Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Laugh Along as You Fool Your Writer's Inner Critic

 I would love to take credit for this light-hearted approach to writers' block (usually caused by negative self-talk) published in the January ASJA monthly magazine, BUT I can't; Bonavoglia and Green are the creative ones!  It served as a great reminder to me that using humor with tough problems can result in reduction of stress and a comforting degree of detachment. I'm going to try to apply that learning more frequently to intelligentwomenonly.com too.

You can change the wording a bit in your mind and/or laugh even if you're not a writer. e.g. Treat yourself to a stress-reduction workshop and tell your inner critic you're going to an all day group therapy session which she certainly wouldn't enjoy. I particularly like 12. It's a good reframe and appeals to my green self!

12 Ways to Foil Your Inner Censor
by Angela Bonavoglia and Rochelle Green Writing something new, something especially creative, perhaps something you've been putting off for a while, can be daunting. When you're in that place, the Censor in your head can be relentless. Here are some strategies you can use to outfox your inner heckler.
  1. Treat yourself to a writers' retreat in New England, but tell her you're going to Spain.
  2. Get up way earlier than that lazy lout and write your heart out.
  3. Record your strong self reading your Censor the riot act, and play it as often as needed.
  4. Call a supportive writer friend whose voice is louder than hers.
  5. Admit that what you're writing isn't working, but don't lambast yourself. She'll hate that.
  6. Ignore her. She's only there to undercut you. She's NOT the reasoned critic that every writer needs.
  7. Use music to drown her out. If you find something she likes, she may even quiet down for a bit.
  8. Don't try to figure out who she is. She's a combination of every demeaning teacher, brow-beating parent, finger-wagging cleric, and bad person you've ever met or heard of.
  9. Write a letter to yourself laying out all of your doubts and fears. Try to see the humor, the hubris, the outlandish expectations. Then remind yourself you’re only human, and give yourself permission to be less than stellar.
  10. Hang a "No-Judgment Zone" sign in your writing space. Try to evaluate -- not judge -- as you edit and rewrite. If you hear the judge in your head, just tell her to shove it.
  11. If you have a writing goal in mind, try not to edit as you go along. Just keep writing, moving forward. That should confound her; she loves when you obsess about your work.
  12. Your Censor delights in declaring your work "garbage." And so what if occasionally she's right? Remember: Garbage can be turned into fuel. The stinker you wrote today may be compost for the garden that springs from your keyboard tomorrow.

Angela Bonavoglia, longtime ASJA member, is an author and journalist who blogs often at the Huffington Post; her most recent book is Good Catholic Girls: How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church. Rochelle Green is a freelance writer and editor who frequently covers health and education issues for print and web.
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