She appears as soon as I open a blank document in Word.
“What’s a snappy way to drop into this idea,” I ask myself, “How can I get readers’ attentions, say what I mean and make it entertaining?”
After a few attempts at an opening, I judge them all to be dull, off-target and uninviting. It doesn’t help that my inner critic, Cyndi Ultra, is sitting in my lap, holding my wrists as I attempt to type and telling me what shite my writing is.
She will not shut the muck up! And I want to throttle her.
In the writing workshops we lead together, my collaborator and fellow teacher Laurie Senauke recommends that participants speak softly to their inner critics. She suggests treating them like you would your children.
“Ask them to just sit quietly to the side for the next hour or so,” she says.
As Laurie instructs, I kindly request that Cyndi Ultra take a break. I envision her pouting and stomping over to the corner of the room. She snorts and sighs and plunks herself down. But she stays put and doesn’t fuss.
Until I’ve forgotten her. That’s when she sneaks over, climbs back into my lap and grabs the pen out of my hand. Gently yet firmly, I give her another time out: “Please, dear Cyndi! I know you have lots of great ideas and I promise I want to hear them. But I really need you to keep silent until I’m ready to listen.”
Having compassion for our inner critics (and thereby for ourselves) takes practice. Continual practice.
In an essay on Lion’s Roar, Christina Feldman writes, “We can learn to pause and to listen deeply to the voice of the inner judge, with its endless symphony of blame and sham, and we can surround it with the kindness of mindfulness.”
To read more about Ms. Feldman’s ideas on how to meet (and manage) your inner critic, click here.
I lead writing and mindfulness workshops throughout the Bay Area. My approach is adaptable in many settings — from helping groups honor an important life event to assisting a business team in articulating a shared vision. Contact me to learn more. For information on my San Francisco real estate practice, visit RealEstateTherapy.org or CynthiaCummins.com.