Monday, December 16, 2013

Nothing Kills Creativity Faster the Criticism: Enter the Inner Critic

Nothing Kills Creativity Faster than Criticism: Enter the Inner Critic.Imagine your conscious mind is tuned in to a radio station run by a single disc jockey, your Inner Critic, and you have no way to turn down the volume much less turn it off.
In fact, you’ve grown so used to the constant talk from the Inner Critic you hardly notice he’s ordering you about, commenting, passing judgment and evaluating just about everything you do or say; this is all so subtle and insidious that you don’t separate out the Inner Critic from other parts of you.
The Inner Critic has become you—it seems as if the only time you can escape his badgering is when you sleep. There is a reason for this.
When you sleep, your conscious mind shuts down. The dream state or intuitive right side of the brain, takes over.
The Inner Critic avoids the dream state like the plague. He can’t get a foothold where there is no apparent logic, where things appear as images, feelings, sounds and colors.
It should not be surprising, then, that your best stories, characters and plots, come from this place of dreams, where little is known and anything is possible. The problem is how to wrest control of the radio station from the Inner Critic so that you can give your Inner Writer some air time.
Answer the following questions quickly, without thinking.
What is the color of your Inner Critic?
How big is your Inner Critic?
What is the texture?
Is your Inner Critic masculine, feminine or both?
What does the voice of the Inner Critic sound like?
Make a list of the things your Inner Critic says to you. Don’t worry if you repeat. Come back and add to this list as you become more aware of the Inner Critic.
Next: Find a symbol of your Inner Critic.
Symbols are powerful doorways into the unconscious. We remember them, often quite viscerally. This is why I have, for many years, been asking my students to find an image of the Inner Critic. They have come up with everything from a picture of a boss to a vial of sulfuric acid. The image of my Inner Critic is a fierce looking puppet. I like to turn it inside out, which makes it look like a harmless alien!

You can also have more than one image of your Inner Critic. On a retreat I once held on the beach, I asked the women to bring something that represented their Inner Critic. After showing them around and letting the Inner Critics cut loose with their miserable jabber, we buried them in the sand!

I had brought a photograph of my mother as my inner critic....

Sound harsh? Not at all. Parents and parental figures are usually part of the formation of the Inner Critic. My mother also happened to be a very critical woman. The photo I brought was one in which she was a young mother. I buried it in the sand. When the retreat we over, some of us decided to leave our images buried. It was hard at the time, but I left the photo of my mother. I can remember, to this day, exactly which picture it was and where I buried it.

The decision turned out to be quite freeing and led to my being able to quiet some of the most vicious aspects of my inner critic.  hen you find a photo or image of your Inner Critic, you can do at least two things with it.

1. Before you sit down to write, take the image of your Inner Critic and bury it, perhaps under dirty laundry! Or in a closet.  And here's a tip. Don't leave your Inner Critic hidden. You will forget about it. Best to leave it where you can see it and whenever you are going to write, hide it and in no uncertain terms tell it that it is not welcome when you are writing!

2. Take a photo of your Inner Critic and post it here.  In a recent Making Your Own Inner Wisdom Cards, one of the participants made the card above of her Inner Critic.
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  1. Hi Emily

    I tried the exercise, but the only image which kept coming back was the photo you posted. I gave up on the exercise and wrote this haiku instead.

    children in the mist
    holding tightly to balloons
    this shifting world

    Adelaide B. Shaw

  2. Hi Adelaide,
    If the photo I posted stayed with you, then I think that is your image!! Interesting how we doubt the workings of the unconscious when we get something other than what we think is correct!
    I love the haiku, too!
    Having the photo in your mind, you might want to focus on it until a specific aspect of it comes into clear focus and use that as the jumping off point for the exercise.
    In any work of the imagination, expect the unexpected!'
    Let us know how it goes...

  3. Dear Emily,

    Continuing with the practice, I quickly wrote down nouns and adjectives pertaining first to the children, then to the balloons, then to the weather. Then I wrote one sentence which led to another and another without any specific direction. Gradually a story began to develop, but it was only after Ruthie says, “I fly, I fly,” that I knew how the story would end. Here is the story, a first draft, sort of. I made a few changes while typing it.
    “I Fly”

    The three children were outside playing on the gravel path leading up to the house. Most of the gravel was gone, exposing a squelching mud. The children didn’t seem to mind the mud or the fine mist as they lifted their balloons aloft. Red, yellow and blue, tethered by strings attached to the children’s wrists. Too many balloons, in the past, had been lost to the wind and the heavens before Mama decided to tie them on. Balloons cost only pennies, but pennies mounted up. Mama counted pennies and could not waste even one.

