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22.02.2015 06:15    Comments: 0    Categories: Motivational      Tags: carolyn kaufman  writer's inner critic  writing!  

The Writer's Inner Critic Part II: Stop Awfulizing and Start Writing!


People don't just get upset. They contribute to their upsetness. -Albert Ellis


The Inner Critic can be the writer's worst enemy. Each time we sit down to work, it feeds on our insecurities, reminds us of past failures, and criticizes everything we put down on paper.


Until now you've probably thought, like most people do, that the Critic's sinister whispers should be brushed away so you can try to get back to work. But brushing them away is the worst thing you can do, because you're not dealing with them. And that means they'll just come back.


But you know that. That's why you're reading this article.


Imagine a room with a floor that "settled" a little too much, and now everything is tilted in toward the middle. If you drop a basketball on the floor, it will roll to the middle. You can push it back toward the wall, but as soon as it loses momentum or hits the wall, it's going to roll right back.


Now imagine yourself sitting right in that sunken spot in the middle, and imagine ten basketballs. If they settle against you, it's hard for you to write, so you have to push them away. Even if it's a really big room and the basketballs are leisurely, repeatedly pushing ten basketballs away is going to keep you from getting much writing done. You'd be better off dealing with the problem directly: gathering up the basketballs and getting them out of your way.


The Critic does the same thing as those basketballs. It keeps you so busy trying to ward it off that you don't get much done.


So let's talk about how to pick it up and get it out of your way.




The activities we'll do below are based on the work of Albert Ellis, the man whose quotes are peppered through this article, and Aaron Beck. Both men believe that irrational and distorted thinking are the true cause of most problems.


Ellis believes that we make ourselves miserable with three main "musts:"


* I must do well or I'm no good * You, you louse, must treat me well or you're worthless and deserve to roast in hell * The world must give me exactly what I want, precisely what I want, or it's a horrible, awful place (1)


Beck, meanwhile, has come up with a big list of distorted thinking patterns including:


* Overgeneralization: viewing a negative event, like receiving a rejection letter, as proof of a larger pattern: you are a failure across the board * All-or-nothing-thinking: there's rejection/failure and acceptance/success, and nothing in between * Emotional reasoning: you feel like a failure, so you must be one




The first thing you're going to do is spend some time writing down all the nasty things the Critic says to you. Often people say, "It makes me feel bad and I want it to go away, and you want me to pay more attention to it?"


Yes, that's exactly what I want you to do.


Here's why: you have to know your enemy to fight it. Until you can hear all of its insults, you won't know when or how to fight back.


Once you start to pay attention, you'll notice that the Critic knows just which things will make you feel the worst, and it repeats those things the most. Part of what makes it so virulent is it knows your deepest insecurities and fears, and those are what it uses against you. It's successful because you're afraid those things are really true.


Worse, it's stealthy enough that most of the time you're not consciously hearing what it's saying to you. You've been listening to it for so long you hardly even notice its voice. Instead, you assume that your reactions or fears are based in objective reality.


Especially because it uses insults that are hard to defend against. For example, it's hard to argue with "You're not creative enough" because it's hard to define what creative enough really is.




Our secret weapon: the ABC model.


We use a chart for our homeworks in CBT. There are 5 columns, which we'll label A, B, C, D, and E. For right now we're just going to worry about A, B, and C though, so create 3 columns on your piece of paper (you may want to turn the paper horizontally so you have more room to write) and label them A, B, and C.


B Stands for Beliefs


To start, write down all the nasty things the Critic says to you under column B. Even the things that seem small and silly. Be sure to include any phrase that uses the "hot" words the Critic likes best: should, shouldn't, must, mustn't, have to, can't, etc.--words that make us feel stuck because they don't leave room for alternatives. And sometimes the Critic uses memories or pictures, so write about those, too. What is your Critic trying to make you think or believe?


Ex: I don't know why I even bother sending out queries, I always get rejection letters. Obviously I don't have any talent and I just look stupid to everyone who sees my work. I should just give up and admit I'm no good.


Don't be surprised if your list is several pages long!


For some people, this may be difficult. If you feel really angry, or small, or sad as you work, that's all right. In fact, the more difficult it is to write, the more important it is that you do it and the better this is working.


C Stands for Consequences


As you work, write down any emotions you're feeling in the C column; that is, the emotional consequences to the beliefs in column B. Some statements might make you angry, some might make you sad, some might make you anxious. Just write it all down, and don't worry if you're repeating the same emotions beside different kinds of Critical thoughts.


Ex: Hopeless, depressed, hurt, angry, worthless


A Stands for Activating Event


Now. Every time you sit down to write, get "stuck" in your writing, worry about the time you have set aside for writing, find ways to avoid your writing time, or make excuses for not writing, you need to quickly backtrack and record what you were thinking in the B column and how it made you feel in the C column. Then, in the A column, write down what happened to trigger the thought and feeling. Did you get a rejection slip? Did you see a writer on a talk show? Did you realize your writing time is coming up?


Ex: Received a rejection slip


So you're going to be cataloging three things each time you sit down to do this:


A stands for Activating Event (what happened?) B stands for Beliefs (what you thought, what the Critic said to you) C stands for Consequences (how you feel)


A, activating events, contribute to C, consequences in our gut. But it's B, our belief system, our philosophy, which mainly, largely, or certainly in great part, makes us feel and think the way we do ? I should say behave the way we do, especially in a disturbed manner. We disturb ourselves. -Albert Ellis


Most people do better with the next part if they spend a week or two just doing the A-B-C part. We're always impatient to jump ahead, but getting ahead of yourself can make it difficult to get what you should out of the exercise.


What we're going to do next with the D and E is put the Critic in its place.




After you've spent your week or two recording your A-B-C, you're going to add D and E.


D Stands for Dispute and E Stands for Evaluate Effects


Part 1 | Part 2

About the Author

Clinical Psychologist Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD (May 3, 1973 - September 7, 2013) loved helping writers "get the psych right" in their stories, and her book on the same topic, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior.

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