Do you have an inner critic? That little voice in your head that whispers in your ear as you write… chipping away at your confidence… making you second guess yourself… scattering seeds of doubt and fear through every paragraph you write… resulting in the ‘delete’ key being the most used key on your keyboard!
Or maybe that’s just me???
It is content week here on ProBlogger this week and while we want most of our posts to inspire and equip you to create great content on your blog, it would be remiss of us to ignore one of the biggest challenges that many bloggers face – dealing with their inner critic.
For starters it seems most bloggers have an inner critic – the response on that front was quite overwhelming!
How to Deal with the Inner Critic
There are no right or wrong ways to deal with your inner critic, and depending on the situation, you might want to take a number of approaches.
Ignore or Banish It
It is easier said than done, but when your inner critic has nothing constructive to say and is stopping the creative process, banishing it can be one of the most useful things you can do.
There are a range of ways of doing this, as illustrated in these responses on our Facebook page:
This simple technique of redirecting your brain when you notice negativity is something that works for a lot of people. It aims to break the moment of negativity and then allows you to move on. You can try a word, like Karen does, or you can try to force your brain to think of something else to crowd out your inner critic – long enough for you to move on and be unaffected.
Then there’s the ‘willpower’ approach which some seem to favour:
I find this willpower approach tougher and generally like to try to find a way to work with my inner critic.
Partner With It
I love this response from Erin White:
This rings true for me and has become my default position for dealing with my inner critic. You see ‘critique’ is actually a useful thing. When used at the right time and in a constructive way, it actually makes us better.
I’ve come to peace with the fact that my inner critic is often actually my inner quality control inspector.
The key is to keep it in its place and only allow it to do its thing when the time is right.
So for me, when I begin to hear the whispers of doubt as I’m writing, I don’t ignore them, rather, I defer them until later – at which point they can go to town with their critical thinking. I also work the same way when I’m finding new content – first, brainstorm, then critique.
Note: This doesn’t mean I never allow myself to be critical of what I’m doing until I’ve finished. Sometimes some critical thinking is useful earlier in the writing process and idea generation stage.
It just means that there are times to bring critical thought to bear, and other times to suspend it and let one’s creativity flow.
So for me, I have a time for writing and creating, and a time for critiquing and judging what I’ve written.
If the doubts get loud to the point that they’re crowding out my creativity, I often find it worthwhile to jot down the nagging feelings I have on a piece of paper next to my keyboard before getting back to writing. I tell myself that I’ll pay attention to that doubt I have later… but now is a time to create.
It’s not always easy to take this approach but I’ve found that the more I do it the better I get at putting off and then, at the appropriate time, embracing the inner critic.
A few Questions to Ask When Working with Your Inner Critic
Working with your inner critic as a parter takes a little practice and is something you need to balance.
Without them, your work can be shoddy and of a low quality. But let them have too much influence, and you may not actually produce anything! If you let your inner critic overrule all the content ideas you come up with, it can be hard to keep producing them, and you might find you’re writing about the same old thing and never stepping out into new territory.
As a result I think it’s important to learn to ask yourself a couple of questions to help get the balance right (note: these are the same questions I recommend asking when another person is being critical of what you’re doing):
1. Is their truth in the words of my inner critic? – sometimes the whispers contain no truth and are just holding you back – but sometimes they have truth in them and are signals that you could improve what you’re doing.
2. What can I do to improve? – If there is truth in what you’re hearing – what do you need to do to improve what you’re doing? Turn the critic’s words into a constructive direction and use them to help you improve what you’re working on.
This second question is really important for many of us to do as often we let the inner critic paralyse us and stop us in our tracks. Rather than getting wrapped up in the turmoil of the critique – let it be the launching pad to better things!
Lastly, try to decide upon an action you can take that will move you on from your critical thinking. It is easy to get bogged down at this stage so I find it is important to move back into ‘action’ and ‘creation’ after having a critical review of what I’m doing. This gets the momentum going again and me back into a more positive frame of mind.
A Word About Fear
The other inner turmoil that many of us face as bloggers is fear. While some of the above probably applies I have previously outlined 3 quick questions to ask when you’re paralysed by fear. If fear is crippling you (as it has me at times) – I hope those questions help get things in perspective.