To mark the publication of her debut novel Under the Rainbow, author Celia Laskey joins us to share some brilliant advice about our pesky inner critics!
About six months ago, I started using an app to try find some relief from the migraines that had been plaguing me for almost three years and hadn’t responded to the multitude of medications I tried. Little did I know, the app would also end up being extremely helpful for my writing practice. The app is all about the mind/body connection, and uses a lot of meditations to help you make these connections.
A meditation I did recently was called “Observing Your Inner Critic.” It started by asking me to call to mind all the instances in the last 24 hours where my inner critic told me what I was doing wasn’t good enough. Of course, I thought about how my writing had gone that day—how I hadn’t written 1,000 words (which is usually my daily goal); how the words I did manage to get down weren’t as beautiful or as exacting as they should have been; how I doubted whether the book I was writing was any good at all. As a person with incredibly strong perfectionist tendencies and an equally strong work ethic, I have a pretty loud inner critic. I realised that most days, I was ending the day in a bad mood because I hadn’t lived up to my high standards.
The meditation then asked me to ask my inner critic what it hoped to accomplish by being so hard on me all the time. Did it hope to hold me back, to punish me for something, to push me forward, or drive me to work harder? In my case, it seemed like my inner critic was driving me to work harder, to meet the demands of my strong work ethic.
The meditation then asked me a deceptively simple question: Wouldn’t it be easier to work harder if I believed in myself? Wasn’t my inner critic actually an impediment to my productivity and success? It made perfect logical sense. Why had something so obvious never occurred to me before? The meditation asked me to imagine who I would be if I was free from these thoughts and knew my inner critic’s opinions to be false. It asked me whether I could see a good reason to continue believing my inner critic’s opinions, or whether I could see any better reasons to drop them. It seemed ridiculously clear that I should drop them. It would help my confidence, and thus my writing and my mood at the end of each day. I felt something shift inside my body: my muscles relaxed, and I took a deep, easy breath.
So now, whenever I’m writing and I hear my inner critic whispering in my ear, I let it go in one ear and out the other, and I think: Wouldn’t it be easier to just believe in myself? And then usually the writing starts flowing, and the words come without me having to count them, and at the end of the day I’m in a good mood. I’ve even managed to (mostly) be in a good mood on the days where the writing doesn’t come, because of course those days still happen, and wouldn’t it be easier if I didn’t beat myself up about it?
There are plenty of forces outside of us that will tell us we’re not good enough—agents and editors, meanies on Goodreads, bookstagrammers, reviewers at publications, our mothers, etc. If we beat ourselves down first, it’s likely that no one else will even get the chance to—because we won’t have finished the thing and sent it out, all of which takes a pretty good amount of belief in ourselves.
P.S. The app even worked for my migraines!
Under the Rainbow is available now in paperback, eBook and audio.