Befriending The Gremlin: Your Inner Critic & You

What makes you think you can write a book? Your own show – are you kidding?! Phht!!

You’ve heard this kind of derisive commentary. Not from others – from inside your own mind. It’s inevitable. When you take action toward your dreams, your fears and the voice of your inner critic expand in proportion to your passion.

The inner critic – or gremlin, as coaches call it – presents very convincing arguments. So convincing that you may believe its negativity and squelch your creativity as a result of its haranguing. To be a successful creative, you need to master this negative voice.

Gremlin wrestling is the first order of business with my clients. They’re always surprised that after years of ineffectual battle with the critic, the best defense against the gremlin is to befriend it.


That Jerk = My Friend?

I know. It seems odd to buddy up with the bully that has belittled you for years. But this simple approach to living with your inner critic can empower you to reach your creative goals with less struggle. Here’s how.

Isolate your gremlin. Pay attention to it as a distinct part of you. On a daily basis, notice what it says, the language it uses, and what provokes its commentary.

I liken this to inviting your gremlin out from the wings onstage, and giving it the mic. It’s on the scene anyway, might as well give it center stage to better hear what it’s contributing.

Once you’ve separated it as one perspective and not the Truth, get to know it.

Who Is Your Inner Critic?

Write about it. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and do a character sketch as if for a story. Explore your gremlin’s world. Use these prompts:

  • What does it look like?
  • Where does it live?
  • What does it eat?
  • What are some of its favorite expressions?
  • Is it a he, a she, or something else?
  • What is its name?
  • Get a picture of it. Do a drawing, a painting, perhaps even a song describing your gremlin. Choose whatever medium makes this playful yet meaningful.

    What did you learn or notice from doing this exercise? Write down any insights you’ve gotten from this.

    Living With This Monster In a New Way

    Okay, so now you have a distinct picture of your critic and you’ve probably noticed how entrenched he is in your psyche. How do you wrestle control from this downer? Try these new perspectives.

  • Be dispassionate
  • This part of you is smart, wily, knows your sensitive spots, plus seems to always assert the logical voice of ‘reality’. Best to dispassionately observe its story rather than try to argue that yes, you are a good writer.

  • Use humor
  • When your critical voice pipes up, stay light. Humor helps you dodge the heavy messages your gremlin broadcasts in your mind.

  • Be grateful
  • Thank the gremlin. Thank it for its input and keep going. I like to say things like: “Thank you for your input. And while I may be a fat, un-stylish loser, I am still going to the party. And I’m going to have fun.”

    These strategies help cope with the gremlin, and the following approach makes a truly lasting impact for my clients.

    Befriend Your Gremlin

    Your critic now has its own discrete place in your psyche, and you feel a little less dominated by its negativity. Still, it insists on contributing whenever you take a creative risk. Rather than trying to muzzle your gremlin, enroll its help.

    Ask your gremlin these questions and write your answers.

  • What do you want for me?
  • How can you help me?
  • Please use these specific questions. A client once tweaked the question (creative people often need to add their own twist!) but didn’t get satisfactory results. I pointed her back to the original questions, and she was amazed at the empowering new perspective she received from her answers.

    These exercises might seem simple, or silly, even. But complex problems are often solved by simple solutions. Reduce creative resistance by dropping the struggle with your inner critic. Befriend it instead for more joyful and easy creativity.

    For more on managing your inner critic, see Rick Carson’s Taming Your Gremlin.

    How does your gremlin bug you? Have you learned to live with him/her/it? Are they your best friend already?! Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below!

    Image courtesy of Inti.

    Cynthia Morris helps writers, artists and entrepreneurs make their brilliant ideas a shining reality. She writes articles, e-books, blogs and is finishing a historical novel set in Paris. Get your creative juju back with Cynthia’s creativity workshops, from her Juju Infusion videos and from her free newsletter, Impulses, all found at Original Impulse.


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