Silencing The Inner Critic

The inner critic is hard to ignore.  It's loud and destructive and soul-sucking.  It always sees the flaws, but worse, it takes me out of the story.  When I'm trying to get new words on the page, the last thing I want to think about is whether they're any good or not.  It's not only crippling to the creative process, if the inner critic gets too loud, it can prevent me from hearing the voices that really matter, the characters.

The inner critic never really goes away, but I've found some things that help me to ignore it.

1. Listen to Music:  I like to listen to a playlist while I write.  Most of the time, I never hear the songs, but the white noise drowns out the inner critic.  Music helps me get into the mood of the story, and out of my own head.

2. Let the characters drive:  I used to be a pantser, and while I utilize an outline for first drafting now, I give myself freedom to veer off outline from time to time.  And, even when I'm drafting a scene that is included in the outline, I try to let the scene develop organically from the characters and conflict.  For first drafts especially, I have to remember that this story belongs to the characters, not me.  And sometimes I just have to get out of their way.

3.  Write a draft for me:  My inner critic is often loudest when I start thinking about the market while I write.  Is this too depressing?  Too dark?  Too sexy?  Too boring?  These kinds of thoughts are murder on the creative process.  I find I write better when I stop the questions and just try to write a book that I want to read.  I can always revise for the market, but the first draft is just for me.

4.  Don't look back:  It's so tempting to go back and revise chapters and scenes from earlier in the book, but too much revision can keep you from moving forward.  Revision uses a different muscle than writing new content.  Clicking your brain into edit mode can make it harder for you to get back to your manuscript. Plus, if you revise before you finish, you risk spending a lot of time on chapters or scenes that won't even end up in the book.

5.  When in doubt keep writing:  even when the inner critic won't stop blabbing about how awful and derivative your work is, you have to power through.  You can only truly silence the inner critic by writing through his taunts.


It feels great to get a chance to comments since I haven't had a chance to do so in a while.

The list here is truly helpful, especially as I work on two manuscripts right now, both in the first draft modes. I've been delaying, mainly distracted by the need to make it perfect, definite inner critic on my back.

Thanks so much for sharing this.

I agree with Angela, this is a great list! Sorry I've been MIA as well. Busy reading, lots and lots! I look back so much and find myself editing before I've even written the whole story. I have to stop doing that because it makes the story confusing. I can't remember what story line I decided to go with because I use the same characters over and over and over. My Skinny just is too loud.
I guess I can't believe that your (as in all of you on the blog) first drafts are as horrible as my first drafts.


Angela and Heather, it's always good to hear from you both! First drafts are always hard. At some point I always feel like I will never be able to write anything ever again. I'm usually pleasantly surprised if I have at least the bones of a story when I'm done. And Heather, I think first drafts are universally horrible. As you discover characters and plot threads, there are bound to be inconsistencies along the way.

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