Quieting the Inner Critic

So, I’ve slowly allowed myself to entertain the idea of pursuing a career in writing. I still don’t know how exactly I am going to do this, but I’m trying. When I started this blog several years ago, it was because I wanted to write. I thought this was the easiest way to try it. If no one read it, oh well. If someone left me a nasty comment, I could delete it.

I just entered week three of an online creative writing course and so far it’s going… OK. It’s got me writing, so I suppose it’s a success so far. I’m having a lot of trouble silencing my inner critic, though. I’m hyper-critical of myself (although I suppose we’re all like that) and although I have ideas, I have a hard time putting them down on paper (keyboard?) even if I’m the only one reading them. Each lesson has a writing exercise that we can either keep private or share with the group — the group of 100+ people, I might add — and then there is an assignment that we’re supposed to post for everyone to read.

I find myself reading through the entire lesson first and thinking ALL day about how I can make my exercises “perfect,” even though I know I won’t post them for anyone to read. Then I go over the assignment in my head until it’s “perfect” before I let anyone read my work. Then I compulsively reload the page a million times to see if I’ve received any comments. I check back constantly to see if anyone has given me any feedback. I automatically assume that my post will be at the bottom of the page because everyone else is better and has elicited more praise for their writing. I compare my work to theirs, chastising myself for writing what I did and not doing a better job. I find myself getting jealous of people I don’t even know, wishing I could write like them.

I do this with my blog as well (and pretty much everything else in my life…). I so desperately want this, to be a successful writer, but I can’t stop tearing myself down about it either. I have an idea for a novel, but I can’t bring myself to write down more than a couple scribbles in a notebook because what if it’s not any good? What if no one likes it? What if I write it and no one wants to publish it? I don’t know how to silence my inner critic and give myself the freedom to JUST WRITE without worrying what people will think or post in response. I know that writing is hard work and that most authors spend years upon years trying to get published. Logically, I understand this. Emotionally, I am struggling between wanting to try and not wanting to get hurt.

2 thoughts on “Quieting the Inner Critic

  1. Hi Erin
    You are not alone. I’m in a similar place. I want to write and am simultaneously terrified of what will happen if I do. But…
    I’m learning a few useful things on this journey and they might be encouraging for you too:
    1. Read “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg – She is totally permission giving to just write. Even if it’s total rubbish it doesn’t matter. Keep writing. Write down your first thoughts – don’t let your inner critic edit them before you get them on the page. Editing can always happen later. Just keep practising your writing.
    2. You have a story to tell. You know you do. Don’t worry about who’s going to read it, or whether they’ll like it or not. It’s your story. Yours. Believe in it. (I’m speaking to myself here too.)
    3. Take it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. Even if something you try doesn’t work, you’ve learned what not to do next time. That’s what experiments are for – to teach you what works and what doesn’t.
    4. Have fun. You might enjoy the ride as much as the destination.

    • Hi Ann,

      Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement! I try to tell myself all of these things, but sometimes it helps to hear them from other people, too. I’ll definitely check out that book you recommended!


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