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Excuse me, do you mind stepping off my shoulder?



When I was studying acting, we had a session on dealing with the inner critic. We imagined and conjured up a real entity. Mine was a man, who’d stepped out of the 1920s with slick black shiny hair, a pencil-thin moustache and wore a black tuxedo with coattails. We completed a long meditative session where we were encouraged to visualise this object of negativity so we could tell it to ‘get lost.’

I have developed my own quick and effective response that allows me to verbally flick him off my shoulder. As this is a PG article, I won’t share the exact phrase, that at times, has proven to be quite effective.

As an aspiring writer, my inner critic enjoys making regular appearances. Always settling himself in a comfy position where he gets the best advantage in trying to undermine my confidence with his incessant and toxic talk.

Being aware of what your inner critic is trying to do will reduce their effect on you as a writer. I am always working hard to try and not let him control my thoughts when I am writing. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes the self-doubt barges at me and bullies my confidence away. During these times I try and think rationally and ask myself why? Why am I letting him take away my pleasure of writing?

I believe it is fear. Pure and simple.

Fear of failing. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of being ridiculed. Fear of finding out that you can’t write. That you are wasting your time on a pipe dream. If left unchecked, these negative thoughts will grow and contaminate your creative process.

In Psychology Today, Dr Margalis Fjelstad, tells us that, although no one knows for certain, we start to hear our inner critic as a child once we start to develop our ability to use language and usually from a parent who has disciplined us as children.

It does appear that biologically we all hear negativity louder than the positives.” Dr Margalis Fjelstad

I am pretty stubborn and determined. I am also a childhood cancer survivor and I learnt very early that life is precious and should be lived to the fullest. And though I don’t always succeed, I work hard to not let my inner critic cripple my writing.


There have been many moments where I have surrendered to his rantings and when this happens, I am fearful of sitting down to write. Destructive self-talk begins to fill my headspace. I start to see my work as a load of rubbish, that my writing is not good enough, or my story is boring and pedestrian. I become uncertain that no one would want to read my work.

When this happens, I do one, or more, of the following:

· I keep writing and let my imagination and the writing nourish my creativity.

· I read the quote I have above my desk, "First drafts don’t need to be perfect. But they do need to be written."

· I keep learning and refining my craft, applying all I have learnt to my writing.

· I tell myself that, like every new skill, it takes practice. That by getting it wrong we discover what is right.

I am always adding to this list. Just recently I heard a gem on the So You Want to be a Writer Podcast: don't be afraid of rejections. That rejection will help build resilience as you venture down the publishing path. A path that will always be littered with potential rejections.

In her blog, The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn, talks about being gentle with her inner critic.

Thank you for helping me to be critical in the editing process, but right now, I need some time to play and be creative. I need you to rest, but please come back when I'm done, and you can help me with the next part.” Joanna Penn

I like this one. Providing an opportunity to be compassionate towards your creative self is quite powerful. Being kind to yourself can also instil inner emotional and spiritual strength.

After each writing session, I acknowledge and thank my creativity.

To increase my emotional fortitude against my inner critic, I have started to submit my short stories for publication online and entering writing competitions. Writing a blog and joining writing groups, connecting with other writers via social media is also helping me to find my confidence in sharing my work and in seeking feedback. Strip


I know my inner critic will always drop-in, but I hope over time I can say ‘not today, thank you,’ and send him on his way.


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Unknown member
Jun 27, 2020

My Drama King bows down to your Drama Queen, Valerie! I don't consider myself a king or a queen, though. Just a person, genderless, able to be as macho and as feminine as the occasion dictates. And usually in any occasion, I'm BOTH!!!! :))))

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Valerie G Miller
Valerie G Miller
Jun 27, 2020

Thank you for your kind words. I no longer act ... though I am a bit of Drama Queen and I do put on a bit of show when I am teaching. I am also a full-time secondary English Teacher and taught Drama for over 10 years. I did move into directing for a few years but writing has always been a passion and three years ago I made the decision to work at becoming a published writer. I am interested in writing novels, short story, childrens’ literature and memoir. I also love painting and photography and would love to dabble more in this in the future. All the best in your return to the stage (or set). I will…

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Unknown member
Jun 27, 2020

Hi Valerie: I loved this writing you did for the IC. My therapist is always telling me what the IC does to me, professionally as an artist and personally as a guy who just wants to be okay. I am a Christian, so I know the IC is really you know who? That said, the IC does start up in those tender childhood years and never does not quite let up if there is no one around to silence it (I prefer to call it "it" and not "he" or "she." That said, I have a great passion and love for animals; so, I never call an animal an "it" but rather a "he" or a "she"). The way I…

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Valerie G Miller
Valerie G Miller
Jun 20, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post. Working as a ‘we’ does have so many benefits, especially when there is trust with authentic advice and feedback. I find as I move away from the sanctity of my study and exposing my work, that I am developing my craft and confidence.

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Unknown member
Jun 20, 2020

It is interesting how you imagined your inner critic-someone smooth and sophisticated, yet so threatening. When the inner voices start to rock my own stability-I often find the need to let go of being an individual-a lonely voice trying to do all. Opening up and letting (yes letting) others in-to work as a team has serviced me well these last few years in my new position. Being an island for so many years as a drama teacher you learn to do it all yourself because it is so much easier-but as I get older, I finalise understand "I" works better as "we"

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