• The Ghost of Grad School

Your Writing Unleashed: How to Remove Your Inner Critic’s Power

One of the things that keeps many people from writing (and - more specifically - from writing clearly) is their inner critic.

The inner critic is the voice in the back of our heads and hearts that tells us that our ideas (or the way we portray them) are bad, flawed, and otherwise illegitimate.

Some of the specific arguments or phrases that my inner critic uses include:

  • Your points are invalid.

  • Your prose is illegible.

  • You don’t deserve to have your voice heard.

The fact of the matter is that facing one's inner critic is an experience that comes along with being a writer. Obviously, this negative voice can be amplified by other on-going issues in our lives such as mental health issues, professional struggles, and/or other negative voices in your life. But regardless of your situation, you do NOT have to be bound to the criticisms of your inner critic.

If you find your writing is being blocked because you are coming face-to-face with your inner critic, here are some steps to help you address and/or ignore the critic’s concerns and move forward with your writing.

1. Identify what the voice in your head is actually getting at.

Sometimes our internal doubts are our subconscious way of expressing some sincere concerns to ourselves. Is there some genuine need that can be addressed in your writing, data, analysis, or interpretation? Are you avoiding addressing something specific? Or is it just baseless nonsense that is coming from fear or insecurity?

Bonus points: WRITE IT DOWN. Literally write down the “inner critic” thoughts that keep you from writing more. Sometimes just putting them on paper takes the energy out of their arguments.

2. Address any genuine concerns that are leaking out of your subconscious and coming back to you through the words of your inner critic.

Maybe there is a piece of your data that is “whack” (scientifically speaking) and will undermine your interpretation of your findings. Maybe your argument is weak and needs to be re-thought out. Maybe you didn’t fully explain your thinking, leading others to not understand what your writing is getting at.

I find that MANY, MANY people struggle with being authentic in their writing because of some underlying flaw that they perceive but don’t directly want to address. Sometimes this is not a conscious process.

3. Consult with someone else on any remaining points that the inner critic makes.

Ask a friend who is also a writer to give you feedback on your inner critic's points. A lot of times you just need to get out of your own head to unlock the next step in writing.

Seek further help if needed, especially if mental health is an ongoing struggle for you and you aren’t being treated specifically for that.

Lastly, it’s good to remember that EVERYONE struggles with these feelings from time to time.

Many famous writers have talked about the negative feelings that they struggle when doing their own writing even after decades of having their work published worldwide. Some have said that writing has actually gotten harder for them because of the weight of their past successes.

The long and the short of it is that writing is about confronting your inner critic. Any act of creation by default is going to bring you face to face with your fears about whether you can make something worth looking at. EMBRACE this struggle. It will make you a much better writer if you can write through these feelings instead of trying to wait until they go away (hint: the inner critic usually does not go away on their own).

If you continue to struggle with writing, I STRONGLY suggest you find someone to help you on that journey! A good academic mentor can do the trick but sometimes an additional source of wisdom and encouragement can be beneficial. University writing centers can often connect you to quality folks who can give you feedback on your writing. Also, feel free hit my DMs (on Instagram) if you ever want some personalized feedback from me! I love writing and joining others on their writing journey, and I’m happy to give an hour of my time (for free) to anyone who asks for help with their writing. :)

May your writing time be blessed with ease and productivity.

- matt

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