The Gassy Gnoll: Strangling the Inner Critic

This Gassy Gnoll has been doing a ton of writing lately. A few reviews. A few articles. Lots of text for future Moebius Adventures products in the works. And through it all he’s discovered an annoying issue. The inner critic is always there nagging away at it all.

Poor Bart. Always getting strangled by Homer...

Poor Bart. Always getting strangled by Homer…

You’ve probably got one too. It’s the voice that tells you “Why bother? Nobody’s going to read it anyway.” Or “Wow, that sentence sucks. You should rewrite it a few hundred more times.” Or even “Dang, where’d you learn to type? That’s not how you spell that! You need to Google it and figure out how to REALLY spell it along with some possible alternatives…”

You get the idea. Maybe your voice isn’t as loud as mine. Perhaps it’s meaner or nicer than mine. But most of us have one of these annoying little buggers rattling around in our brain pan when we try to write something for publication.

But in order to get anywhere, you have to do one of two things… Negotiate with the critical terrorist inside you. Or put a gag on them to shut them up for a while. Negotiating with terrorists is never a good idea, so I recommend finding some ways to gag them for a bit.

The trick with writing that I’ve found is that you have to actually do the writing. I know that sounds obvious, but I’ve spent months doing the whole “analysis paralysis” thing and weeks moping after a particularly cruel review. Guess what? The only way to get better is to keep working at it. And the only way to keep working at it is to do the work and stifle that inner critic.

If yours is getting in the way, here are three things I can suggest:

  1. Get out a voice recorder of some sort and talk it out. Break out that ancient tape recorder you have lying around somewhere since college or download a voice recorder app for your phone. Or get on Google+ Hangouts and do a private on-air hangout that records your session in YouTube. And talk it out. Walk through your ideas. Flesh them out. Don’t worry about sounding stupid because you’re talking to yourself. Nobody cares. But get your ideas out there in the ether. Then go back, listen, and write them down.
  2. Write things out longhand. Yes, I know we live in a digital age, but it’s much too easy to hit that backspace or delete key and do more editing than writing once you start seeing words on the virtual page. Good old pen and paper solves that quickly and easily. Don’t worry about how it looks. Write words. Draw circles. Make lines and arrows. Whatever it takes to get across your ideas so that you can later take them and compose them into a less drafty form.
  3. Set a timer. Get set up to write on your device of choice. And hide the screen or turn it off. Then write for your time limit. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. 30 minutes. Most of us can touch type in this day and age. So just start writing it out. If you can’t SEE it… You can’t EDIT it.

There’s definitely a place for your critic. Once you start editing and hacking your draft to pieces, the critic can come out and shout whatever obscenities it needs to to get the document to the best state it can exist in. And if you have access to someone else who can read a piece critically or proofread or *gasp* edit your work, do so. The more eyeballs that are on your piece for publication (especially if you’re selling it as a product), the better.

So temporarily strangle your inner critic, but be sure to let it out every now and then to help you. :)

What techniques do YOU use to take care of your inner critic? Let us know in the comments!

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