6 Winning Comebacks to Combat Your Inner Critic

We all have it. That voice inside that tells us we’re a hack. We’re a fraud. We’ll never amount to anything and what business do we have writing a book?  

Mine can be particularly nasty and noisy throughout pretty much all of Act 2.

The inner critic is basically your fear given voice. That fear can have roots in many things: a fear of putting your work out there and getting rejected, or ridiculed, or laughed at. A fear that all of this time spent on a project is wasted because nothing will ever come of it. Or even a fear that your writing might actually lead to a big life change (like a publishing deal, a movie deal, demand for more books) and then what will you do? 

Whatever fear is behind your inner critic’s comment of choice, rest assured that it’s not in vain. Fear is instilled in us for a reason. It’s a protection mechanism. Whether that’s “be fearful of the mighty beast that’s about to trample you and cause you physical pain” or “be fearful of the mighty Kirkus review that’s about to trample your book and cause you emotional pain,” fear is our psyche’s way of protecting us from harm. 

Well, that’s all fine and good until it stops us from living our life, pursuing our passion, and being the creative spirit we’re meant to be. That’s when it’s time to step in and say, “Look, Fear. I appreciate what you’re trying to do for me, but I got this.” And keep writing anyway. 

I’ve written and sold more than 20 novels in spite of my very vocal inner critic who likes to consistently remind me that I’ve never won a prestigious literary award, never hit the New York Times bestseller list, never seen my work adapted on the big screen, never been called by Reese Witherspoon’s people to be alerted that she’s chosen my book for her book club. And here’s what I’ve learned: Acknowledging the fear, and recognizing it for what it is, is the first step to defeating it. 

Because, sadly, many of us walk around with our inner critic on full blast and don’t even know it. We’ve grown so used to hearing it, it’s like a permanent soundtrack of our lives. Background noise. And because we’re not aware of it, we may not be aware that it’s stealthily eating away at our focus, our creativity, and our self-confidence. 

But by acknowledging that your inner critic is there and that you’ve been subconsciously listening to all the destructive things it has to say, you move one step toward reclaiming that focus, creativity, and self-confidence. 

And then, you can move onto the next step: offering clever counter-arguments to whatever crafty new insults your inner critic has hatched up. 

So, I thought I’d supply some winning comebacks that you can use to silence that inner critic, show it who’s boss, and get back to work. 

When your inner critic says: 

“This is dreadful. Who would ever want to read this?” 

Respond with: 

“You’re right. It is pretty dreadful. That’s because it’s a first draft and it’s supposed to be dreadful. Which is why no one will read it but me…when I’m spiffing it up into a fantastic second draft and even better third draft. What else you got?”

When your inner critic says: 

“This story has been told a million times before. There’s nothing fresh and unique about this.” 

Respond with: 

“That’s funny, because I don’t remember it ever being told by me before. And since I’m telling it through my own personal lens as a writer and since no one else in the history of the world has ever had or will  ever have that lens, by default it’s automatically fresh and unique, right? BOOYA!”

When your inner critic says: 

“This story is going nowhere.” 

Respond with: 

“Technically, it’s impossible for my story to go nowhere if I’m always writing something. Maybe it’s not going where I originally thought it was supposed to go. Maybe it’s not going where I will eventually take the story in future drafts, but by writing every day, I’m moving in A direction, which means I can’t very well be going nowhere. Every time I take a step in any direction, I’m technically going somewhere. Boom! Lewis Carolled.”

When your inner critic says: 

“You’re too [old/young/inexperienced/uneducated/other adjective] to write anything worth reading.”  

Respond with: 

“Who cares!? I’m having fun. I have a desire to write which automatically makes me worthy of writing. Besides, this is fiction. Not a manual for how to perform open-heart surgery. Go take a really long nap.”

When your inner critic says: 

“This book will be rejected by everyone.”

Respond with: 

“Maybe so. But won’t that be a good life badge to add to my growing collection? I will wear it with honor, remembering the countless stories of published authors (like Jessica Brody!) who were rejected hundreds of times before getting an agent or a publishing deal. And I will use that rejection to learn as much as I can so that when I write my next book, I will know that much more about myself and the writing process. And then I’ll use all the wisdom to shut you down, yet again.” 

When your inner critic says: 

“You’re wasting your time. Nothing will ever become of this.”

Respond with: 

“No time doing something I love is time wasted.”

So there you have it. Witty comebacks for your inner critic. Now it’s time to come up with your own! You’re a writer, I’m sure you’ll have no problem crafting some zingers. 


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