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How to silence your inner critic?

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Hi everyone,

I haven't been writing regularly for more than a half year, and I'm blaming the editing I'm doing in my dayjob - it makes my brain go to analyze+critique mode, and it's very hard for me to switch back to creative mode.

Sure, the seemingly easy solution is "simply write before you start working", and I'm going to try that, but being a night owl and having tried it and failed before, I'd like to explore other options as well.

What do you do to silence your inner critic? How do you tell that analytical part of your brain to take a break? Do you have any methods to "activate" your inner creative self, to get yourself into writing mood?

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So far, I've tried stuffing my inner editor full of chocolate, but that's only affected my waist line.

I do free writing when I'm staring at a blank page. Usually nonsense like 'I am sitting here in my office. I'm going to start writing the story any second now. Oh wait did I take anything out for dinner? Never mind, that can wait. Yes, writing, writing is good'. Flow of thought that gets the blood in my fingers moving. And then I can jump into the story. The first few paragraphs might be a bit choppy, but I'll get into it within a few minutes.

Pre-writing rituals are useful. Clean up my desk (I attract clutter easily), get a drink, close the door, put on writing music. Logging off social media so I don't get distracted is also helpful. Prime yourself to active creative mode.

If I'm going back to a piece I already started I will do some light editing as I read what I last wrote, maybe that can be a compromise for your brain, like 'you get FIVE paragraphs and then its creativity time'.

Silencing the inner critic is hard. I don't have all the answers, but its either like ripping off a bandaid and doing it anyway, or baby steps (I can write one paragraph, that's not so hard).

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On 8/22/2019 at 10:42 PM, Penguinball said:

Pre-writing rituals are useful. Clean up my desk (I attract clutter easily), get a drink, close the door, put on writing music. Logging off social media so I don't get distracted is also helpful. Prime yourself to active creative mode.

*looks at her own desk* Oh, the clutter thing resonates with me ūüėĄ

Priming is a good cue - I never really needed it to get creative before, but reading your lines about priming, I realized that I do most of my dayjob editing on the same laptop and at the same desk that I use for writing ('coz I'm in home office 4 days a week). I might have accidentally primed myself the wrong way - oops. It never occured to me before even though it's so obvious - my brain probably thinks it's time to edit and critique whenever I sit down at my desk.

That was a real eye opener, thanks a lot!

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It might help to consider where our inner critics come from in the first place. I don't think anyone is born with them. Think back to when you were a kid doodling or scribbling things on scrap paper. Most likely, you'd always be proud of what you created, even if what you produced were literal stick figures (e.g. when I in kindergarten, I would always draw dinosaurs and other creatures as total stick figures, with even their heads and bodies being represented with stick-like lines). Confidence is something that erodes with age for most people.

Sometimes, it's when we compare ourselves to our favorite writers (or artists, or any other creatives) that we feel envious to the point of inadequacy. We think to ourselves, "We'll never be good as they are." The best remedy for that might have us remember that we're aren't and never will be those authors. None of us will be J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard,  Brandon Sanderson, Charles Saunders, or whomever we consider the greatest writers in our chosen genre. They have their own voices, and we have ours. We can emulate their most effective techniques, but in the end we're writing our own stories rather than theirs. We're writers, not editors or publishers.

In my own case, my inner critic assumes the voice of real-life critics, mostly online, that have panned my earlier work. In fairness, some of them may have meant to be constructive, but even these often sound condescending when my mind replays them. And then there are those critics whose personal disdain for me, whatever the cause, infused what they had to say to me. No matter the validity of their critiques, the tone of their delivery is what sticks out as hurtful.

Maybe the best solution for the latter problem is to shut those voices off entirely. You're not going to bump into them again, and they'll never like anything you put out no matter how hard you try, so why bother to please them? They're not your audience.

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As silly as it sounds, sometimes switching up the font I'm using really helps.  If I can find one that looks silly or like actual handwriting or if it has a similar vibe to what I want to write, sometimes that helps.  I have mild dyslexia, so switching to the dyslexia font helps because of how the letters are tilted.  Once I put it in an "official" font like Times or Verdana or Palatino I find I switch to editing mode.

And sometimes switching to notebook and pen helps.  Being at a computer for the day job and writing is sometimes too much and a notebook can go anywhere.  The change in medium, and even scenery, shuts up my editor because my handwriting is messy by default, so I never expect anything handwritten to be edited until it gets transferred to the computer.

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