Your Inner Critic Wants A Challenge

When you write, do so with mad abandon.

Give yourself full license to go wild and be as tangled and all over the place as necessary.

Because it feels invigorating. A part of you craves the untamed fire of creation. You want it.

The inner critic doesn’t know how to handle this untamed fire. It has trouble making itself useful amidst the fury and force.

It wants to be helpful, so it interrupts you when you are trying to write. You write, then you pause.

That idea could be better. No, that isn’t right. I could have phrased that a different way. I made a mistake. Oops. Let me go back and revise that. This is embarrassing. I need to get my thinking straight here. I don’t have any good ideas. I’m a worthless writer. I should probably just stare off into space and mutter expletives.

That’s your inner critic when it doesn’t know what else to do.

There’s nothing wrong with your critic. Without a critical side, we wouldn’t have a sense of direction and focus and a yearning for precision, to get the job finished rather that just noodle around endlessly.

The problem is that the critic comes in when you don’t want. It’s trying to be helpful, but it’s not correctly employed. The result: your creative impulse is unhappy because it gets interrupted all the time, and your critical impulse is unhappy because it’s not being given a chance to really stand up and shine.

We can give it something better to do besides being the eternal backseat driver pestering your inner creative impulse.

We can simply ask the critic to go take a bath for a time while we create. Then after the creative makes its mess, the critic can come in, all shining and clean and razor-sharp, energized, motivated — it can smell a disaster a mile a way. And we invite the critic to take charge of the mess. It knows what to do with a mess.

I’ve got this. I can handle this. You’re in good hands. I see where you’re going here. Let’s just change around how we have ordered things. That comma splice is easy enough to fix. There, now, doesn’t that feel better?

And before long, things are starting to look more polished. The organization is cleaner, crisper. The piece is being revised with a sense of eagerness.

Vitality in the creative phase, vitality in the critical phase.

This two part dance is so simple it’s unfortunate more people don’t work this way. It just takes a bit of discipline. We get muddled, convinced that we should sneak back and forth between modes, but doing that depolarizes the flow.

It’s far more productive to stay entirely in one mode at a time. When you’re flowing, flow fully. Take full command. Let it be however it is. Feel into the moment and use words. It doesn’t matter if you make a mess. In fact, the more of a mess you make, the more you will whet the appetite of your critical side.

Try it if you don’t believe me.

You can feel the polarity build as you freewrite.

Staying in the creative mode, following the flow of ideas and emotions, you also understand that you are making errors and mistakes along the way. Some things aren’t cinched up or maybe not even remotely clear at times. That’s fine. Steady forward momentum accomplishes more than you might realize. It fuels some part of you. Meanwhile, that adorable critical side of you is waiting, listening, ready, eager.

Part of you gets to rest while in one mode or the other. Instead of trying to do both things at once, working twice as hard, you can simply flow and have fun, be easy and light and free, and then show up as your critical perfectionist, taking the opportunity to have the last laugh, get in the final word. Claim ownership of your writing.

Part of you wants the challenge.

Your inner critic is looking for a place to shine. Click To Tweet

Depth Freewriting Exercise: Rebuild Polarity Between Critical and Creative

Try this.

  • Set the intention to remain in the creative mode. Whatever is present for you, write that. If it’s coherent, fine. If it’s incoherent, fine. Flow and be wild. Reconnect with the inherent joy of the process.
  • Write for one hour without stopping. See what emerges. Maybe you have in mind something you want to write about, and maybe you don’t. It can work just fine either way.
  • Take a ten minute break. Do something that gives you a complete reboot. Walk around, stretch, take some nice deep breaths.
  • Invite the critic to your writing desk.
  • Set the intention to remain in the critical mode. If more creativity happens, that’s fine. But there is no need to try.
  • Reread what you have written. Look for the parts that stand out and raise engaging questions. Notice how you feel moved. Find patterns and the potential to restructure and improve upon the form of the parts that feel most alive. Do whatever necessary to transform the mess into more coherent pieces. Add and subtract material as needed. Maybe it will take another hour to do this.

There you have it! A bonafide experience of restored polarity between your critical and creative sides.

To be sure, there is so much more nuance, so many more specific strategies that I could share here to help you get the most of this exercise. More than can be described in a single blog post. But experience is the best teacher, so I wanted to share this for you to dive into. Feel free to share your experience of this exercise!

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