• Shelby McDaniel

My Shadow Critic

I sent an email to a client with the draft for an article they had commissioned, asking if they would like any changes. They replied politely, giving clear detail on a few changes they would like me to make. Their reply was polite and positive.

My inner critic was the exact opposite.

The first thing that came to my mind was, "Oh dear lord, why did you send them such trash? Are you that big of an idiot? You just made yourself look like a moron."

The next thing that came to my mind was, "Will you just shut the hell up?"

I am my own worse critic. My inner demand for excellence coupled with anxiety created this shadowy figure in the corner of my mind hurling insults at me throughout the day. And its favorite thing to critique is my writing.

When I was younger, I was scared of my shadow critic. I refused to show my writing to anyone. The bullying voice told me it was terrible and not worth anyone's time reading it.

It took me a long time to take the advice my father had given me and put a stop to the shadow critic. I had to stand up for myself against myself.

Nearly every writer experiences self-doubt about their work. What if I get a negative review? What if I make an obvious and easy to spot error? What if everyone hates my writing? At some point, every writer either has to dominate their inner shadowy critic or let it dominate them.

The best way to dispel your inner critic is to be kind to yourself. While having solid expectations for yourself is healthy, belittling your writing skills is one of the worse plagues any wordsmith can be inflicted with. And the only way to cure it is with kindness.

The truth of the matter is writing is a skill no one can perfect. Each person who picks up the pen is continuously improving and evolving as a writer. And just like any skill, we develop at our own individual pace.

I had to tell my shadow critic to shut the hell up, that part of my process working with clients was to send a rough draft and get any notes they may have. I literally asked if they had any changes they would like to see and they had responded in the most professional way possible. There was no need for the nasty self-loathing thoughts.

I may be my own worse critic, but I am also my own strongest advocate. My shadow critic may never fully go away, no matter how hard I work to improve my skill as a writer. However, I also know I have the ability to shut her up with a verbal baseball bat.

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