How to Fire Your Internal Critic

We all have that little voice of doubt inside of us.  You know – the one that’s constantly whispering, “Your writing stinks.  Give up on this draft while you have the chance.  You call yourself a writer?  What a laugh!”  Ah yes…now you know the voice I’m talking about.

We call this our internal critic.  It’s the voice that defeats us before we’ve even begun.  And we all have it.  We as teachers have it, and our students especially have it, but in order for our students to move forward and progress as writers, they need to rid themselves of this doubt.  They need to realize that they have something to say and that the way they say it is unique, regardless of what they or others think.  It’s time for them to fire their internal critics. 

I like to use this writing activity at the very beginning of school so that I can refer to it throughout the year whenever a student seems to doubt himself as a writer.  But why wait until then if your students might benefit from it now?  Tell your students that with the change of a new year it’s time for them to change their way of thinking.  Tell them it’s time for them to fire their internal critic. 

Use the following writing activity with your students:

We all have that little voice of doubt inside of us.  You know – the one that’s constantly whispering, “Your writing stinks.  Give up on this draft while you have the chance.  You call yourself a writer?  What a laugh!”  You know the voice I’m talking about.  We all have it.  We call this little voice our internal critic.

Well, I say, it’s time to get rid of our internal critic.  The question is, how would you like to do it?  Call your internal critic into your office and give it a firing that will make its head spin?  Maybe you’d like to write it a breakup letter.   What about a eulogy that doesn’t bestow any praise?  Better yet, explain how you will plot its eternal doom!  (Let’s keep things rated PG, please, thank you…)  However you do it, make it memorable and unique.  After you write this piece and share it out loud with your classmates, your internal critic will be gone forever.

What you’ll soon find as their teacher is that after each student has shared his piece out loud among his classmates, a type of bond begins to form between your students as student-writers.  They recognize they all have this internal critic, and in the future whenever someone seems to doubt himself, someone in that class will remind him of the day he fired his internal critic. 

And if you haven’t tried this exercise yourself, I highly recommend doing it and sharing your own piece with the class.  I think you, too, will find there’s some peace in relieving ourselves of unnecessary criticism.