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What to Do About Your Inner Critic

Everyone has that little voice in their heads that tells them that they can’t do something. It’s that voice that says you aren’t smart enough to write a novel or that you aren’t talented enough to paint. No matter how hard a person practices it still seems to find new things that are ‘wrong.’ 

The Inner critic can play a vital role when creating some kind of art. It is not always good to go off of first instincts. Ernest Hemingway once said “Writing is rewriting,” and there is a lot of truth in that. It is important to see what we have made for what it truly is so we can build upon it in the future. But there has to be a balance. If we decide that we are the worst artist to ever live there is little chance of us picking up a paintbrush ever again. 

With that in mind when do we need to ignore the inner critic and when do we need to harness the inner critics powers?

I find it is best to lock up the inner critic at the start of the process. When you are first learning or doing a project it is easiest to give up. That is often because it’s hard to get to the point in the project that you want it to be at. You have great tastes in books, movies, crafts, and it’s hard to not live up to your own standards. It’s important to keep in mind that your project is at your current level for now. Once you gain more skills you can always improve it. 

I mentioned locking up your inner critic like it’s easy. Which I know it’s not. My own inner critic has gotten the better of me from time to time. Here is the link to an art project I have used by myself and with clients to help get the inner critic out. The other way is just through practice of ignoring that instinct to delete and change things through a challenge, such as NaNoWriMo.

Though I haven’t been as active of a participant in NaNoWriMo in recent years I credit starting on this track to become a therapist through an ego boost I had after finally finishing my first year of it. For anyone who is unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, it is a call to action for thousands of writers around the world to write 50,000 words in the month of November. For the first few years I tried I often found myself going back to re-read what I had written the previous day. I would delete words and then add a few. Lying to myself that it would even out and that I could still win in the end.

When I finally did win for the first time ever I made a pact with myself. I wasn’t going to reread more than the last paragraph I wrote and I would not delete words. This was incredibly difficult. Especially with my inner critic screaming at me. Telling me my novel was terrible. But the point of NaNoWriMo is to have a novel, not a good novel. Just a novel. It’s liberating to stop worrying if something you made is ‘good enough.’ Especially since your novel is something that never has to see the light of day (I know mine wont).

There are many kinds of challenges, such as Drawlloween or NaPoWriMo. No matter what kind of art you are interested in practicing there is sure to be some kind of challenge. The fast-passed, no time to think, kind of challenges are the best for practicing ignoring the inner critic.

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