The Bully

Have you met your inner critic? Are you well acquainted? Do you believe whatever it tells you?

Our inner critic or Censor is that little voice inside our heads, the one that never seems to have a kind word to say. It is a bully that pushes our creative self around, throws it to the ground, and uses it as a punching bag. I bet if most of us saw a bully in action we’d jump in to help that poor victim. Wouldn’t we? So just why do we allow our Censor to behave like a bully, and simply stand back and take it?

Have you told yourself that your work just isn’t good enough? Do you find fault with everything you attempt to do?

Hey, I’ve been there. I’m sure many of you have as well.

I recently came through a period where I hated everything I wrote. Oh, I did love it for a day or two when the idea was fresh and I was still smitten with the story. But that feeling soon fizzled out. The same paragraphs that I initially thought were terrific sounded old and tired, so stale that I couldn’t sit down and write for an extended period of time. I wasn’t even sure I liked my main character all that well.

I began jumping around, working on several projects, a few days here, a few days there. I was restless and cranky. My “Censor” was having a field day!

“So you had one book published. What makes you think you can write another one?” my Censor sneered while I sat cringing in the corner.

Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, says we should make this a rule:

Always remember that your Censor’s negative opinions are not the truth.”

Sounds like good advise to me.

So I backed off a bit.

I wrote my little bit each day and tried not to worry about what I wasn’t accomplishing. Writers write– that’s what we do. But it doesn’t mean that’s all we do. I had plenty of other things in my life to keep me busy. I decided to let the writing take care of itself.

When I was ready, I went back to a story that I started during the winter, and immediately it felt right. I’ve had to take a bit of a break from it while working on those other revisions earlier this month, but there were days when I had to go back, just to take a peak, maybe write a few sentences. Now I am anxious to see what will happen next and it feels pretty darn good.

I have no doubts that I will make it through to the end of my current work in progress. I don’t know when, nor do I need to. All I need to know it that I will eventually get there.

Although I like to keep a positive attitude, I cannot always keep myself from thinking negative thoughts from time to time. We all slip back into those negative thought patterns. It sumply means we are human.  The question is how long will we allow ourselves to remain there? Hopefully, not long at all.

I am going to keep in mind that my Censor’s opinions are not the truth. I will rewrite a new truth for myself, one that is filled with encouragement. If I forget this new truth for a little while, as I’m sure I am bound to do from time to time, I’ll start again from scratch. I’ll go back to that truth as often as need be. I will practise, practise, practise until I finally get to the point where I understand that my Censor’s opinions are not the truth.

So here are a few things to keep you thinking. Do you allow your Censor to bully your creative self? What things do you to keep your Censor in its place? And if you wrote yourself a new truth what would that truth be?

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11 Comments

  1. Polilla-Lynn

     /  August 25, 2010

    My “Censor”, as you call it, has the upper hand too often. It is not kept in check very well, but as I believe more of what I am to do and more of what I can do, then my censor has less and less to say. It is a matter of putting down the habits of the old thought life and taking up the creative process again.

    My new truth? Trust God and stop undermining myself. I don’t yet know what I can do, but HE does … so what do I really have to fear? And what can stop me … unless it is myself listening to the lies? It is time to move on. :)

    Reply
    • It sounds as though you’re on the right track again, Lynn, and I’m happy about that! Yes, our Censor can be ruthless and sometimes we even believe it, but eventually we come around. Nothing is ever accomplished by putting ourselves down. Glad you have found a new truth! :)

      Reply
  2. My censor is so intimidating at times that he actually has me cleaning the house instead of attempting to write. That generally doesn’t last, thank goodness. I ignore him by pretending he doesn’t exist. Before too long he’s gone. As Polilla says, it’s all about trust.

    Reply
    • Oh no!!!!Not cleaning house!!

      Yes, our Censor can keep us occupied in many other ways, taking us away from our creative ventures. You’re tight Joylene, best to ignore what the Censor has to say.

      Reply
  3. You mentioned one of my writing mentors: Julia Cameron. In my early twenties I quit writing “for good” because of the Censor. A friend gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way and I worked through the whole book week by week as it asks you to do . . . It was (I’m sorry this sounds corny!) life changing. Just one of the positives was (is!) that I started writing again and haven’t stopped since.

    And I’d like to say that I haven’t had a problem with the Censor since, but that would be entirely false. I’m definitely someone who has a lot of negative voices (I call the nasty inner editors, but yeah, censors might be a more apt description), but I’ve found the best way to deal with them is just to write through them. Eventually they shut up–and years of ignoring them and just writing what I want has dulled their teeth a bit. I mean they haven’t stopped me like they did in my twenties, right?

    I’m glad you allowed yourself a break from your story and even more glad that the space has provided renewed vision and delight in your words. Yay!

    Great post. We all need to hear good news about about banishing the censors.

    Reply
    • So glad that you found a way to start writing again, Ev. I don’t feel as though I have a lot of negative voices but every now and again….. The problem is we often tell ourselves that these voices are speaking the truth or trying to be realistic. Seriously, I believe anything is possible even the things that are not probable. Nothing bad can come from our expressing our creativity..

      Reply
  4. I’m not a huge fan of The Artist’s Way, but one fellow has seized the essence of Cameron’s best recommendation: write 3 pages (about 750 words) every day without censoring yourself.

    And he does it at 750Words.com.

    So for the past 53 days, I have done just that. Sometimes I use it to brainstorm plot and character (which, during rewrites, has been a godsend). Sometimes I just need to let out the things that have been bothering me. I do have a personal Livejournal as well as my public one, but the difference is that with 750words.com, no one else is able to read, jusge, or censor it. And I feel that getting it out of the way (and sometimes pouring more creative energy into just thinking about the plot) has been a great help.

    Reply
    • I have found that the morning pages have been a great help to me over the years. It has been some time since I did them. Since it is suggested that they be done first thing in the morning, I couldn’t imagine what that would do to my current wake up time of 5:30.
      Being able to get all that crap off our minds is a great way to start the day, I must check out the site you mentioned. Thanks Moira!

      Reply
  5. “I have no doubts that I will make it through to the end of my current work in progress. I don’t know when, nor do I need to. All I need to know it that I will eventually get there.” This is great, Laura – something I need to remind myself of almost every day. I think there are moments when Censor wants to be heard, but I think I have gotten pretty good at ignoring him. (why him I wonder?). Great news about your writing!

    Reply
  6. My I.C. has different voices and some are hard to distinguish from the truth. I *know* I’m not a bad writer, but sometimes my writing isn’t up to par and when good ol’ “Icky” starts nagging I can be convinced everything I’ve written is total garbage. It takes someone unbiased, not friend or family but someone knowledgeable that I trust, to tell me otherwise before I can look at it from a better perspective. It also helps to read books like HOW I GOT PUBLISHED (ed. by Ray White & Duane Lindsay) and hear that writers of much repute have had the exact same feelings of inadequacy and still managed to get published!

    Reply
    • Jennifer— It is curious that you refer to your Censor as HE. But at least you’re ignoring him!

      Carol– I also have those times when I hate everything I write. I do take comfort in other writer’s stories that they also feel inadequate at time. I’ll check out the book…Thanks

      Reply

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