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Content Week: How to Deal with Your Blogging ‘Inner Critic’

Theme WeekDo you have an inner critic? That little voice in your head that whispers in your ear as you write… chipping away at your confidence… making you second guess yourself… scattering seeds of doubt and fear through every paragraph you write… resulting in the ‘delete’ key being the most used key on your keyboard!

Or maybe that’s just me???

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It is content week here on ProBlogger this week and while we want most of our posts to inspire and equip you to create great content on your blog, it would be remiss of us to ignore one of the biggest challenges that many bloggers face – dealing with their inner critic.

I asked readers about their inner critic and how they deal with it on the ProBlogger Twitter account and Facebook page earlier in the week, and it was fascinating to see people’s reactions.

For starters it seems most bloggers have an inner critic – the response on that front was quite overwhelming!

How to Deal with the Inner Critic

There are no right or wrong ways to deal with your inner critic, and depending on the situation, you might want to take a number of approaches.

Ignore or Banish It

It is easier said than done, but when your inner critic has nothing constructive to say and is stopping the creative process, banishing it can be one of the most useful things you can do.

There are a range of ways of doing this, as illustrated in these responses on our Facebook page:

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This simple technique of redirecting your brain when you notice negativity is something that works for a lot of people. It aims to break the moment of negativity and then allows you to move on. You can try a word, like Karen does, or you can try to force your brain to think of something else to crowd out your inner critic – long enough for you to move on and be unaffected.

Then there’s the ‘willpower’ approach which some seem to favour:

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I find this willpower approach tougher and generally like to try to find a way to work with my inner critic.

Partner With It

I love this response from Erin White:

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This rings true for me and has become my default position for dealing with my inner critic. You see ‘critique’ is actually a useful thing. When used at the right time and in a constructive way, it actually makes us better.

I’ve come to peace with the fact that my inner critic is often actually my inner quality control inspector.

The key is to keep it in its place and only allow it to do its thing when the time is right.

So for me, when I begin to hear the whispers of doubt as I’m writing, I don’t ignore them, rather, I defer them until later – at which point they can go to town with their critical thinking. I also work the same way when I’m finding new content – first, brainstorm, then critique.

Note: This doesn’t mean I never allow myself to be critical of what I’m doing until I’ve finished. Sometimes some critical thinking is useful earlier in the writing process and idea generation stage.

It just means that there are times to bring critical thought to bear, and other times to suspend it and let one’s creativity flow.

So for me, I have a time for writing and creating, and a time for critiquing and judging what I’ve written.

If the doubts get loud to the point that they’re crowding out my creativity, I often find it worthwhile to jot down the nagging feelings I have on a piece of paper next to my keyboard before getting back to writing. I tell myself that I’ll pay attention to that doubt I have later… but now is a time to create.

It’s not always easy to take this approach but I’ve found that the more I do it the better I get at putting off and then, at the appropriate time, embracing the inner critic.

A few Questions to Ask When Working with Your Inner Critic

Working with your inner critic as a parter takes a little practice and is something you need to balance.

Without them, your work can be shoddy and of a low quality. But let them have too much influence, and you may not actually produce anything! If you let your inner critic overrule all the content ideas you come up with, it can be hard to keep producing them, and you might find you’re writing about the same old thing and never stepping out into new territory.

As a result I think it’s important to learn to ask yourself a couple of questions to help get the balance right (note: these are the same questions I recommend asking when another person is being critical of what you’re doing):

1. Is their truth in the words of my inner critic? - sometimes the whispers contain no truth and are just holding you back – but sometimes they have truth in them and are signals that you could improve what you’re doing.

2. What can I do to improve? – If there is truth in what you’re hearing – what do you need to do to improve what you’re doing? Turn the critic’s words into a constructive direction and use them to help you improve what you’re working on.

This second question is really important for many of us to do as often we let the inner critic paralyse us and stop us in our tracks. Rather than getting wrapped up in the turmoil of the critique – let it be the launching pad to better things!

Lastly, try to decide upon an action you can take that will move you on from your critical thinking. It is easy to get bogged down at this stage so I find it is important to move back into ‘action’ and ‘creation’ after having a critical review of what I’m doing. This gets the momentum going again and me back into a more positive frame of mind.

A Word About Fear

The other inner turmoil that many of us face as bloggers is fear. While some of the above probably applies I have previously outlined 3 quick questions to ask when you’re paralysed by fear. If fear is crippling you (as it has me at times) – I hope those questions help get things in perspective.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Amazing Post Darren!! thanks for sharing

  2. Erin White says:

    “Inner quality control inspector” – maybe we should all be marking our blog posts with little notes, like you find in the pockets of a new pair of jeans. “Inspected by Your Inner Critic” ;) Thanks for the shout, I feel famous now!

  3. Jenny Locke says:

    Thank you for those very good points and it is actually encouraging to know that everyone feels the same.
    My problem is that I will find something else to divert my attention away from the writing, just nipping down to the shops or something like that.

  4. Lee Cole says:

    For me the ignore it suggestion is best. I don’t think I’m getting rid of it. I think I need to just learn to tune it out. The goal is to take actions that build my business/brand online without listening to nonsense inside my own head. It’s easier to ignore me than to fix me.

  5. Love this article. Thanks for sharing practical tips and spot-on perspective. I loved the suggestion from one of your readers to say “Apple” every time a negative thought enters your mind. I’ll probably steal that idea. #whateverworks

  6. Bloggers especially those who are new into the blogging world, after 1-2 months of their journey they divert their mind into other things. Lack of concentration and will of writing they are unable to survive a long. After few days it will be seen that the blog which was active for 5-6 days gone in vain. Tons of spam comments, and many more.

