To be creative, especially if you’re creative for a living, is to be in a constant state of worry. Will anyone be interested in my work? Will they like it? What if they hate it? The worst is when the worry morphs into self-criticism and you start doubting yourself and everything you do. My own inner critic nags at me that my books aren’t any good, that I should never have pursued writing in the first place, and I should just quit now. If I let them, my inner demons would probably take up as much space in my head as my plots and characters.
But my inner critic is a liar, and so is yours.
Your inner critic is nothing more than an amalgamation of doubts, anxieties, and insecurities. We inadvertently feed our critics because smart creators know there’s always room for improvement, so we think we should pay attention to what our critic tells us. We definitely shouldn’t,
Why you should ignore your inner critic
- It’s counterproductive. Your inner critic is both a poor judge and a compulsive liar. If you need some honest feedback to help improve your work, ask a friend or colleague, or join one of the many groups (both online and in real life) where your fellow creatives and/or interested volunteers will be happy to help. You could even hire someone like an editor to assess your work. But your inner critic will never offer anything useful, and you’ll waste your time focusing on the wrong things.
- It undermines you. If you keep thinking that you’re not as good as you could/should be, or telling yourself that you suck, then even if you don’t really believe it, eventually it will chip away at your confidence. Before long you’ll be second-guessing everything you produce– and might even end up too stressed to finish a project. If you do manage to complete something, your eroded confidence in your abilities will make it impossible to pitch your work to anyone or promote it. If you’re not convinced your work is great, how are you going to convince anyone else?
- You might end up believing it. There’s nothing wrong with choosing not to pursue your creative skills as a career, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons. Unfortunately I’ve known too many talented people who’ve quit because they convinced themselves they weren’t all that good. Even worse, most stopped being creative for fun too, and that’s truly a shame. The world is better with your art/writing/music/whatever in it, and to let your inner critic convince you that you shouldn’t bother is a loss for everybody. No one is inspired by accountants, no matter how awesome they are at their job (apologies to all the amazing accountants I know), but that photo or poem or sketch you shared with friends or on social media could get someone through a bad day, or encourage them to start creating.
How should you deal with your inner critic?
An article on the Brockton Writers Series site suggests mindfully addressing your inner critic. The author offers some good suggestions, such as waiting the emotions out (they will pass) or agreeing with your inner critic and going forward anyway (for example, you’d say something like: “I should just quit now…and I will go ahead and write another paragraph.” Basically: acknowledge your inner critic, and then do your thing anyway. In other words: ignore it.
What’s important at the end of the day is to keep at it, no matter what that nagging voice in the back of your head tells you. Whether you’re creative for love or money, go ahead and ignore your inner critic. Or tell it off. Or sit and have a polite conversation with it– whatever you need to do. As long as you don’t believe it.
How do you deal with your inner critic? Share in the comments.
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Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
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Aspasía S. Bissas