Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kick the Critic to the Curb

Blech--oranges don’t taste so good after you've brushed your teeth.

On a more flavorful note, I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I’m ashamed to admit it’s taken me this long read her book, but it’s part of my assignment for the picture book class I’m taking.

For those of you familiar with Cameron’s book, the morning pages have been part of my waking routine for the past few days now. For those of you who who are as new to the book as I was, the morning pages are three pages of stream-of-conscious thought about anything at all.

The exercise is geared to dumping your mind of all those things that might block your creativity that day. You write your pages, close the book or put away the pages, and don’t look at them again for an indeterminate period of time.

The book is a twelve-week guide to open the artist, whether writer, painter, dancer, etc., to his or her higher creativity. I’m not far enough into it to comment on all the exercises, nor am I sure yet what the morning pages will ultimately do for me. But I'm waking up an extra half-hour each morning to fit this exercise into my day. That alone has been worth it.

It rarely takes me the whole half-hour to fill my pages. I use the leftover time to get menial daily tasks out of the way. As simple as it sounds, that tiny bit of extra time has made a big difference in my creative clarity.

Another exercise Cameron suggests is to travel back in time when something was said or done that blocked your ability to think you could be creative--perhaps a teacher disparaging your work, or a friend laughing at something you’d written, or rejections from publishers/agents.

I did a little soul searching and couldn’t find anyone to pin my inner critic on but me. I am my harshest critic. But the critic and the artist can’t co-exist. Cameron suggests writing affirmations, phrases of encouragement to yourself that directly contradict the critic. For example:
  • I can become a successful writer even though I’m new to the world of children's publishing.
  • I can write on the level of those being published.
  • I can catch the eye of an editor/publisher who will see the value in my work.
Or whatever comes to mind. I did both the page of negative thoughts and the affirmations that address them. It was liberating.

So…here’s your exercise:

Write a page full of all the fears, doubts, criticisms, etc. that tell you all the things you can’t do and why you can’t do them. Then write a page directly attacking all those critical thoughts.

It’s your chance to one-two punch any negative feeling that’s holding you back from achieving your dream. Go ahead and knock them out. Relegate them to inky smears on a conquered page. And feel free to share if you it makes you feel better. 


  1. The list exercise sounds like a good thing to do- I'll have to try it!

    1. Definitely. There really is something freeing about it.

  2. I got as lot out of Nancy Lamb's version of this inner-critique, because she externalizes her and calls her "The Spoiler." This is almost always not so much a part of your inner being as the unconscious repetition of a voice you internalized since childhood.
    Her suggestion is to talk back to The Spoiler, even get sassy.

    Whatever works, go do it. Good wishes for a creative day!

    1. Very cool. I like the idea of sassing back the critic. Thanks!

  3. I like this practice. Read Julia Cameron some time ago, and I've been writing my morning/sometimes-afternoon/sometimes-evening pages for years. Wild space to run, there!

    1. Cool. I've tried to keep it up. I've missed a day or two, but fitting it another time of day might be more effective for me too. Good to see how this is working for other writers. Thanks.