June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

Your Inner Critic vs The Fictional World: A Recipe to Shut Her Up

What do you when your inner critic rattles your cage?  You know what I’m talking about – you’re trying to do/change/become something and your inner voice tells you why you can’t/ shouldn’t/ won’t.   Before you keep reading, find that voice and let her get a few jabs in – that way, you’ll know if this activity helps you or not.

My inner critic is having a high-old time telling me:

  • “You aren’t a good writer – just look at what that critique just said!”
  • “You’ll never be successful – you’ll just be a drain.  Go find a real job!”
  • “You keep going two steps forward, 100 steps back!”
  • “All you can say you accomplished is the laundry!  Where is your value?”
  • “You have no authority to write about mental health issues.  No one cares what you have to say.”

She needs to SHUT UP … (I wanted to use much more colorful language!)  How can I put a sock in it?  (Note:  first you have to recognize the voice – which requires you to pay attention to your thoughts!)

Ingredients (what you need to do this activity):

It would be great if you have paper and pen but you can just do this in your own brain! 

Actually, trying to “hold” all of this in your mind will really stretch you and force that inner critic to hush – there won’t be room enough for both!

Recipe (how to do this activity):

Recognize that negative voice! 

Choose one or more of the following topics and just think about it.  Dig deep for the answers – don’t settle for easy, superficial answers. 

  1. What are your 5 favorite movies or TV shows and why?  What draws you to that movie – plot, characters, setting?  Be specific.  Think of the people in your life – who would benefit from this story?  Why?
  2. What are your 5 favorite books and why?  What draws you?
  3. What 5 characters would you like to have for dinner or coffee (book, TV, movie – choose a fictional character)?  Why?  What, specifically, would you want to talk about?
  4. Imagine you are at dinner with a character you absolutely HATE.  (Every story has a villain, right?)  What would you talk about?  What you would want to say?  What do you imagine the character would say back?
  5. Imagine you have to write a fictional short story.  Come up with 5 story ideas.  Why do these ideas interest you?
  6. Using your favorite book, TV, movie, as the basis …  Imagine it’s five years later – what is happening with the characters? 
  7. Going back to your favorite books, TV shows, movies - what lesson was the writer trying to teach you (and yes, they all have some lesson)?  Did you agree with the writer’s opinion?  Did they make their opinion clear?  For example, in Cider House Rules, a large part of the story was about abortion.  What did the author want you to believe/think/do?  Pretend to have a debate with the author – even if you agree with him– challenge yourself to argue the other side.
  8. Put two of your favorite (or least favorite) characters from DIFFERENT works into a conversation.  Imagine they have met a dinner party – what would they talk about?  (Example:  Imagine Mr. Darcy talking with Christian Grey.)
  9. Be the Inner Critic for one of your favorite characters.  For example, I love Tate in Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley.  If I got to be his inner critic, what would I say?  (Example:  “Tate, no wonder you’re stuck with Neeta – you deserve each other because you can be such a jerk.”  “That bike does not make you the man you think it does.”) 
  10. Use an early scene of something you’ve recently read or watched.  Now, change it and then follow the story with this change:  Would there even be a story if the beginning changed?  (Example:  In the TV show River, one of the first scenes is River chasing a suspect to his death when he jumped off a roof.  I can re-imagine that scene with the suspect not running.  How does the story change?  How would it develop differently?)
  11. Choosing again, change the setting this time:  How would the story change?  (Example:  Sweet Dreams is set in the tiny fictional town of Carnal, Colorado.  How would the story change if it was a beach, or a large city, or a foreign city, or outer space?)  Or add your mother/sister/friend (not yourself) to the story. 
  12. If the story is both a book and a movie, compare them.  What was left out of the screen version?  Why would the screenwriter leave that out?  How did the scenes get selected?  Would you select different ones?  Usually the book is better, but either way try to figure out why.

Did you notice that I stayed in a fictional world?  That was intentional.  Our inner critic can’t criticize something that’s not real.  Oh she may try to critique your choices or answers, but her voice will be diminished because there is no basis in reality.  In a fictional world, your choices don’t matter – it’s all in a world someone else created.

Assessment (did this activity help you):

Is your Inner Critic quiet?  Or at least quieter?

Did you find another way to entertain yourself instead of listening to negativity? 

Did you learn something about yourself based on your choices?  (I did – I really was able to understand what types of stories bring me joy and why.)

My personal example:

I’ve been watching The Fall on Netflix.  The story is simple – a serial killer is being pursued by a detective.  What makes it so interesting is the character development.  I HATE the main detective, Stella Gibson, who is played by Gillian Anderson.  If I could have her over for dinner what would I want to know?    I’m only ½ through the series, so I started asking questions I hope get answered before it’s over.  Here are a few:

  • Do you feel any moral code when it comes to sleeping with married men?
  • How many have illicit affairs have you had and what have the consequences been?  Would you even call them ‘illicit’ or is that my judgmental word?
  • Do you really just go up to an attractive man and give him your hotel room number without any other form of contact?  How often does that work?  Is the sex good – better than in a committed relationship?
  • Have you ever been in a committed relationship?  What happened?
  • Do you worry about diseases or your reputation or his reputation?
  • Do you consider the wife at all?  Or is that the man’s problem?
  • Are you as cold as you seem?  Have you always been this way?  Do you have any “real” friends?

Okay, so my inner critic is now beating up Stella Gibson – it’s better to beat up some fictional character than me!  And, I get to feel virtuous – I may not be the next Elizabeth Gilbert but at least I’ve never slept with a married man! 

Lastly, and this is just a side benefit, I’m pulled even more into the show – in a way, I’ve entered the show – which will just enhance my watching experience.  As a matter of fact, I’ll be asking these questions to my husband – we should have some great conversation!

An Extra Comment:

My husband does my editing … here is what he added:

“Your Inner Critic is a moron.  If I was violent, I’d kick her ass from here to Hades.” ~ I thought that was sweet and wanted to share.  


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June Converse with purple hair
Choosing to rebuild a life after a breakdown has been a challenge. I became an author and a blogger who openly shares...

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