Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dealing With Critics of All Ages

Another writer wrote to me recently complaining of the negative messages he was giving himself about his unworthiness. In conclusion, he said, "I'm sure you recognize the inner critic. If I could somehow kill it with a blunt object and spare myself bodily harm, I'd do it in an instant."

Coping With Your Inner Critic

This isn't a helpful way to think about your inner critic. Killing a part of yourself never is.

The critic is something you built up when you were a little kid. It's 4- year-old thinking carried around in a 30-year-old body (or older). Killing 4-year-olds is actually just another 4-year-old way of thinking.

Instead, what you need to do is get your 30-year-old to work talking as adult to child with that 4-year-old. Stay rational, the way a 4-year-old cannot be. You are the adult here. Think about what would you say to a kid who worried about such things as "Am I talking to much? Not enough? Am I making sense?" "Will people think I am stupid?" Then do it.

You can't kill this kid anyway, so you might as well educate him.

Some Outer Critics

Besides, why would you want to listen to a four-year-old critic inside of you when you have so many excellent critics outside of you, critics with a track record. For example:

Some writerisms by C.J. Cherryh

Elmore Leonard's 10 rules

Do you have any other good outer critics to add to my short list?

How to Test Your Outer Critics

Here's an excellent test to perform before listening to any critic, inside or outside:

What have they written that shows they have the credentials to justify the worth of their criticism?

This test excludes most high-school and college teachers of English, most of your friends, lots of editors and agents, and your mother.

It also excludes your four-year-old, who's never written anything.

Any more criteria to add to my critics test?