Silencing the Inner Critic

The Inner Critic is a dastardly character. It lurks in the shadows, doing all it can to convince you that you’re not good enough to write. But like all bad guys, the Inner Critic has a weakness. There is one thing it hates more than anything else.

Have you ever sat down to write only to hear a whisper in the room that you’re a terrible writer who should give up now?

In our book, the A-Z of better brand language, we introduce the idea of the Inner Critic: “that voice in your head that tells you what you create is stupid, bad or wrong.” It’s a voice that can do damage at any time. But it’s also a voice you can learn to silence.

In 2022, we ran our first A-Z workshop. We invited our client, who had treated his studio to copies of our book, to pick four letters that excited him, and that would inspire his creative, sales, accounts, writing and management teams. We’d go away and create a workshop with the letters he’d chosen, a bit like Ready Steady Cook but with the alphabet as ingredients.

In P is for Play, we spoke about the Inner Critic. And as soon as we’d set the exercise – to respond in nonsense language to Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’ – the beast had struck.

Hands went up. “I can’t do this. I work in logic and reason, not nonsense.” We started. “I don’t think I’m doing this right.” “Oh God. This is so bad.” We began to wrap up the exercise. “Mine is terrible. I don’t even think it’s what you asked for.” We finished and I asked for volunteers to read their responses. “No way. It’s awful.”

The Inner Critic can attack any writer at any time. It mocks and digs, teases and bullies, cackles and claws, often until you give in. But you don’t need to give in. Because there’s something the Inner Critic can’t stand. And that’s the moment the joy of play takes over.

The Inner Critic can attack any writer at any time.

In the A-Z, we go on to say that when you play in language there is no stupid, bad or wrong. How could there be? It would be like telling a child in a sandpit they’re not doing it right.

But as we saw in the workshop, play isn’t always easy. As an adult, you’ll probably need to relearn it. But it’s possible. It just takes total commitment to having fun. Play with rhythm and rhyme, with pace and structure. Play with word order and sentence lengths. Play, like we did, in new words and sounds, like gadumfing. Play among the letters until you write something that makes you smile. 

As you do, make notes about what your Inner Critic is telling you. And keep playing. See those notes, read those notes. Then smile at them and play some more. Witness how your Inner Critic gets quieter the more fun you have. Play until it is silenced.