Writing Tip: The Inner Critic

man with hand on temple looking at laptop

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 trains at the station.  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?

How to Turn Towards Your Inner Critic

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

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 aeroplanes 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.

Is There A Link Between Spirituality and Creativity?

photo of golden gautama buddha

What is the relationship between spirituality and creativity? The discipline and focused attention cultivated through meditation help us do one thing at a time, totally and absolutely, which greatly enhances our writing.

‘Contemplative practice, daily nature walks, and still, silent listening can be among the best natural meditations. They help clarify our minds and uplift the heart, dissolving our ordinary preoccupations and mental states that dissipate the fertile spirit within. Such daily disciplines are also excellent tonics for our agitated, febrile brains and weary bodies. When we ease into the realm of non-doing–what Chinese Buddhists called wu wei–there is more room for our mysterious, unfabricated inner self to naturally emerge.’ – Lama Surya Das

It’s tough being a writer. Very tough. As Thomas Mann says, A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Dinty Moore, in his book The Mindful Writer, Noble Truths of the Writing Life, says his lifelong pursuit of writing and creativity has helped to open him to the path of Buddhism:

‘Find inspiration and insight on writing as a spiritual practice through astute quotes, thoughtful advice, and productive exercises on both mindfulness and craft.  This isn’t your typical “how to write” book. Author Dinty W. Moore, a well-respected writing coach and teacher, thoughtfully illuminates the creative process: where writing and creativity originate, how mindfulness plays into work, how to cultivate good writing habits and grow as a person, and what it means to live a life dedicated to writing.’ – The Mindful Writer

Here’s to Mindfulness and Meditation to help us on our way through our roller coaster lives as creative writers.

 

Make Friends With Your Feelings

architecture clouds estate exterior

Mark Williams and Danny Penman write in MINDFULNESS, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world:  ‘Whatever you feel, as best you can, see if you can bring an open and kind-hearted awareness to all of your feelings. Remember Rumi’s ‘Guest House’ poem (see below). Remember to roll out the welcome mat to even your most painful thoughts, such as fatigue, fear, frustration, loss, guilt or sadness. This will diffuse your automatic reactions and transform a cascade of reactions into a series of choices.’

 

The Guest House

by Rumi, a thirteenth century Sufi poet:

 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

 

still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

I keep reading and rereading this book by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Each morning I play one of the tracks of the guided meditations CD that is included. It’s my daily practice to help keep me calm and centred. Sometimes I select the Moving Meditation Track that includes some gentle stretching, other times I sit up in  bed and concentrate on my breathing before writing in my journal.  Remember, the breath is always there for us. It anchors us in the present. It is like a good friend. It reminds us that we are OK just as we are.

MINDFULNESS reveals a set of simple yet powerful practices that you can
incorporate into daily life to help break the cycle of anxiety, stress,
unhappiness, and exhaustion. It promotes the kind of happiness and
peace that gets into your bones. It seeps into everything you do and
helps you meet the worst that life throws at you with new courage.’

I hope introducing you to this book and its ideas is useful. Do you have anything you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

 

 

 

Writing Tip: Turn Towards the Inner Critic

uncapped fountain pen on pageWhen you practice writing, it is essential to separate the creator and the editor, or inner critic, 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 the shape shifting of 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.

I hope these ideas are useful. Do you have any tips you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

Writing Tip: Don’t Forget to Pause

person standing on slope glacier mountain

Recently, I posted on Instagram that I had finished a new manuscript and had been  scratching around trying to find a new writing project to work on. I said that I had traction on something new and it was my third attempt this year  – that traction has now come to a standstill 😦 . What I didn’t do, though, was pause and acknowledge my WIP achievement: I’d recently completed a book length manuscript. After three years of hard slog I’d completed a huge project but hadn’t stopped to give myself a pat on the back. I hadn’t stopped at the top of the mountain and enjoyed the view. I was rushing onwards looking for the next mountain to climb already.

Then I read this old story about a king who wished to move palace. But because he feared that his enemies might take advantage of this to attack him and steal his treasures, he summoned his trusted general. ‘My friend,’ he said, ‘I have to move palace, and must do so within twenty-four hours. You have been my trusted servant and soldier for so long. I do not trust anyone but you to help me with this task. Only you know the network of underground passages between this palace and the other. If you are able to do this for me, and move all my most precious treasures by yourself, I will give you and your family your freedom:  you may retire from service, and as a reward for your faithfulness over so many years, I will give to you such a portion of both my wealth and my lands that you will be able to settle, and you, your wife and children and their children and grandchildren will be financially secure.’