    I would like to thank you for these suggestion over here in this article. Though I wouldn’t say much about this, just in one word I would like to thank Darren Rowse for this AWESOME post.

  7. Amazing Post Darren!! thanks for sharing :D

  8. Darren,

    Listening, heeding, or ignoring, and proceeding are key steps. Sometimes the truth is making its way into your mind as you note. Other days you are simply self sabotaging. by learning how to listen and make a choice you can deal with your inner critic.

    I like listening and assessing. Doing so helps me to see the truth or failure in the criticism.

    Excellent stuff.

  9. This article is awesome. But, i think the perfect way is to ignore. Because if we try to get rid of it, we could spend more time on it. Thanks.

  10. Nikhil says:

    Hi Darren,
    Great Post, Inner critic is most powerful which guide you towards the truth and false

  11. The inner critic is not some malicious entity that needs to be banished but a necessary filter. Without filters the internet would be awash with nonsense – oh wait, damn – too late. Ignoring your inner critic is changing who you are and the inevitable consequence is a watery, slim-downed version of yourself.

    There are times of course when you should hold your tongue, I’m not a fan of personal attacks on people but their ideas are fair game. As someone who’s been reading blogs since they first appeared I’ve seen many changes. It seems to me that every blog I read is more interested in making money than actually saying anything. I’ve always thought that money should be a consequence and not the driving factor of a blog.

    I worry that when people speak of their inner critic what they’re asking themselves is ‘will this post have mass appeal ?’ . I for one have no interest in being part of some web wide mutual appreciation society. I don’t think I have to worry too much :(

    I would however draw a line, as you do, between self criticism and fear. The fear that comes with presenting your ideas or thoughts to the world is natural, it might be misplaced but it is natural. To deal with fear you should first recognize it for what it is and then ask yourself if it’s warranted. The simplest way to do that is read blogs, lots of them – chances are you’re no worse than most.

  12. Main problem with my writing is that I am very honest. If something isn’t write, I emphasize in my articles and often it end up that I am writing negative content.

  13. Hi Darren,
    This is a great post. The inner voice is very important at times. All depends which program is running. LOL When it starts ranting things like ” you can’t do this” then it is time to change the program before it gets out of control
    When my inner voice gets out of control, I usually tell it to be quiet and move on.
    Thanks Darren

  14. josipb says:

    The inner critic often produces feelings of shame, deficiency, low self-esteem, and depression. It may also cause self-doubt and undermine self-confidence. It is common for people to have a harsh inner critic that is debilitating: Neville Symington suggests that such a severely critical inner object is especially noticeable in Narcissism.
    Earley & Weiss identify seven types of inner critics—the perfectionist, the taskmaster, the inner controller, the guilt tripper, the destroyer, the underminer, and the molder.

  15. Samuel says:

    The inner critic most of the time is a bad influence to what you’re doing.

    The inner critic may also become a helpful reminder for certain things you already “know” you’re a little weak on.

    But don’t let it take over you and tell you can’t overcome.

    Become an enforcer to the good voices as well and embrace positivity!

    Thanks for the post.

    - Sam

  16. Love this article. Thanks for sharing practical tips and spot-on perspective. I loved the suggestion from one of your readers to say “Apple” every time a negative thought enters your mind. I’ll probably steal that idea

  17. Nevada Mike says:

    Great Post Darren! My inner critic is always overly critical. I’ve learned the only way to harness it is to take it with a grain of salt. Also, a good nights sleep to think it over helps as well!

  18. Awesome post Darren, I totally agree with what you say that “sometimes the whispers contain no truth and are just holding you back – but sometimes they have truth in them and are signals that you could improve what you’re doing.” It’s how you interpret your inner critic but never be overwhelmed with it. You can have it as a guide but always do something you’re passionate about.

    PS. I’m reading “3 Questions to Ask When Facing Fear [And Why Wobbly Courage Is Enough]” now :-)

    Keep it up!
    Rebecca

  19. Alan Hall says:

    Amazing post Darren :) I liked the idea of saying ‘Apple’. Well, this is about creativity so sometimes it just might not work, then try something else, but at least we can try.

    I feel good that I am not the only one suffering from the critic thing. Thanks a lot for sharing :D

  20. Dev says:

    Awesome post. My inner critic always stop me from doing best.

  21. One of the things I learned when taking Tara Mohr’s Playing Big class was to give that inner critic some flesh and bones. What would they wear? What do they look like? What are their habits? What are their favorite lines? Where do they live? How do they see the world?

    Such a great idea to ask what they are trying to help you with. All of the parts of ourselves are doing they best they can with what they know. Once you have that all down, it helps to recognize when that Inner critic comes up and speaks, then send it off doing a task while you get your work done.

  22. Fuad says:

    Very useful post for those who are suffering from self guilt. Damn it Darren buddy, you should open your own private clinic for psychological patients, you are somewhat genius. You scrutinize the inner problems of men very well.

  23. Kalen Bruce says:

    I really do like to embrace my inner critic and grow as a writer. I can definitely be my own worst critic and I can be harsh, but I think if I take it positively, it can help me to grow.

  24. Charice says:

    Excellent post!

    Inner critic makes me better, as I have a style that uses negative things to be my positive strength. Very contradicting way of presenting an idea or an impression but really effective on getting them noticed. Inner critic is also one way of weighing both sides before promoting the ideas.

    Thanks!

  25. Yori Angelic says:

    Awesome post, Inner critic is most powerful which guide you towards the truth and false

  26. Inner critic does help , sometimes. Actually most of the time than listening to other people’s thoughts.

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