Silence Your Inner Critic and Cultivate Creative Compassion

How to Stop Giving In To Your Inner Critic

When you write, who’s steering the journey—your inner storyteller, or your inner critic?

We all have an inner critic. It’s the same voice that tells us some very important truths like “Hey, you do know if you go around doing stupid stuff, you might literally die, right?” This voice probably kept a few of your ancestors from being eaten by bears before they had time to become your ancestors.

The inner critic has its place. But it’s a uniquely terrible storyteller. You can’t explore and envision with somebody who thinks you’re going to literally die if your draft has too many adverbs in it. Luckily, you don’t have to eliminate your critic to create powerful work. You just need to stop writing in partnership with them.

If you have an especially demanding critic, this may feel impossible. But once you understand the true problem with that inner voice, there are some simple steps to reclaim your writing practice.

The Real Problem with The Critic

The issue with our inner critics isn’t really what they say to us; they’re just discouraging us from getting vulnerable. The true problem starts with the behaviors we use to soothe that sense of danger.

The easiest way to self-soothe is to back away from our work rather than finding ways to engage deeper. We’ll spend our time on tasks that feel productive, but that don’t get us any closer to our creative vision.

If you’re spending hours polishing when you haven’t finished a draft—you might be self-soothing. It feels better to “productively” copyedit than it does to stare at the existential crisis that is your next blank page. Or maybe you crank out pages but never return to them to excavate the story underneath the word dump.

Maybe you engage in the ultimate maladaptive form of writerly self-care: You don’t write. It’s too scary. You’ll write tomorrow, or next year after you’ve evolved into someone who can sit down and focus without entering a doom spiral. (Just me?)

If you want to engage fully with the fundamentally powerful act of storytelling, you have to stop self-soothing and start practicing real compassion for your creative self. That’s what will get you out from under your inner critic—so you can actually tell your stories.

Cultivating Creative Compassion

When it comes to ending your partnership with the critic, you need an approach that doesn’t just give you one more thing to “fail” at. Read on for some actionable steps to practice creative compassion both before you show up to write, and during your writing session.

Step 1: Prevention

First, identify your ways of self-soothing. When the inner critic gets too loud, what do you do to avoid creating vulnerable work? 

Then come up with something specific and concrete you can do before each writing session to help you resist your fallbacks.

For example, I’m a major faux-productive copyeditor. When I’m in the grips of the critic, I’ll spend all my writing time fiddling with adjectives. To nix that habit, I’m starting every writing session in a new document. I can’t do any polishing if there’s nothing there to polish.

If you can, build your strategy into your process, so you can’t help but implement it. Writing by hand makes it difficult to erase and rewrite. If you’re a word dumper but hate the raw results, audio dictation might ease the pressure to get it perfect the first time.

And if you bail when sessions get daunting, close off your escape routes. Internet blockers work great for this… and I’m not above setting a chair in front of my office door, either. It’s harder to pretend I’m “just stepping away for a sec” when I have to shift furniture.

Whatever you decide to try, make it straightforward, even if it adds time to your full drafting process. You want an easy win, not something the inner critic can twist into a failure.

Step 2: Redirection

Next, brainstorm ways to handle the critic once a writing session has started. Focus on things that acknowledge them without breaking momentum—concrete actions that accept their presence without letting them take over.

Here’s how I redirect when the critic wants me to spend the next fifteen minutes finding the best, most-interesting-but-not-amateurishly-purple adjective. Like the trick of writing in a new document, it’s straightforward and tangible: I change the line to a different font color and just move on.

By responding to the critic without engaging with them, you can avoid giving weight to their fears and judgments. You’re not trying to ignore the critic. But you’re also not allowing them to funnel you into a soothing habit.

Instead, you’re giving yourself something truly compassionate: the grace of acceptance. Yes, that inner voice is still there, trying to scare you away from the deeper story. And no, it doesn’t mean you’re failing. It just means you’re human.

When you find your own ways to accept the critic, you’ll be building a new habit of compassion right into your creative process—so you can keep doing the vulnerable and necessary work of discovering your most powerful storytelling.

This post is a condensed version of an episode from Mary's podcast, The Inspirited Word. Listen to the full episode at