The day came when the treasures were to be moved. The general worked hard. He was not a young man, but he persisted in his efforts. He knew that the task needed to be completed within the twenty-four-hour window. After this, it would become unsafe to continue. With minutes to spare, he completed the job. He went to see his king, who was delighted. The king was a man of his word and gave him the portion of the treasure he had promised, and the deeds to some of the most beautiful and fertile lands in the kingdom.

The general returned to his home and took a bath, and as he lay there, he looked back on all that he had achieved, and he relaxed:  he felt a great satisfaction that he could now retire, that things were dealt with, and this his major tasks were finished. For that moment, he had a sense of completeness. The story ends here.

‘Do you know what that moment is like? Perhaps you have experienced a similar moment when things have gone well for you in the past? You have felt a sense of completeness. A sense that tasks have been done.

One of the most difficult aspects of the frantic rush through a busy life is that we often do not allow even the smallest notion of ‘completion’ to enter the picture of our daily lives. We often rush from task to task, so much so that the end of one task is just the invitation to start another. There are no gaps in between in which we could take even a few seconds to sit, to take stock, to realise that we have just completed something.’ – Mindfulness (a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world) by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.

In Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s book on Mindfulness they advise us to practise cultivating a sense of completeness – even a glimmer, right now, in this moment, with the little things of life, there is a chance that we would be better able to cope with those aspects of mind that keep telling us that we are not there yet; not yet happy, not yet fulfilled. We might learn that we are complete, whole, just as we are.

This morning in yoga class I was reminded that pauses are a traditional part of Hatha Yoga – a pause between some of the asanas (poses). The pauses aren’t about physical rest, although it’s good to rest if you need to, but the true value of pausing in a neutral asana stems from the fact that physical effort no long occupies your attention, so your mind is free to play the pause. The most obvious way to play the pause is simply to relax the body parts that were working in the preceding active asana. I guess this relates to the pause between writing projects – give the brain a break and return inwards to your centre.

What about you? Are you constantly rushing off looking for the next mountain to climb without stopping to look at the view from the top? I hope this post is useful. Do you have any tips you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it. 

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?  

I’m A Writing Workshop Junkie

red book cover of The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore

‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’ – Thomas Mann

Even though I’ve had many of my short stories published, plus a novel, and a second novel accepted, I’m always wanting to learn more about the writing process – especially the link between creativity and spirituality.  Four weeks ago I enrolled in ‘The Mindful Writer’,  a course devised and presented by  Walter Mason.  Highly recommended.  He combines the insights of meditation and mindfulness with the joy of creative writing.

‘Tap into your true creative thinking through mindfulness and become aware of the vast reserves of wisdom within.’ – Walter Mason

Dinty Moore, in his book The Mindful Writer, Noble Truths of the Writing Life, says his lifelong pursuit of writing and creativity has helped to open him to the path of Buddhism:

“Find inspiration and insight on writing as a spiritual practice through astute quotes, thoughtful advice, and productive exercises on both mindfulness and craft.  This isn’t your typical “how to write” book. Author Dinty W. Moore, a well-respected writing coach and teacher, thoughtfully illuminates the creative process: where writing and creativity originate, how mindfulness plays into work, how to cultivate good writing habits and grow as a person, and what it means to live a life dedicated to writing. The Mindful Writer features bite-sized essays that will delight and inform not only writers, but also other artists, mediators and mindfulness practitioners. Built around heartening quotes from famous writers and thinkers, it is a resource that readers will turn to again and again for guidance and encouragement.” – Simon & Schuster Australia

On the never-ending path of learning more about the craft of writing, I also enrolled at the Blogging University (yet again) and took the WordPress course  Writing: Shaping Your Story – an intermediate course on the art of revision:  four weeks of self-editing and rewriting.  Dig into the process of focusing and building a story, whether fiction or nonfiction.  Lots of useful information.  And the course is free :).

So back to my desk now and to the work of crafting a new novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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