3 Tricks for Silencing the Self-Critic

I got my camera remote working yesterday which of course meant I had to play around a bit with some self- portraiture.

To be a bit transparent the result at the left here is about my fourth or fifth attempt. Every previous attempt had something I didn’t like about it, lighting, color, pose… the self-critic was in full effect as I sought to expose him through photographic imagery. (I’m not even sure I like THIS one the best but I had to just shut him down.)

Having just been through the battle against the self-critic I thought I’d share a couple tricks for defeating that nagging voice that stifles creativity and oft times leaves us staring at a blank page.

Trick #1: Dust
I find it incredibly difficult to come up with ANYTHING creative when my office is in a shambles, the state in which it most typically exists. It’s funny how much more easily the ideas start to flow when I have a clean desk. Even funnier that the process only gets better if the floor in front of my desk…which I cannot see when sitting there…is clean as well.

There is something about a well organized environment that frees up the mind to focus on being creative. In case you’re in need of a pithy reminder: Cleaning up your space allows the mind to race.

Trick #2: Doodle
Far too often we get focused on creating the specific outcome we’re after that we get bogged down at the start. Looking for just the right word, or chord, or color combination. One of the best ways I find to give myself a kick start is just to doodle.

Now, to be fair, I am a doodler. Most of my class notes, meeting notes, notebooks are filled with doodles. Doodles don’t take thought, they just take shape.

In this case though I don’t necessarily mean drawing squiggly lines. Doodling could be writing down bits of dime-store-novel-like dialogue. It could be putting on a piece of music and playing along with it. It could mean editing a photograph that has nothing to do with your current project.

Don’t let the critic tell you you’re wasting time doodling…you’re stirring the creative juices. You’re bouncing out of the rut you’re stuck in to get a different run down the path. The creative freedom of expression in doodling loosens up the log jam and get’s you going.

Trick #3: Drink
No, I didn’t pick this one just because it starts with the letter D, and yes, I know some people might find this one mildly offensive, but any college student can tell you that the first thing alcohol consumption does is lower your inhibitions. Guess what the self-critic is? An inhibitor!

There are actually studies that show that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol results in people engaging in more creative problem solving. Somehow loosing the inhibitors loosens the creative juice.

I’m not advocating getting sloshed, just a glass of wine or a good scotch will do the trick. But hey man, it’s science!

Next time you find the assembled self-critics yammering in your ear try these tricks to get them to just BACK OFF!

What other trick would you suggest for silencing self-criticism and getting a creative project moving to the next level?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “3 Tricks for Silencing the Self-Critic

  1. One of my tricks is doing something physical, like running or biking or cleaning. Almost always frees up the inner critic. Amazing how disciplining the physical gets my creative juices flowing. Not sure why that is…