underwood typewriter

How To Kill Your Creative Critic

I am almost finished with the first draft of my first book!

Some may ask, “Chris! How do you find the time for such a thing as writing a whole book?”
To them I would say that it’s time I already spend thinking through a project like a book, so writing it is the next logical step.

I’ve had as many book ideas as breaths, the difference this time is that I’ve actually done the work and written it.
It hasn’t been easy.
I’ve had to overcome a lot.
The least of which, not being Killing My Creative Critic.


Laptop  by Eric Nelson (eric_nelson)) on 500px.com
Laptop by Eric Nelson

I remember going through The Artist’s Way years ago after I had hit an extremely difficult spot of songwriter’s block. There were some fantastic suggestions as to how to push through your creativity issues. More recently, The War of Art is a must read for creative momentum. Both of those books, I think solve the problems that block creatives, save one thing: You have to do the work. Last year, I read Steven Pressfield’s newest book, “Turning Pro,” and I was ready. I blogged about the beginning of the end of my creative draught here.

The thing I had to do was to Kill My Creative Critic.

You know, that voice that tells you writing is for other people.
That voice that criticizes your spelling and reminds you that everything you’ve just written has already been written by someone better than you.
The voice that tells you that you won’t ever sell a copy so why even try.

Here’s three ways that I overcame my Creative Critic to press on with a dream (this time):

Wake Up Earlier Than Your Critic

I really don’t “wake up” until around 10am. I’m out of bed, but my cylinders aren’t firing. Since childhood, I’ve been a late starter and that just doesn’t seem like its going to change any time soon. I decided that I would wake up at six every day and write for a solid hour before I have to make lunches for my children. So I did and you know what I found out? My Creative Critic doesn’t wake up that early. I had an entire span of creative time without that inner voice telling all the things I was doing wrong and would never do, etc…By the time my critic climbed out of its crib, I was done, moved on and not even thinking about what I had written. The day moves pretty fast. We have to learn to outsmart our critics!

Create Differently

You have to write a ton when you go through seminary, but it’s a different kind of writing. My computer keyboard, just the feel of it, got me in an academic, I’m going to get a grade for this frame of mind. That’s not the best mindset when what you want are ideas to roll like mighty waters; when you need connections to be made and plots to be storied. So I got a 200 page spiral notebook and began to write…as in actually write. I got an inspiring pack of pens and went for it. I used to write poems and songs in a spiral so the fit was natural. Creativity happened. Now all I have to do is type it all up…which is another project altogether.

Fall In Love With The Gift Of The First Draft

The fact is, no one (except seminarians) ever turns in a first draft. A first draft can have all kinds of writing hazards on the pages. It’s where you spill ideas without grammar, draw lines between good points and cross out bad ones. Everybody first drafts. Artists and Architects sketch before building. Songwriters and Poets vomit thousands of words to find the one that describes them all. Novelists delete more than they print and Directors find ample amounts of their vision on the cutting room floor. The first draft is a target that no on gets to criticize (unless you share with a critic). The first draft is a gift. It’s artistic grace. So, fall in love with it. May your life overflow with first drafts.

I don’t know if this will help you kill your creative critic, but for me, for now, it’s working.
What have you done/tried to outsmart your Critic?

  • http://twitter.com/SmackSmog S OBryan

    I’m not so much a spiral guy as Yellow Legal Pad kinda guy. For years I’ve enjoyed writing on legal pads, can’t explain it. I just do. Then I realized that going to meetings I looked more Hobo with my legal pads then professional and now I use Moleskine books. I didn’t realize that it was a D-Bag Hipster kinda thing but when most people see me they don’t really confuse with me with the classic hipster. Does that make me Neo-Hipster? Neo was cool but Morpheus was a bad ass. 
    “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
    I think that once you get past your Creative Critic you have already taken the red pill. To quote Morpheus (again)

    “…sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.”

    The Matrix is close to being as good as Dune but it’s a little bit more bubble gum. I guess I still dig it.

    Solid #KSR

  • prophetsandpopstars

    Look at you with your yellow pad and cool movie quotes! I like the red pill/blue pill connection to moving beyond the creative critic. Next comes living outside the matrix, or…doing the work.

  • Suelkilpatrick

    I have found my mind(brain) -when not being hindered by spelling, the actual act of handwriting, erasing etc., freed. Creativity is left, with no competition to hinder it !  Microsoft Word allows this for me, and is my Best Friend.   Just a thought.     Also, late night, quite house and 1 cup of coffee- set the stage!

  • prophetsandpopstars

    Word is an academic tool for me. I found an app called Scrivener and that has set me free. Perhaps I smell a blog post coming on! I bet a quiet household is a fabulous stage. I should have one of those in…15 years, ish.

  • Cissy

    Ann Lamott says you’ve got to be willing to write a shitty first draft!

    That’s helped me.

    Also, write for me first, then write the next draft for my audience.

    BTW – writing at 4:36 a.m., not because I got up before my inner critic but because I couldn’t sleep.

  • http://www.prophetsandpopstars.com prophetsandpopstars

    Yeah, it’s really her words in Bird By Bird that have made such a difference in my creative life.