Say Hello To Your Critic

Since I seem to have been writing a lot lately about fear, and how to keep it at bay while you write, I thought it might be time for a little practical exercise.  This is one I present in my Writing Abundance workshop.  I did it for the first time years ago and have found the results of it–a way to deal with my critic–incredibly useful.Holidays 085

One of the problems that I often hear about is people being sidelined by perfectionism.  They get paralyzed because they are afraid they won’t do something right.  What this problem really is about is listening to your own inner critic, who constantly tells you that you are not good enough.  It is one thing to tell your critic to shut up, but it doesn’t really work.  Instead—meet your critic head on and disarm him.  Here’s how, by giving him and image and a name.  I met mine years ago.  His name is Patrick and he looks like a Will Ferrell in Elf, only small and not nearly so goofy and friendly.  Instead, Patrick is a bit of a prig.   Let’s go ahead and have you meet your critics and then I’ll tell you a trick to deal with her or him.

Meet Your Critic

1. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths
2. Think about how you feel when you are being critical of your writing. 
3.  See if any images come up—color, energy, sound, smell?
4. Hold with whatever you are getting and let it come into form.  It might be an animal, a human-type creature, or something totally abstract
5. Now open your eyes and write.  More details will emerge as you do.   Write a description of what you saw and then see if you can give it a name.  Even a purple circle with the name Stan works.

Here’s the deal: after you have identified your critic, you can talk to him.  I made a pact with Patrick years ago: he lies quiet while I write rough drafts, write in my journal, and do free writing.  In return, as soon as I begin editing and rewriting, Patrick is up and at ‘em, ready to help me out.  Because that is where Patrick excels—at being critical.  Sometimes I forget about Patrick and he gets cranky, very cranky.  But then he jumps up and down to get my attention, generally when I am first starting on a project.  Then I remind him of our deal.  And then he's content to go hang out wherever it is he hangs out until I call him forth. 

So give it a try.  And report back if you feel so inclined.  I'd love to hear what shape your own critic takes.

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7 Responses to Say Hello To Your Critic

  1. don 02/12/2010 at 10:40 #

    This is a great idea…. why didn’t I think of it first? Oh well, I still like the idea so I decided to name my inner critic as well, but I have one small problem: What to name the damn nuisance?

    Since I like short names, I thought I would call him, Andronicus Ebenezzer Kurtzenberger, but that’s what I already call my computers, followed by a number – Andronicus Ebenezzer Kurtzenberger I, II, III, IV and so forth! I”m up to good old Andronicus Ebenezzer Kurtzenberger XIII, so I have to call my critic something else.

    How about: “Naggy Waggy?” It’s short and since my inner critic loves to nag and wag its old tongue morning, noon and night, I figure I might as well settle for it; what do you think?

    Anyway, it’s a good idea, even if I didn’t think of it first!


  2. Jessica 02/13/2010 at 02:12 #

    Mine is a middle-aged, slightly rotund man with an oily comb over, brown spectacles (which constantly slide down his nose), and a red pen behind his ear. He speaks in a weasely nasal voice and wears tweed. His name is Archibald.

  3. Derek 02/13/2010 at 01:31 #

    Yes, I have recognized “him” for many years now. He is very active in zazen (Zen meditation). I don’t have a name for him, but around 10 years ago, I dedicated a poem to him and called it, Will of the Tyrant. I have recently put it on my blog.

    The tyrant wouldn’t let me alone whilst writing about him though, and he made me go through it over and over, until it was perfect. And even then he nagged me that it could still be improved!

    Wow! I’ve got a long way to catch up. I’ve only owned 3 computers.. Oh and one laptop, that I still have.

  4. Charlotte Dixon 02/13/2010 at 08:01 #

    Maybe we should throw a party for our critics. It would keep them busy while we write! So far we’ve got Patrick, Naggy Waggy, the Tyrant, and Archibald. I’m sure they make great company at a bar, what with all the bitching and moaning they do.

    I love hearing everyone’s description of your critics, keep them coming!


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