My Inner Critic Needs A Hug

It’s 5:30 AM, and my whole house is asleep.  Let’s pause so I can do my happy dance.  Before realizing I might have some bona fide free time to myself this morning, I had a little conversation with my inner critic (“IC”).  IC usually wakes up before I do, and she starts her day by telling me what I will probably do wrong today and what I did wrong yesterday and how I will never have nice hair.  She was particularly irascible today because of my recent bout with the stomach flu– she gets wicked when she gets hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or sick.

This morning, she wanted to talk to me about the novel I am writing.  So far, I have written 19, 361 words (but who’s counting? Actually, both IC and I are counting).  I could tell where she was going to go with the discussion this morning: it was definitely going to end with “the writing sucks so you should spend your time on Pinterest.”  I let her start talking because I was too tired to fight.  I made the mistake of letting IC read over the first chapter yesterday, which is similar to letting IC look at pictures of me when she’s in a bad mood– in both cases all she can do is point out things that “suck.”

Me and IC at the park

Me and IC at the park

At first, in the quietness of my household, I thought I would just punch IC in the face and put her in timeout. No one deserves a punch in the face like IC does.  But, then I paused, because I had to pee. While I was sitting on the pot, I decided that punching IC wasn’t going to work.  I had done it before and it only made her more angry and then more critical.  What else could I do? I didn’t want her to ruin my writing project with her bleak adjectives.  I, too, had re-read my first chapter.  While it may not be worthy of this year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction, I want to keep writing (especially since they didn’t award a PP in fiction anyway).  I think the writing is a little flat, but I know three other things that console me: (1) I have plenty of time to edit and polish; (2) I AM NOT DONE YET; and (3) I haven’t even gotten to the vampires, the S&M sex scenes or the post-apocalyptic Olympic games.

But what about IC?  Maybe it was the euphoria of having free time on a glorious spring morning or having digested only about 217 calories in the past two days because of the virulent stomach flu, but something emboldened me.  I decided to try something new with IC.  What if I tried the advice of those drippy parenting websites that instruct parents to give their over-tired toddlers a big hug and extra love when the toddlers are being complete a**holes? I have to admit it works with my kids.  Maybe IC needed a hug, a snack and some space.

I tried it.  I didn’t punch IC in the face.  I told her that I was not in the mood for her opinions about my writing or my hair.  I gave her a hug.  I offered her some goldfish.  I told her she could hang out with me, but she wasn’t going to be in charge of the conversations in my head today.  I gave her the day off.  She’s now sleeping in the hammock of my mind.

I am so glad I didn’t punch her in the face, because just like any other time I punch myself in the face, it hurts so much and accomplishes so very little.

So, what do you do with your inner critic? Hugs? Time outs? Take away her cell phone? Make her go to Zumba class?


22 thoughts on “My Inner Critic Needs A Hug

  1. So something I can relate to! Congratulations on not punching IC in the face – I find that exercise, or a cookie, or chatting with friends tends to shut down my IC, at least for the moment. And when IC can quiet down, or just chomp on a really good cookie, I can think, and believe in myself. And heck, we want to get to those vampires and post-apocalyptic Olympic games! 🙂

  2. Whoa tiger–take it easy. Suck on a pedialyte pop or something. It is the virus talking–it is way too early to start a day like this. You know you are a great writer, or we wouldn’t all be reading your blog all the time!! You are an inspiration, you are witty and at least you have hair. Think of the women out there that have lost all of their hair to chemotherapy. Nip it in the bud right now sister.

    • Heather!! Love and need the tough love. And you are right, I know women with no hair, so nipping it in the bud is good advice. I can always move to England and wear those amazing hats too!

  3. My IC b#tch-slapped me last week. More like beat me to a pulp, if I want to be totally honest. Good for you for putting her in her rightful place and giving her a bit of love.

  4. I think I had better send her out to dinner with your IC, and then both of us can get some work done. Resently my IC has been winning.

  5. It’s kind of like the saying “only truly insane people never doubt their sanity,” in that only talentless people never doubt their talent or their hair (actually, I made up the hair part. I bet Courtney Cox never doubts her hair…that bitch. But I digress…).

    Anyway, I always take heart in knowing that some of the very best writers in history thought their work was crap, and you should too. Just get through it. Keep writing, and don’t go back and read your chapters for a while until you are feeling more confident. This too shall pass.

    You are one of the funniest writers I know, and my day is always brightened by your posts. So tell your IC to give you a break. You totally deserve it!


    • It’s funny how I read about “famous” authors who are plagued by their inner critics, but I don’t believe them! No matter how much Anne Lamott or Elizabeth Gilbert says it, I don’t believe it. Not sure what that says about me.

      And, yes, Courtney Cox’s hair is a marvel. I have been jealous of it since she was called on stage during that live Springsteen video…long before Friends took off.

      Thank you for stopping by and reminding me that it will pass. I am sure tomorrow I will think my novel is the next The Help or Beloved.

      We’ll see. I will never know if I don’t try!

    • Yay! I feel so much less alone when someone tells me how they deal with her inner critic. And you just FINISHED Ripple. So there’s that! Thanks for taking the time. It means the world to me. Have a great trip and be safe. And come home soon because I may need more pep talks.

  6. My IC is sly. She appears meek as she scampers away upon my first command. But she is also consistent. Always with the “you can’t do this” “give up now” “stick to the things you suck at that at least pay you (with the subtext “give up writing and parenting full time”).” Bitch gets underneath my skin.

    Your IC played ring around the rosy with mine today when she told me you had almost 20,000 words done AND 100 blog posts. We suck. Boo-hoo.

    PS – not to make this all about me, this was really a fantastic post. Funny and poignant and full of new vocabulary words. I laughed, I cried, I learned. What more do I need?

    • Which is worse: your inner mommy critic or the lawyer critic?

      Mommy critic is way worse because she can convince me I am screwing my babies, which is worse than screwing clients. Ah. Shit. Both suck.

      • Oh most definitely for me it’s lawyer/career IC. Mommy IC is honestly happy when my kids are fed and alive at the end of each day. I had such a chaotic childhood and I turned out alright so I know they will be great (hint: super low expectations help).

        It’s career, especially writer IC, who slays me.

      • Omg yes. Writer IC has been doing push ups and working out with the kettle ball for years waiting for me to dare to be a writer. She’s got terminal PMS and a PhD in snark.

  7. Ah, you see, my IC tells me that she wishes she could write more like you. You have wit and humour – which is something that I would love to have. My IC tells me that I come off more like a depressed sap in my writing. You are a fantastic writer, keep up the great work. I am so glad that you and your blog have come into my life (even if only via online) – you are a great inspiration!

    • One thing is for sure, our critics know how to go for the jugular. Yikes. I would never let someone talk to my kids this way, but IC gets to talk to me like this.

      Funny– my IC says I need to be more serious and thoughtful and helpful instead of such a sassy pants!

      What do they know?

      I am grateful I have pursued all of this far enough to get her and meet you and your writing!

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