You want to write a book, but you gave up after one page, or one chapter. Maybe you’ve written a book, but hate it, so it’s on your hard drive, a symbol of your failure.
Would you believe me if I said that there’s no such thing as failure, and you CAN write your book, starting today? All you need to do is become familiar with your inner critic, and expose him for the illusion that he is.
The big reason you can’t write a book
I work with writers every day. A huge part of that work is separating a writer from his killer “musts” and “shoulds.” These faux strictures and rules stem from the writer’s inner critic, and they’re immensely harmful until the writer recognizes them.
Once you recognize the lies your inner critic is telling you, and recognize the source, you can go ahead and write happily. Unfortunately, this recognition is hard, because the words your inner critic whispers activate your sympathetic nervous system: this is your fight or flight response.
Fight or flight shuts down your thinking processes. The only way to counter this is to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, so that your body calms and you can think again.
You can’t rid yourself of your inner critic, but you can stop giving him attention. Vital: never argue with your inner critic. That way lies disaster. Remember that he’s an illusion, he’s not real. 🙂
Let’s look at some tips which will help you to ignore your inner critic.
1. Practice gratitude daily: list 5 wonderful things
Although you might think that gratitude (of all things!) can’t help you to write a book, guess what — it can. It’s not only free, it’s a way to turbocharge your creativity.
Gratitude floods your body with chemicals from your parasympathetic nervous system. These chemicals are completely natural, they make you feel good, and they put you into a “writing” mind state.
Keep a gratitude journal for a few weeks; it can change your life.
2. Fool your inner critic: “I’m just practicing …” — and smile
Uh-oh… You’re happily writing, and your inner critic chirps in your ear: “how could you write that? You can’t write that…”
Remember: he’s an illusion. You can’t argue with an illusion and win. Mentally say to yourself. “I’m not writing anything serious. I’m just practicing and having fun.”
And smile: just a little Mona Lisa smile. Smile slightly with your eyes and tilt your lips upward at the corners. According to The Atlantic, a full research study,“Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response,” was published in the journal Psychological Science.
Smiling is a psychological thing. Just do it. 🙂
3. Create a routine for your writing: do the same thing, every day
Every writer who writes commercially has a routine. Without a routine, you can’t get anything done. Routine includes:
- Where you write: desk in your home office, or coffee shop, or…?
- How you write: computer, iPad, longhand on a legal pad…
- When you write: early morning, lunchtime at work, on your commute…
- How long you write (research, outlining, and editing don’t count)…
It takes around four days to establish a routine. Eventually, if you keep following your routine, your inner critic fades. You’ve established a habit, and your inner critic is powerless against habits.
4. Say “thank you” to your inner critic, and write
Remembering that your inner critic is an illusion, when something he says catches your attention, say: “inner critic”, or “thank you”. You’re labelling the thought, rather than engaging it. This prevents you following the thought down a rabbit hole of endless discursive thought.
Mentally label the thought, and start writing immediately.
5. Meditate (breathe) for ten minutes a day
The voices in your head, including your inner critic, are not real. Your biggest challenge in dealing with them is realizing that you’re being baited by an illusion. Meditation can help you to recognize your inner critic as easy-to-ignore background noise.
Eventually, meditation helps you to recognize your thoughts as thoughts. Thoughts are not real. Meditation can’t eliminate thoughts — your mind chatter continues, but meditation slows it down. Meditation also prevents the constant triggering of your sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response. You’ll find that on days when you meditate for ten minutes, you’re much calmer — your inner critic is either missing, or if present, is ignored. Not bad for just ten minutes out of your day.
While there are endless ways to meditate, the simplest way is to breathe and count your breaths, because your breath is always with you. 🙂
Your inner critic is a toothless tiger, so write a book
We’ve focused on your inner critic’s role in preventing you from writing a book. However, he appears in many guises in all areas of your life. You’ll discover that when you follow the tips above, your entire life improves. 🙂
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