    “Look,” said Elisha, “I can slide the string off my wrist.” Slowly the string slid over the child’s wrist and knuckles. She watched the yellow balloon bounce a little higher, straining to be free. A little more and it would be free, then she would run and catch the tail end of the string before the balloon rose above the trees.

    “Don’t, Elisha.” Zeke, the eldest of the children called out. “Mamma said no more balloons if you lose this one.”

    Elisha yanked the balloon back and pushed her hand through the loop. “It’s no fun this way. I want to run and chase it.”

    “I run. I run.” Ruthie, the baby at aged two, held her balloon over her head and ran into the mist across the ragged yard toward the road. The red balloon bobbed and swayed, providing a clear marker for Ruthie’s location.

    “Ruthie! The Road,” Zeke yelled.

    “I thop. I thop,” she lisped into the mist toward Zeke as she ran back splashing through the mud and laughing. “I fly. I fly.”

    “Maybe she really would fly if she had all the balloons tied to her wrist.” Elisha wiggled her balloon off as she spoke. “Come on Zeke. Take your balloon off.”

    “That’s silly. It won’t work. Anyways, my string is too tight” He pulled at the string only to make the knot even tighter.

    “Wait a minute,” Elisha said, tying her yellow balloon to Ruthie’s wrist. Swift as a hound who’s caught the smell of a fox, she ran to the house and slipped quietly through the back door. The shiny, slivery scissors glinted even in the dim grayness. With one snip Zeke’s blue balloon was free. As if it had a mind of its own it tugged on Zeke’s hand.

    “Come on Zeke. Tie it on Ruthie.” Elisha gave her brother a push to hurry up.

    Ruthie stood still and laughed as the blue balloon was tied on her wrist with the others. “Red, yeyyow, bu. Red, yeyyow, bu.”

    “Lift up your arm. Higher. Higher.” Elisha pulled upward on Ruthie’s arm.

    “She’s not flying,” Zeke said in a tone of disgust. “It was a stupid idea.”

    “She’ll fly if she runs first. Run, Ruthie. Run!”

    Ruthie picked up her feet and pumped her short legs forward. “I fly. I fly.” Her happy voice carried back to Elisha and Zeke who ran behind her.

    “Faster, Ruthie. Faster,” they both urged.

    “I fly. I…

    The screech of brakes seemed to continue for minutes rather than just seconds as the balloons rose sharply and quickly, then just as sharply and quickly dropped. When the screeching faded away the only sound was the ticking of the mist as it dripped off leaves and bushes, providing a rhythmic accompaniment to the gentle waving of the balloons in the mist.

  4. Good morning, Adelaide
    Just read your story... it's excellent! And so sad....
    Your use of dialogue in such a short piece makes the characters come alive. And well done dramatic tension! So much in so few words.
    Have you been writing long? You have a great hold on technique, character and tension.
    Any thoughts now on how the technique works for you??
    I'd love to hear.

  5. Dear Emily,

    I am pleased you like my story. Thank you for all the wonderful things you said about my writing. I have been writing for a long time. I began first with haiku and Japanese short form poetry in the early 1970’s. When I turned 50 I began to write fiction. It must have been something about reaching the half century mark that inspired me to do something new. That was 27 years ago. I’m now 77. I try to keep up with both haiku and fiction.

    Your exercise was helpful. Listing the nouns and adjectives made me concentrate on the different features of the photo, on which items were prominent and which were in the background. This helped in germinating an idea for the story. The next time I’ll have to conjure up my own image and not use a picture and see what happens.

    On my writing blog I have added your blog to the blogs I follow. Please visit me there at or at my haiku blog:

    I’m looking forward to more of your posts.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

  6. Hi Adelaide,
    Checked out your blog, looks very interesting! keep writing and writing. You have the flow.
    You might want to sign up for my blog and you will receive new posts by email . I am definitely in a blogging mode. Sometimes I blog a lot. Sometimes not at all. Now I am loving it.
    Have a wonderful holiday!
    I look forward to your future comments.


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