My toddler is having a tantrum on my lap as I type. To even write these sentences is an act of utmost focus–I must ignore his keening cries, his little arms flailing at me, trying to push my hands off the keyboard. My husband and I have invested in a new strategy for tantrums that I realize is very much a metaphor for how to deal with the variety of critics that live in all writers: take the attention away. Ignore it. Starve the tantrum.
There are hundreds of “toddlers” far more vicious in my own mind who pound their fists in fits of temper and destroy the furniture in their bid to convince me I am a terrible person, not to mention writer. They are just as powerful as the real thing, if not worse, because they are responsible for the vast number of times I give up on something, resist revision, let overwhelm take me under, and worse, decide that all my years of writing are for nothing and that I’ve been fooling myself.
These voices are infants, they haven’t been properly disciplined, in fact I’ve let them run rampant in my mind, so just as with an acting out child, ultimately I am to blame. And that means that I can start somewhere.
Will you join me in my new strategy for inner critics and demons, all those ways we stop ourselves from being productive?
Do. Not. Engage.
Walk it out. When you hear the voice shrieking at you, discouraging you, suggesting there is no point to what you do: walk away. Literally. Get up and walk away from whatever you’re trying to do. Refresh your coffee. Walk around the block. Do jumping jacks.
Stream it out. Then, come back to your desk or favorite chair, but rather than picking back up the project you were having the inner fit about, pick up a notebook or journal and just write it all out. Stream it out onto the page so that it isn’t stuck inside your head. Or email a good friend who knows how to help you laugh at these wailing creatures in your brain.
Laugh it out. My favorite strategy to quell the wailing beast is to read or watch something funny. An Onion book or article comes highly recommended. David Sedaris essays. SNL clips. Whatever does it for you.