Turning Towards the Inner Critic

'Mindfulness' book cover

by Libby Sommer

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 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 and just like the sounds around you that come and go. 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 have any insights for those of us who struggle with a loud inner critic?  

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7 thoughts on “Turning Towards the Inner Critic

  1. My inner critic can be a hard taskmaster but usually waits until I have finished a writing session before delivering his critique. On the other hand, if I’m tired and my writing is sloppy or lazy, he lets me know in no uncertain terms that it’s time to take a break. In either case, I value the feedback and almost always take heed of it because I figure he is the uncompromising, unbiased, non-self-deluding version of me.

    Incidentally, you mentioned one should treat the IC’s intrusions as “white noise”. Ironically, I am reading a novel called White Noise at the moment (by Don DeLillo) and my IC tells me that I have a long, long, long way to go to get to that standard of writing; and it probably won’t happen. Did I mention he is brutal? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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