Friday, July 15, 2011

Can You Bribe Your Inner Critic?

Lately I've had a hard time getting started with new stories.  That darn inner critic!  Just when I start to feel confident, he sneaks up to remind me that I'm only as good as my last accomplishment.  How am I supposed to top that one?

I live for new challenges, but if I don't gag this judgmental intruder I'm going to end up with an overworked pile of old manuscripts.  Always critiquing and never creating.  I will knead this gently rising dough of prose until it becomes tough and rubbery.  And nobody wants to serve that with dinner!

Why is he here?

My inner critic is a Bloodhound that sniffs out self-doubt.  I ponder something new, and he can sense it.  Anything new brings on the uncertainty.  And he's right there!  I meander into new territory and I feel like a fugitive panicked by the barking at my heels.

Can we avoid him?

What if we always stayed inside of our comfort zones?  We wouldn't have to worry about failing.  But how dull would life be?  Inside my comfort zone there is a pile of finished manuscripts and a drawer full of conquered puzzles.  I can edit and reedit my same stories over and over again.  (Boring!)  And I can solve and resolve the same puzzles over and over again.  (Yawn!)

But I love new things.

On one hand, I can scour the Internet and buy a new puzzle whenever I feel the urge.  I still have doubts about whether I should do it; but this inner critic is the smaller, feebler younger brother.  He's the accountant in the family.

Maybe I won't be good enough and get stumped with this new puzzle.  I might be out some money, but I'll still be a puzzler.  It won't stop me from trying a different one, (or prying it apart with a screwdriver).

On the other hand, I can't simply buy a new story.  I must create it.  And my inner critic is the louder, stronger, and more convincing older brother.  He doesn't merely judge one particular work in progress.  No.  He doubts all of my abilities as a writer.  "You'll never be able to do anything with this crap," he'll say.

What if I could bribe my inner critic?

Could I pay him off?  Would he leave me alone, just for a little while?  I'm going to try it.  I'm going to turn my old swear jar into a bribery jar.  The FCC is pretty lax with profanity these days, so it couldn't hurt.  If my inner critic says something to keep me from writing, money goes into the bribery jar.

He needs to be silenced until I have something new to work with.  If it doesn't live up to my expectations, so what?  You can't learn to swim if the pool is empty.

Will I love the new story?  Probably not, but that's okay.  Even Shakespeare had first drafts.  But then again, I'll have a jar full of money and my inner critic will be itching to get to work editing.

So bribery might be worthwhile.  When your piece is written, you can use that money to treat yourself to a nice, fresh pot of coffee and get to work editing with the best person for the job:  your inner critic.

What do you think?  Can you bribe your inner critic?


  1. Yes, Jason. I bribe my inner critic. I satisfy him (or her) by reminding him that he's not "on duty" till AFTER my wip is finished. The Muse is priority #1. Inner Critic #2...for now.

  2. Hi M.E.
    What do you use to bribe her? Food? Money? Violence? Or do you simply hide the red pens on your inner critic? :-)