The second simplicity of a bowl of cherries
The pause that isn't a pause

The Inner Critic's dressing-up box

Your Inner Critic's real nature is the anti-writing demon: personify him/her as you will (mine is short and plump, with blue and green scales and a tail: he's well-intentioned, and his intention is to protect me from failure, shame, embarrassment and danger, by stopping me writing). In a coda to Making the Skeleton Dance I was suggesting that anything which stops you writing can also be a costume hung in your Inner Critic's wardrobe, because most of the time the demon's in disguise.

For the avoidance of doubt, I should define my terms: there's all the difference in the world between the Inner Critic, hard-wired by parents and teachers and the world in general, and what I call the Inner Editor. The Inner Brave Editor engages when there's there's a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter or a novel on the page to edit: s/he reads the words, and from that reading decides what needs to be changed. None of us would write anything worth reading without an Inner Reader-Editor. The Inner Critic, on the other hand, spends most of his/her life in costume, pretending to be something entirely useful. This is particularly true when you've learnt to ignore her/his obvious "you're no good" "you'll never succeed" schtick. Then s/he opens the wardrobe, and with fiendish (s/he is a demon, after all) cunning, picks out the costume of whichever adult in your life you're most attuned to, and begins to talk:

Inner Cowardly Editor: “You don't know how this new bit should go, better to fiddle with Chapter One till you do.”
Inner Writing Tutor: “There's no point in moving on till you've got the first bit right.”
Inner Headmistress: “You can't write it till you've done all the research you might possibly need, or you might Get Something Wrong.”
Inner Mentor: “No, you absolutely must finish this and revise it to the last inch: it's your Inner Critic who's insisting that the new idea is more promising.”
Inner Parent: “The children are little for such a short time, you must make the most of every minute.”
Inner Domestic God/dess: “You do want a beautiful house/fresco/cake, don't you?”
Inner Nosey Neighbour: “I don't know how you can write with the bathroom/kitchen/front lawn looking like that.”
Inner Gardener: “It'll get away from you if you don't get out there this morning.”
Inner Trainer: “Writer's bum, writer's bum, writer's bum.”
Inner Spouse: “I'm paying most of the bills, the least you can do is iron my shirts.”
Inner Sex God/dess: “Saying 'no' because you're finishing a chapter is the thin end of the wedge.”
Inner Granny: “Do get out while the sun's shining, darling.”
Inner Counsellor: “Your husband/best friend/barmaid will be hurt if you don't go down to the pub.”
Inner Psychotherapist: “You're not a writer, you're just using writing to avoid acknowledging your neediness.”
Inner Socialite: “Everyone will forget who you are and not invite you to their parties.”
Inner Agent: “It's awfully like the last one of yours/McEwan's/Keyes's”
Inner Agent's Assistant: “It's nothing like the last one so they won't want it.”
Inner Reviewer: “Who cares about vulgar commercial fiction?”
Inner Supermarket: “Who reads poncey literary fiction?”
Inner Publisher: “Crossover fiction doesn't sell.”
Inner Literary Critic: “You can't be original: it's all been done before. And better.”
Inner Realist: “No one remembers the shortlist.”
Inner Bestseller: “This'll never deserve a launch like your last one.”

Make no mistake, there are times when the voice speaking is the real Mentor/Spouse/Agent. But the Inner Critic is a brilliant mimic, as well as a master of disguise. So, what are your Inner Critic's favourite costumes?

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