inner critic. I especially like your imagery of the “churning washing machine” even more than the more typical clouds passing by; I know clouds always seem too peaceful an image for my own inner critic! But the challenge to let that “noise” become white noise is great–that is something I am definitely going to try!

    Here is a link to my first blog post, published yesterday–it is a boom review, though I plan to talk about other things too!


    1. thanks so much for your comment. yes, the clouds passing by is a bit overdone in terms of watching our thoughts come and go. i’m glad you related to the churning of the washing machine though, and the term ‘white noise’. always good to get some constructive feedback. i checked out your first post. well done for getting the whole blogging thing underway. your site looks and sounds inviting.


  3. The inner critic is a killer! I hate it and yes, I need meditation – perhaps a drink as well – i’m going to put your list of meditation actions on my fridge – when I dive into the chocolate as my inner critic has got the better of me. I like in hope and this is a terrific blog!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog and commented:
    Great piece. And this is another example of Bateson’s “logical type” in communications (mentioned elsewhere). An editor is of different “logical type” from the creator of the work. Bateson (in “Mind and Nature”) likens it to the difference between a wire (which conducts the flow of an electrical current) and a switch (which turns the flow on and off). A similar analogy could be pipe and valve or any of a number of similar variants. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of the “inner critic … being too much of a problem and [needing to] distinguish it from your authentic writing voice,” If you fiddle with the switch too much, you cannot get the current to flow reliably.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, all very true. the whole left/right brain thing too. as i have only been blogging for a few months, i am confused still about how it all works. do you have several blogs? are you Still Another Writer’s Blog as well as Grandtrines and maybe others too? thanks so much for reblogging my post Turning Towards the Inner Critic. very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My very first blog was circa 2001 and I no longer have the password to it. Grandtrines was started circa 2008, and it is the one I have had going continuously for the longest period of time. I have roughly eight (8) other ones with various levels of activity that cover other astrology topics, writing, photography, pinup girls, and dreaming. The highest traffic is on Grandtrines, and the highest pageview per visit is on the pinpup girls (“Risque Bizness”). Interestingly, about 50% of the traffic on Risque Bizness is FEMALE. (Not sure why, and I receive various indications on that ranging from variants of “I kissed a girl and I liked it” to “I wanted to see what the other women are wearing (or not).”) Oddly, I think blogging, even reblogging, has forced me to improve my writing skills. I often see what I do, or do not, want to do. Both sets of lessons are useful. I keep trying to discover how to make money out of it, but so far not. I think the real answer will be to sell books on KDP and use the blog(s) to promote them. I MUST be anonymous, however, because I work “in real life” in a conservative profession in an even more conservative community. Although I first encountered Bateson’s ideas in the early 1980’s, the first variant I read of what you are writing about came from when I actually finished a novel in 2006 by doing Nanowrimo (). The head of that organization wrote a book called “No Plot? No Problem!” about how to do Nano and talks a bit about your points in your post. See, also: https://www.amazon.ca/No-Plot-Problem-Low-Stress-High-Velocity/dp/0811845052

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, I do have many unread books in my library. The Half Price Books on Northwest Highway (locally) often has a TON of great books in the $1 section, and I tend to binge on those. That said, yes I read it, but I did not read all of it. After the first two or three chapters I had bought his argument and internalized the point and really didn’t need to go further. (This seems to happen with many books. I think authors often “pad” the books with verbiage to satisfy paper-based publishers and, thankfully, this practice is going away with the advent of Kindles and such). (To avoid plagiarism: I didn’t invent the idea about paper-based authors padding books / elimination of that with kindles. Got it from a seminar on how to publish electronically. But I wholeheartedly adopt that viewpoint, too. Seen far too many paper-based books taking far too many words to convey are relatively simple message.)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. An additional comment: I find this lesson extremely important. Since I starting ignoring “The Critic” I have been able to achieve word counts that amaze me. I do a daily writing exercise (the writer equivalent of pushups) and write now I am breaking 2000 words per session when I do that. (I know others can and do beat that, but most people I read about aim for 500 to 1000 words per session. Let’s be clear: it is turning of “The Critic” that permits those larger word counts.)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Not necessarily. BUT it DOES create a “farm” of material that can be drawn upon to produce material that *IS* interesting, and it is a innoculation against writers block. And, as an aside, it seems to help organize me. I look back at old exercises and draw the conclusion: “Oh. That was important. I dropped it. Better get on it.” Extra helpful in that way, a bit like the oddball photos I take of people, signs, things around the house, and so forth. (“Hmm. What was that a picture of? Oh, it was the parking garage next to that excellent restaurant that we went to a year ago but never made it back to. Maybe time to go there again.”) Can’t count the number of times a picture like that returned me to somewhere I wanted to go (or warned me about somewhere I didn’t).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Over at the post https://stillanotherwritersblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/daily-writing-exercise/ we had one of the commentators mention the idea of a Daily Edit. The idea occurs to me that, after the Daily Writing Exercise that a “Daily Edit Exercise” applied to yeesterday’s work could develop an additional set of useful skills. I will check out your entry at https://libbysommer.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/exercising-the-writing-muscle/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, a daily edit is good. my own personal writing habit is to print out the section of my writing project that i am working on each day and take the print out with me in my bag. then, over a coffee in a cafe, i read the segment, make editing corrections and write some more. this is my daily habit. and my weekly habit is to take a couple of pages to a writing group for a feedback session. having that weekly deadline really works for me, and to know that other people will be reading my work.


  6. Reblogged this on potpourritravels and commented:
    Hi Libby, loved your post. I’ve just discovered I love to write (after 30 years of doing something very different). And yes, I love my initial draft, but then when editing myself I change it around so much it doesn’t sound anything like the original, so I’m trying to just go with my gut a bit more. Many thanks, Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    1. good luck on your writing journey, Sue. glad to hear you’ve discovered you love to write. it’s a tough gig, but offers so many rewards. and it’s something we can do anytime, anywhere, at any age. thank you so much for reblogging my post ‘Turning Towards the Inner Critic’.


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