Friday, April 15, 2011

Creativity Exercise: Getting to know your inner critic

Everybody has an Inner Critic.  This is the part of you that is your Censor [Julia Cameron's name for it].  It's job is to protect you, to prevent you from hurting or embarrassing yourself, to show you how things ought to be.  When it gets out of control, it tells you every little thing that's wrong with you and how you should have done it differently and better.  It has the benefit of hindsight.  It gets to pass judgement after the fact.   

The Censor gets you where you live.  It gets in your face.   Under your skin.  It's in a permanent Vulcan mind meld with every fiber of your being. 

It's time to put your Censor in its place.    As a useful employee.  One of many.   The perfect doorman - making sure you're all zipped up with no toilet paper hanging off your shoe and no spinach in your teeth before you sally forth into the world.    That's where its job description ends.

We're going to take a long hard look at your Censor and then see what duties it has usurped in your psyche.

1.  What gender is it?   It isn't necessarily the same as yours and the gender of your critic isn't a comment on your sexuality either, so relax.

2.  Give it a name.  I've heard of them called Darkspume, Fangxiety and BadKarma.  Also Maleficent.   Mine is named Loretta.

3.  What does it sound like?   It's always yelling at you, so this one should be easy.   You may discover that it sounds like someone you know or even a combination of several someones you know.    That's OK.   It happens a lot. 

4.  What does it look like?    Draw a picture of it.  Don't feel like you need to be kind.   It never does.

5. Now we need to see what job description it thinks it has, so we're going to let it talk for a while.   Write this down:    I am a brilliant and prolific artist [or writer, or musician, or business person, or mom or ....].   Write it ten times.    If you have a very active Inner Critic, by the time you're done with the tenth line, that critic will be bursting to tell you how it is. 

Let it rip.    Give it full reign - it already thinks it's royalty.   Write it all down. 

6.  Now take a quick glance through all that garbage to see what airs your critic has been putting on.   The roll your eyes and say, 'Oh, puh-leeze'.     [Really.   That helps.]

7.  Talk back to your critic.   My favorite response to Loretta is, 'You don't know that.'   Another one is, 'You're making way too big a deal out of that.  I don't do drama anymore.'    It's amazing how a couple of stock lines take all the wind out of her sails. 

8.  Politely inform your critic that although you appreciate what s/he is trying to do, you've got it all under control and don't need their help except to be the doorman [or whatever]. 

9.  Draw a picture of your critic dressed up like a doorman [or whatever].

Here's mine:  

Meet Loretta.   She's 'religious', which means that she goes to church a lot.   She spends a lot of time telling other people how to do things.  She always has one hand on her hip and her other hand shaking a finger at someone.   She wears great big glasses and she carries a purse which she likes to smack people with.  She wears ugly orthopedic shoes.

Loretta likes to think that she is God.  Or at least the Pope....or maybe a bishop.   She thinks she knows everything.   She thinks that there is one Right Way to do everything and every other way is Wrong.  She is very emotional and dramatic.   She likes to call me stupid and I hate that. 

The only thing I like about her is her hat.  That is a great hat.   I'm going to keep that hat, and give it to some other part of me that isn't so hard to get along with.   Loretta won't need it when she goes back to being a doorman. 

This is Doorman Loretta.  She has stripes on her hat and pants.  She has a lot of buttons on her jacket.  She's very good at making me stop and make sure that my shoes match and that I don't have ink on my face before I leave the house. 


  1. Great post! Reminds me of when we took the Vein of Gold class with you. :)

  2. My inner critic is definitely a guy - a conglomeration of my dad and one or two of my former employers (note: not necessarily accurate representations of any of them, just the way I perceive them in my mind). He likes to get after me all the time, but he's easily put in his place with a nice, healthy 'Shut up!'


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