Silencing Your Inner Critic

Valerie Bordeau quote

Could there be anything worse for a writer than staring in frustration at a blank screen or piece paper because the words just won’t pour forth from head to fingers? How about suffering from the dreaded writer’s block while writing an advice piece on the subject? That’s exactly what I am going through right now.


There is so much good advice out there. Everything that could be said about this subject has already been said. What more could I possibly bring to the table?


Many writers feel this way about their writing. As writers, we fall victim to editing ourselves before we even sit down to write. We fear that we have nothing new to say, our ideas aren’t good enough and/or we fear the rejection we may have to face. So, we discount the ideas swimming around in our brains instead of allowing them to float freely to the page.


The biggest reason we writers suffer from writers block comes from a built-in censor we have been habitually developing throughout most of our adult lives. School taught us to over-analyze everything in order to get a good grade. We desperately wanted to get that good grade and if it wasn’t absolutely perfect, inside we felt like we failed. We approach our writing sometimes too seriously, making it a matter of life or death. It’s time we bring the simple joy of play back to our creative endeavors.


It’s time for us writers to revisit our childhood once again. Do you remember what it was like when you threw yourself into every idea that popped into your head with complete abandon? Before were taught to question everything to make sure it was a wise decision?


You just jumped right in, without any care to the consequences of what happened. There was a fearlessness present that somehow got lost along the way. It’s high time we reclaim that simple pleasure once again.


We writers shackle ourselves with so many rules and expectations. We have ideas about what a perfect piece of writing looks like and how many words we should be writing every day. There are so many voices telling us what a writer looks like and if we at any time think we are not fitting the mold, we start to break out into a sweat-induced panic.


But the truth is, there are no hard and fast rules, only opinion. Writing is an art form, and creativity was not meant to be self-contained. You need to believe in yourself as a creator. Only you can deliver the masterpiece sitting inside your skull. The work is already done. You need only to let it flow out of you.


Here’s a simple exercise you can do to help you with your artisanal flow:


The next time you sit down at your computer or at your desk with pan and paper in hand and start to feel paralyzed, try this. Write down everything that pops into your head, no matter what it is. I mean EVERYTHING. From your article/blog post/book idea to the chores you need to get done later to your irritation about distractions. Let everything flow without questioning what you are writing down. Don’t stop until you are physically unable to continue or until there are no further thoughts to write down.


And even if you do start to question it, write those feelings down, too. Write down how stupid you think this exercise is, how you hate having writer’s block, and any other feelings you have at the moment. Get everything out. Even if the thought is, “I don’t have anything to say.”


The purpose of this exercise is to train yourself to develop the habit of putting your inner editor in its proper place. Editing should come after the words have been placed on the page, not before. Let go of all judgments and preconceived notions of what you’re writing should look like. You will be able to mold the clay into whatever form you would like later. Right now, you just need to get the clay.


Do this exercise a few minutes each day or as a warm-up prior to you beginning your writing work for the day. And if your inner editor tries to chime in, treat it like an annoying phone call during dinner. Let the answering machine get it.


“I’m sorry, but the writer you are trying to reach is currently unavailable at the moment. Please try your call again later.”


All it takes to be a writer is to write. That’s it. Believe in the gift you have been given as a creator. Now, go tell the inner voices in your head to be quiet; you’ve got some writing to do.

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