Inner critic: The writer’s gremlin


So the novel is coming along… 77,500 words, maybe 5k to go… possibly longer. I’m happy enough with it but something keeps nipping at my better judgment. What I mean by this is that bloody voice in my head telling me what I’m writing is complete and utter rubbish. The snide belligerent inner critic.

As I write this I’m thinking of what I wrote last night. As the words run through my mind I constantly tell myself its rubbish, not worth the effort getting it out there to the masses. Now contrast to this is when someone tells me they read one of my short stories or a blog post and they actually liked it. This should by definition kick the inner critics ass but it doesn’t. The inner critic knows some awesome kind of ninja and wears the compliment like it’s nobodies business. It’s really annoying.

What I’ll say next may resonate with some writers but may have others heckle and call me crazy but here it goes… I hate reading my own work. It irks me terribly to reread what I’ve written even if the reason is to edit and improve my work. Now I do, as should all writers, edit and rewrite but it takes a lot of effort to have me open each scrivener file, read, edit, repeat. This doesn’t make sense to me.

When I try and dissect why this is, I come up with one theory. It’s the artist versus the businessman. I feel this theory translates to all writers whether they be in the self publishing world or traditional publishing world.

One side of me sits the artist. I create a piece of prose based on what I want to say. My thoughts, emotions and want to create sit snugly with the artist inside of me. Writing is art and not just convoluted novels of pain and woe but I believe all writing has an artistic side to it. We try to understand the human condition and the myriad of complexities in life through words. Short stories may look at one or two topics while novels may look at several. Every piece of fiction can be assigned to a real life example, the possible inspiration for it’s creation or maybe the piece of fiction stumbled upon the topic unknowingly. Either way it has tried to understand it through it’s own flavor of art. Writing.

OK, I’ll leave the art thing as I may start getting all metaphysical and confuse myself.

On the other side of the dichotomy is the growing businessman. Now, I understand very little about business but I do understand value. When you read your work it’s natural to compare to others but not just for the artistic value in it. You also look at it and say, ‘Would my stuff sell when there is such awesome stories out there already.’ You ask what the value of your work compared to others. Some people are ashamed to say that they write to make money. Making money from you work doesn’t devalue the artistic quality of it. I have no qualms about saying I would like to make money from my writing one day. To give up whatever day job you may find yourself in and work on a passion is a fantastic idea and for some it’s a reality. Granted, that reality comes with it’s own ups and downs. It’s not perfection, I’m sure.

I don’t have a definitive conclusion to rectify both side of this writing life and some people may only identify with one of none but for others it’s a constant battle. The artist wants to write, create, destroy and rebuild without constraints (o: … while the businessman wants to sell his work, placing value on each word, comparing it to a marketplace and wondering if its all worth it.

Anyway, that’s what goes on in my head as I write but what about you? How do you make sense of your inner critic and if you don’t have one, how did you banish it? (o:


  1. David, we ALL have a inner critic. You are absolutely NOT alone! I often wonder, “What if readers hate my book… What if they bash me in reviews… What will I do if no one buys my second or third book, will my agent and publisher drop me? As horrible as these thoughts are– they are normal. That “little voice” that is so mean and whispers loudly in our ear is just fear, plain and simple. I don’t know if he ever completely disappears from our lives. And maybe we don’t want him to. Maybe he’ll keep us honest. Maybe he’ll force us to focus and strive to be the best we can possibly be. And maybe, he’s what inspired the wildly successful authors to think out-of-the-box and write kick-ass stories that twist and turn. That’s what I like to think, anyway. Little tip: When your inner critic gets too loud, step away from your story for a week or so– when you come back and read it you’ll be surprised. The points you thought were crap just might be very cool. It allows you to look at it through different eyes, objective eyes. Some people say let it stay for 2-6 weeks, but I just can’t stay away that long. Good luck, and keep writing!


  2. Congrats on your 77K + words! Quite an accomplishment. I would encourage you to view your inner critic as an ally, as Sue pointed out. It’s really just Resistance, rising up when you are on the verge of something really great. Our egos want the status quo, and you are challenging that big time, and your ego will go to great lengths to keep you small (safe). If you aren’t doing anything great, your inner critic is silent. I’m sure that part of you knows your work is good, or wouldn’t enjoy it. If that negative inner voice belonged to a real person, you would not spend a single minute with such a mean, unsupportive jerk. Just as you would walk away from someone who spoke to you that way, tune out the inner critic, after you thank him for pointing out that you are on to something REALLY extraordinary! If you haven’t read Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art, check it out.
    Thanks for sharing with such honesty,


  3. If I read my writing straight after I’ve written it, I hate it. i go into, I’m no good blah, blah ,blah, mode. If I wait a few days and then read it, I’m amazed the words suddenly have transformed into something I’m almost proud of – almost.


  4. I’m the opposite of bookgirl. I adore my writing when it is fresh, then when I’ve recovered from my delusional writing hang over, I hate it. Always. No cure.


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