Deep in the process of my novel’s revision, I’ve cycled through elation, exuberance, despair, anger, frustration and determination. My inner critic has been piping up, too. Here’s his contribution:
- You’re not really a writer.
- You can’t really write a novel.
- See? It’s not good enough and it never will be.
- You don’t know how to write.
- How the heck are you going to pull this off?
I hear the voice, take a deep sigh and plunge in. But as you can see, I often feel like I’m paddling out of my depth, riding the waves of the creative process and barely staying afloat.
Then one day, while taking my necessary nap or ‘noodling’ time, I recalled a strategy I use with my clients, but with a twist.
I said to myself, “What if you adopt an affectionate perspective? Like a sweet big sister who absolutely loves and believes in you.”
So I tried it. “Oh, sweetie, I understand why you’re scared. It’s okay. You can do it.” And it worked. I immediately felt lighter and more relaxed. Now, when I’m irritable or impatient (behaviors I’ve noticed really just mask my fears) I ask that voice for help.
Feeling empowered by this new perspective, I mentioned it to a friend. She told me she referred to this voice as affectionate awareness. When I’m coaching clients or training writers to develop a healthy writing practice, I call this voice the champion. It’s the opposite of your inner critic, and it thinks you’re the most amazing creator in the world. This part of you completely believes that you can make whatever you want.
This strategy works even better with use of the word ‘affectionate’. This immediately conjures up a feeling of tenderness and compassion. It’s like pushing a love button – the word ‘affectionate’ almost instantly changes my mood and pushes those negative emotions and fears aside.
Words carry power. And when dealing with our inner critic, we need strategies that work. What word shifts you from creative despair to creative optimism?
Try affectionate awareness now
Today, right now even, tune in to your champion. Offer yourself affectionate awareness. When you have 15 minutes, grab a pen and befriend your champion. Try this:
- interview your champion
- write a character sketch: her looks, tastes, beliefs, name…
- choose a word that triggers your love button, or use affectionate
Remember that your champion can be as vocal as your critic – but much more helpful. Listen to it when it encourages you to keep going. Pay attention when she reminds you that your efforts are worth it even if you don’t see results right away.
Try this exercise now. Don’t just nod and surf away. Get your pen or open a document and spend a few minutes with your champion. She’s waiting for you to let her help you!
What word invites your champion to the scene? How often do you listen to her input? Share your champion with us in a comment.