Get rid of that jerk!

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Lynda Barry said to me once, imagine you’re sitting at a bar, writing something new, and this guy comes up to you, looks over your shoulder, and says, “Ugh, that sentence sucks.” He takes a drink, watches you write some more, and then says, “Your dialogue is really flat, too. You know, you shouldn’t bother finishing this story – your whole idea is no good.”

Would you listen to him? No way! You’d think, Who is this jerk? And yet, when you criticize your own writing before you even have a chance to write it, you’re being that jerk to yourself.

How are you supposed to finish a first draft when you have a loud when you have a loud, opinionated, unhelpful voice in your head, interrupting you with mean, untrue remarks?

Here’s something that will help you get rid of that jerk. Lisa Pijuan-Nomura had me do this several years ago, when I was in a particularly crusty and stuck place with my own inner critic. It WORKS.


How to Get Rid of Your Inner Creep

  1. On a piece of paper, write down all of the things that your critical voice tells you about your work. Write down the things you fear the most. It’s okay to get into the dark stuff here. Jot it all down.

  2. Now imagine the physical embodiment of that voice. Imagine the character who says these things to you. It could be human – like that guy at the bar - or it could be a monster. Just picture it.

  3. On a separate page, draw a simple picture of this character, this creep who tells you those things when you’re trying to write. Draw the figure itself – draw the eyes, hands, mouth, teeth, hair, etc. Just use a pen or a pencil. Get the outline down, and whatever details you see.

  4. Give the monster/creep a name. Write its name above its picture.

  5. Now write down some of the worst things on your list from Step 1. Write those things directly on the drawing, all around the figure, so you can see it “saying” those things to you.

  6. Take the page out of your notebook and keep it with you when you write, so you can recognize this weird-looking creature the next time it starts talking to you.

The reason this works: you’ve now taken those critical thoughts outside yourself. You can see that it’s not YOU anymore – it’s that freak you drew on the page. It looks ridiculous! And you can see that the things it says to you are ridiculous.

pointycoldMy Inner Creep is called “PointyCold.” He’s ludicrous. I drew him in a navy blue pencil crayon – he has a V for a nose and seven fingers on each hand (they all look like Vs too). His eyes are two little beady joyless dots. When I see his picture, I can’t take him seriously. He’s laughable.

This seems like a simple, childish exercise — but it’s actually very effective. It won’t work unless you do it, though. Please do it. It will only take you about 30 minutes or less.

When you draw your inner creep, do me a favour and take a picture of it. Instagram your picture — use the hashtag #innercreep. Let’s get rid of these jerks.

With love,

Sarah” width=



Photo (top): Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash


How to write with insight.
Why you should write by hand.

9 comments

Stacy Gardner

One of my fave quotes: a critic is a one-legged man who teaches running. And your: it’s that freak you drew on the page. Made me laugh out loud. Thanks Sarah!
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Carrie Mumford

Thank you for this, Sarah! I'm off to draw my inner critic now. My inner critic says several of the same things yours does, especially 'your writing isn't serious enough to matter.' Down with jerks!
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Be a good letter writer = be a good writer. | Sarah Selecky

[...] Your InnerCreep lives on your fear. When you infuse your writing time with kindness and honesty, you dissolve the InnerCreep! Bonus. [...]
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Go Ahead – Sign Up For That Creative Writing Course! | Writing From The Centre

[…] he/she says to you. Getting those nasty thoughts onto paper takes away their sting.  CLICK HERE to read Sarah’s post. You might decide to post your inner critic drawing in your writing […]
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Oh Sarah, I just did this and it's hilarious! I cut out a face of a supermodel from a magazine, glued it to the paper, and wrote the criticisms around it.... The face of the model represents, for me, all of the pretty, judgmental girls from high school and elementary school, the back-stabbers, the ones who could deflect the rumors while I sank deep in their muck, unable to move. The picture of this pretty girl's face, all processed in product, saying things like, "You don't have a single worthwhile thing to say," and, "You can't create art! I am art! You are not!" is just too funny. On the flip side, to look at this nameless model's face, and to realize, she is human too beneath all that make-up, and to think about the fact that I don't know what her problems might be, but I do know she is human too, with her own story.....well, it comes full-circle to being open as a writer, and empathetic. This was a great way to start my day, thank you!
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Sarah Selecky

Oh Carrie, this is awesome. I mean, the whole thing: really. Congrats (and thanks so much for sharing here)!
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Lorrie Beauchamp

What a perfect exercise for a no-confidence day. My monster turned out to be a big fat "zero" with fleshy, disgusting lips and a permanent frown. He could barely fit his hands around his big zero belly, but his criticisms were loud and clear, shouting at me "You have no real talent!", "What makes you think anyone will publish you?" and "All you do is whine about yourself!". When he snickered "You're so ordinary, I'm already bored", I felt like stepping on his ridiculously little feet. Thanks, Sarah. I needed that. On days like today, when he feels louder than my inner angel, I will shout back at him.
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Sarah, this is wonderful. Thank you SO much for sharing! I will pay it forward tomorrow night when I'm with my creative writing class again. I want to see all their creeps! I LOVE your website btw. Just finding my way around it. I found you via b-school. I have friends who would love your course. I'll spread the word.
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Sarah Selecky

Yay! Thanks Jen! Let me know how it goes. :)
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