Getting along with your inner critic

The mind can be a writer’s harshest critic, and it never seems to shut up. But you don’t need to pay attention to what it says. Just accept that it’s there and keep writing.

Advice from author Anne Lamott’s on dealing with a writer’s harshest critic: the mind.

photo credit: madamepsychosis via photopin cc

‘I’d start writing without reining myself in. It was almost just typing, just making my fingers move. And the writing would be terrible. I’d write a lead paragraph that was a whole page, and the critics would be sitting on my shoulders, commenting like cartoon characters. They’d be pretending to snore, or rolling their eyes at my overwrought descriptions, no matter how hard I tried to tone those descriptions down.
But I would eventually let myself trust the process—sort of, more or less. I’d write a first draft that was maybe twice as long as it should be. The whole thing would be so long and incoherent and hideous that for the rest of the day I’d obsess about getting creamed by a car before I could write a decent second draft.

The next day, though, I’d sit down, go through it all with a colored pen, take out everything I possibly could, find a new lead somewhere on the second page, figure out a kicky place to end it, and then write a second draft. It always turned out fine, sometimes even funny and weird and helpful. I’d go over it one more time and mail it in.

Then, a month later, when it was time for another review, the whole process would start again, complete with the fears that people would find my first draft before I could rewrite it.’

Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird.

One woman announced that she was just beginning to write her annual end of-the-year letter to friends and family in February. She felt obliged to write a little personal note on each copy of the letter, which she anticipated would take another month. While examining procrastination she realized that she was delaying because once the letters were mailed, she might find that they were not perfect. This is an example of how the Inner Critic gets us coming and going. If she does mail the letters and they are not perfect, the Inner Critic will beat her up. If she delays in an attempt to make them perfect, and thus mails the letters late, or never, the Inner Critic will still be upset. There is no winning in the land of the Inner Critic. Its only job is to criticize, and it does this job well.’

Jan Chozen Bays. How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness.

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