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Who Is Your Inner Critic?

By Emily Hanlon

Spend time listening to your Inner Critic. He or she is not comfortable with the risks demanded by a creative endeavor. By becoming aware of the foul jabber of your Inner Critic, you can see how your mind puts up roadblocks to creativity.

Tip 3 from Ten Tips on Creativity

Imagine your conscious mind is tuned in to a radio station run by a single disc jockey, your Inner Critic, and you have no way to turn down the volume much less turn it off. In fact, you've grown so used to the constant talk from the Inner Critic, you hardly notice he's ordering you about, commenting, passing judgment and evaluating just about everything you do or say; this is all so subtle and insidious that you don't separate out the Inner Critic from other parts of you. The Inner Critic has become you"it seems as if the only time you can escape his badgering is when you sleep. There is a reason for this. When you sleep, your conscious mind shuts down. The dream state or intuitive right side of the brain, takes over.

The Inner Critic avoids the dream state like the plague. He can't get a foothold in a place where there is no apparent logic, where things appear as images, feelings, sounds and colors. It should not be surprising, then, that your best stories, characters and plots, come from this place of dreams, where little is known and anything is possible. The problem is how to wrest control of the radio station from the Inner Critic so that you can give your Inner Writer some air time.

Answer the following questions quickly, without thinking.

What is the color of your Inner Critic?

How big is your Inner Critic?

What is the texture?

Is your Inner Critic masculine, feminine or both?

What does the voice of the Inner Critic sound like?

Make a list of the things your Inner Critic says to you. Don't worry if you repeat. Come back and add to this list as you become more aware of the Inner Critic.

What is a creative risk you fear taking?

Make a list of the reasons your Inner Critic has for you not taking that risk.

Make a list of the negative things your Inner Critic says about being a writer.

Find a symbol of your Inner Critic. Students have come up with anything from a picture of a boss to a vial of sulfuric acid. The image of my Inner Critic is a fierce looking puppet. I like to turn it inside out, which makes it look like a harmless alien!

Now, write to your Inner Writer. As her or him what you should do when your the voice of your Inner Critic is very loud and destructive. Put your pen to paper and start writing. Learn to listen to the voice of you Inner Writer. Give your Inner Writer some powerful stations on the radio in your mind. Turn to her when you feel your all dried up and will never write again.

Begin now:

Dear Inner Writer....

This exercise was taken from Emily Hanlon's The Art of Fiction Writing or How to Fall Down the Rabbit Hole Without Really Trying. The Art of Fiction Writing has enough writing prompts to drown out the voice of the Inner Critic!

© The Art of Fiction Writing, Emily Hanlon 1995-2005

About The Author
Emily Hanlon is a writing coach who works with writers all over the world on the telephone. She is the author of 8 books of fiction, including Petersburg, translated into several languages and reached the best sellers list in England. She leads writing retreats for women and workshops in this country and abroad. Her websites are: and

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