Doesn't it sometimes seem like just about everyone and their canary has a blog? So why is it that so many well-trained people are nervous to put "pen to paper" (or hands to keyboard!) and write a blog post or article to share their expertise? For many otherwise well-adjusted and confident holistic health and wellness coaches and practitioners, it is that little nagging voice, the inner critic! This archnemesis of productivity keeps many a timely and needed blog post in draft form. But, what can you do to tame Miss Grammar Guru?
Does your inner critic have a name? Perhaps it’s something like Medusa or Hades, something menacing? Or, perhaps you were terrorized by a too-correct grammar school teacher, so your inner critic is named something more proper like Ms. Right or Mr. Best. For some people, their inner critic has no name at all; it is not that concrete but more of a foreboding, an emotion they feel in their body and have an immediate, negative reaction to.
Whether she is scolding or he is too needy, in the struggle between writer and critic you should know that you, the writer, are the hero. It is possible to silence and slay your inner critic. It is a process … ah-hum, I mean an epic battle … but with some compassion, commitment, and consistency, it can be done … um, that is, the battle can be won!
Where our inner critics come from and why they persist is ... well ... beyond the scope of this article. Just know that many of us have an inner critic we struggle with when writing and that the stress inner critics inspire is not an inherent or necessary part of the writing process, regardless of what you might have previously been taught. Now, as an adult, you can choose to reject your inner critic and reclaim your writing joy. (OK, joy may be too emotive a word for some of us, so let’s agree on ease, reclaim your writing ease, at least.)
In her book Unstuck: A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working Through Writer's Block , writing coach and professor Jane Anne Staw, PhD, insists that:
Flushing out your critics and devising strategies for diluting their power boosts you as a writer in several ways. Reducing the strength and number of naysayers places you that much closer to the act of writing itself. It is as if you have pushed aside several of the hurdles standing between your words and the blank page. […] Instead of feeling blindsided each time you sit down to write, you can begin to shape the writing situation and experience, creating an environment in which you feel comfortable and safe to write.
To flush out the critics, Staw suggests several exercises. Perhaps the most useful for beginning writers is the double-entry-journal-type writing exercise. Staw suggests that you set a time for writing everyday to help build comfort and routine, and that you set your writing time in fairly short increments to begin with (say, 30 minutes).
While you are writing, your goal is to record the critic’s voice, what is said as it is said. You are not meant to analyze what is recorded in real time. Rather, that is something for you to do at a later time, when you have some distance from your writing. (But, you will want to look at the critic’s words before you sit down for your next writing session.)
To record what the critic says, you can either type it below the other writing you are doing, say in another color or in parenthesis, or you can keep a sheet of paper and pen beside you and move back and forth between computer and paper. How you record the critic is not important. Purging the critic, looking at any critical comments, and sorting out where they might come from and how they are affecting your writing is the important piece.
If you complete this exercise consistently and over time, likely a few weeks, there’s a good chance you’ll notice some changes. Will you hear the critic every time you sit down to work on your writing or will you realize, in a cinematic all-of-a-sudden exclamatory way, that it’s just you now, your voice, your words, and that you’re writing … ah-hum, that is to say, the dragon has been slayed.
There are likely other exercises that would work for you, too. Do you know what they are? If you have suggestions for other ways to silence the critic, or uncover any during the process of this course, please feel free to share them as a comment.
And, as a parting piece of encouragement, consider these words from Walt Disney: “[Cinderella] believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn't come along, she went over to the palace and got him.” Though the story of Cinderella is not a traditional epic battle, per se, Walt’s words provide a useful analogy. If you’ve dreamed about writing critic-free, now is the time to do something about it. Slay him! (Or her, or it, or whatever form your critic takes.)
1. Staw, JA, PhD. (2003). Unstuck: A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working Through Writer’s Block. St. Martin’s, New York: 42.
2. Accessed online 8/4/10:http://www.angelfire.com/movies/disneybroadway/quotes.html