My Inner Critic Is Abusing My Inner Child

Writers talk about their inner critics a lot—you know, the stern/unforgiving/hypercritical/cruel persona who is always up close and personal when they try to write. Inner Critics are jerks, and they pretty much never shut up. They inhibit and intimidate. They’ve undoubtedly derailed many talented writers.

Inner Critics don’t discriminate on the basis of race, creed, gender or creative predilection. Writers haven’t cornered this market. I’m an illustrator, and my Inner Critic has had an extremely fruitful career hanging out in my head. She’s really mean, and it affects my work. But then again, I sometimes think I can write, so I guess my anti-muse has a lot of material to work with.

You’d think that there would be some sort of relation between the horribleness of one’s life and the impact of the IC. You know–the worse your own life story is, the more accusatory, negative and nasty the IC will be, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe the opposite tends to be true—if you’ve come out basically intact, you know how to fight it, and you don’t let it bother you. At any rate, Inner Critics find their way somehow, and once an Inner Critic takes up its post, it’s hard to ignore.

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about how she fights inner critics and it’s pretty hilarious. She has a whole squadron of them. One technique involves envisioning the critics as mice, dropping them into a glass jar with a volume control knob, putting the lid on, and turning the sound waaaay down.

Well, thinking of the IC as a mouse didn’t work for me—in this line of work “mice” and “cute” are almost always a pair. So I took a slightly different approach, drew my inner critic and named her Miss Meanypants. You want a mind game? Think about what your inner critic looks like and why. It’s hours of fun, alone or in a group! My husband and I pondered it over lunch one day, and there were some interesting gender differences, but that’s probably another post…

I scanned Miss Meanypants, shrunk her, and printed her out. Then I made her into a stick puppet, because stick puppets are silly. And besides, if it’s on a popsicle stick, who can take it seriously? I put her in a glass jar and closed the lid. (Harry Potter fans—I guess this is my way of saying “Riddikulus.”) Having Miss Meanypants right there in front of me will, I hope, make it easier to ignore her.

I’ll keep you posted.


2 Responses to My Inner Critic Is Abusing My Inner Child

  1. wellerwishes says:

    Carol, you must stop with these witty, insightful posts. You’re making the rest of us look bad.

    (I’m off to make my own popsicle-stick inner-critic voodoo doll now. I have the perfect jar waiting… )

  2. Dave Lowe says:

    Hi Carol, I enjoyed reading about your battle with the inner critic/s! It is traditional to turn them into funny characters, high pitched squeaky voices, but as illustrators – these are a source of inspiration!
    I try to acknowledge that they work with me and so I give them as much time off as I can afford, knowing that they will be back at 8.30 am – for work as usual!
    At the same time, I know that my inner child will lead me up the garden path, and beyond, which sometimes – is good and other times, I wonder where I have got to…

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