Dealing with Your Inner Critic: 5 Easy Steps

You think you know writer’s block. But you have no idea.

The overriding perception is that writer’s block happens from fear. One of my favorite writing coaches calls this “fear of sucking.” And we’re all totally afraid of sucking. Who wants to spend hours and hours writing a project that is then just a piece of crap that we can’t do anything with? Anyone? Bueller?

Exactly. Well, here’s the tricky little secret about that fear. It’s not so simple. For those of us who’ve been paralyzed while staring at a blinking cursor or overplayed outline, we know. It’s not just the fear itself. It’s what happens in that brain of yours when fear strikes.

You’ve heard of your inner critic, before? It’s that evil little voice in your head that you would prefer to keep locked up in a dark, dingy dungeon. It’s the one that doesn’t believe in you, and wants you to stay put and never try anything scary.

And what happens when you try something scary and fear gets triggered? That little jerk runs amock and wreaks havoc everywhere he/she goes. So how in the hell do you deal with this little devil? How do you move them aside and invite the words to come forth instead?

Here are my top 5 methods to get a handle (or a leash) on that sucker:

1. Personify the Dude

Honestly, we can’t battle (or beat) anything that we can’t see. This is why soldiers have flashlights and night vision and why contact lenses exist and stuff. You need clarity before you can move ahead. So the first thing to do is ask yourself: what the hell does this guy or girl look like?  Draw a picture. Give them a name. Anything that helps you know them intimately so you can identify when they’re speaking.

2. Make Peace

Okay, I know I said you can’t battle anything that you can’t see. And then you got all gung-ho for, like, fight scenes and wars and putting your fatigues on and all that. Sorry. That was a fake out. And it won’t work. Here’s why: your inner critic is a part of you. So, you can’t be fighting with a part of you! That’s counter-productive to being in a creative flow state. That’s like doing kick boxing and yoga at the same time! Super ineffective and you’ll hurt yourself.

3. Write a Letter

The first step towards managing your inner critic is growing the balls to talk to them. Many of us let that voice run our lives and don’t have the courage to stand up to it. Start by writing he/she a letter expressing what’s helpful and what’s not helpful about what they’re saying to you. Here are some key examples of inner critic phrases: You’re not good enough! You’re not talented enough! Etc. I straight up told my inner critic it was time to stop holding me back!

4. Give Them a Job

Sometimes your inner critic just needs something else to do besides torture your life. Tell him or her to take the night off, to go to a party, or to handle your accounting while you write. I like to tell my inner critic to go drink some whiskey while I get my work done. His grumpy face is better served at a bar than in my writing cave. So I just picture his angry mug doing shots and waiting for me to finish my script. Try it, it works!

5. Craft a Safeguard Strategy

I know what you’re thinking. This all seems good and fun in theory but… what about when I get really freaked out and can’t seem to control the thing? My suggestion is to go back to basics and craft a strategy that works for you. Was the letter really powerful? Or was having a picture of him better? I mean, if you think of your writing time as a night at a VIP club and your inner critic is the off-limits guy who’s been 86’d, he can’t be allowed in. That’s why you have to send him to the local bar to get wasted because he isn’t on the guest list for your writing party, feel me? 

Take the power back and give that mean inner critic something else to do! You’ve got scripts to write!