When I was a child, my parents bought me a typewriter with those tall keys you have to really press down on to make the letter print on the paper. Later, they bought me an electronic one where you could even install a tippex ink ribbon to undo mistakes.
I’d sit on the floor for hours writing horror stories and trying to emulate my favourite author at the time: RL.Stine.
The trouble was, I never finished those stories. No matter how much my cousin loved reading them and begged me for the next part, no matter how many commendations I won at school for my story writing, I felt like a fraud.
That feeling only worsened as I reached adulthood and wrote endless fanfictions which I never published.
I started a book which I never finished too. One which I had high hopes for at the time which I felt could help others.
The trouble was, that voice in the back of my head saying ‘Who do you think you are calling yourself a writer? Who would want to listen to the likes of you?’
And I listened.
And I continued to write only to myself, saving my work but never showing a soul.
The day I created this blog was the day I decided to give that voice a serious ass kicking.
Who did it think it was to try to stifle my voice and stop me from sharing my beliefs? Who did it think it was to make me deny even one person who might get some value out of what I had to say?
Because when you don’t share your voice, that’s what happens. Someone misses out.
Someone who really could have done with reading the words in the way that only you could write them.
Not only that, but you starve your soul of the very thing that nourishes it.
If you are a writer, no matter how ‘bad’ you think your writing is, you’ll feel it deep down.
You need to write to feel better, you get grouchy when you don’t. You need to post. You’re itching to share your thoughts in long form. When you write, you feel a satisfaction you can’t explain and that nobody else seems to understand.
If any of that sounds like you, what’re you doing continuing to read this? Get out there and write! Someone needs your words. The way that only you can craft them.
Almost everybody has an inner critic, that snide, sniggering, scoffing voice at the back of your head that says you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or deserving enough.
And let’s face it -with all the ways we have to compare ourselves to everyone around us nowadays, as well as intense marketing designed to reinforce beliefs that you’re lacking in some way unless you buy their product, is it any wonder that those internal insults become ever louder?
“I’ll never be able to live like him/her”
“My writing’s crap compared to this”
“I’m not smart enough to go for the job I want”
“I’ll never be disciplined enough to achieve that because I’m a loser”
“I’ll never be…”
“I’m (insert insult here)”
Even the most successful and confident people out there struggle with that quiet, doubtful voice most of the time. The difference is, they’ve learned how to control it, and even use it as motivation.
You’ve probably read and heard that a thousand times, and thought, ‘Well good for them for being born with that ability’.
But it’s not an inborn ability that people either have or they don’t. It’s all about training and rewiring your brain to think and react differently. That takes time and inner work. A lot of it.
Granted, some people might find it a little easier than others, depending on their past, their circumstances, the people they hang around with, and their mental health.
My inner critic, which I refer to as my inner gremlin, used to be like a raging tsumani. All- consuming, all-powerful, endlessly destructive. And hungry for more.
It never used to be like that. When I was a small child, I had boundless confidence and curiosity. I’d sit and write on my typewriter on the living room floor, or write a story in my notebook and race to show anyone who would read it.
Like most young children, I truly believed I could be anything I wanted; an archaeologist, a TV presenter, a weather reporter, a famous author.
Circumstances growing up, plus being bullied throughout my whole school life, fed the inner gremlin that had started to emerge once all the other children started forming cliques and showing off their own unique personalities.
I wasn’t like everyone else. I was inappropriate, loud, wore baggy, unfashionable clothes because everything else irritated me, and didn’t understand social jokes or cues. I wasn’t interested in the things others were interested in, or in talking about relationships.
It wasn’t until early adulthood I got diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum.
Anyway, the older I got and the more insults were thrown at me, the more I believed them. The more I saw the other people around me, the more inadequate I felt. I didn’t need to be told I was ugly and worthless by other kids because my own inner bully had grown vicious and gigantic by that point.
I’d tell myself I was vile and worthless. All the while, my inner gremlin fed and grew.
Eventually, I stopped showing off my writing outside of school. I went through periods of self-harming, and my self-esteem was as low as it could get.
As a young adult, I still had my dreams from childhood – my main one to be an author – but I had serious issues with my identity and with extremely defensive and angry behaviour in my relationships.
Where did all this come from? My inner gremlin which had been gorging itself quite happily over the years on all of my negative thoughts and beliefs.
I was a hoarder, you see. But at the time I didn’t realise because I kept everything crammed out of sight or neatly lined up.
Confronted with years of my own mess, I realised I had a serious issue with letting go of the past. In many ways, I was still living in it.
I may have been an adult with a child and renting a home, but inside I was still that angry child pining for acceptance.
That day, I let go of so much stuff, and when I did, I physically felt like this huge spiritual weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Years of attachments, sad memories, and old work finally where it belonged – in the trash.
Something got sparked in me that day that triggered years of self growth, and opened the gate to minimalism.
Because I was forced to question why I had been holding onto all that stuff, I started to ask myself deeper things, like where my beliefs came from, and why I felt the way I did.
I started reading every self-help book I could get my hands on that appealed to the specific issues I had identified. Books about overcoming trauma, writing, confidence, self-improvement, and later on, minimalism.
I didn’t just read these books once. I read them over and over, completing all the exercises inside them until I knew them off by heart and looking inside myself until it started to feel natural.
It’s safe to say that those books, alongside the action I took, went a significant way in helping me to change who I had become, and started me on a path of acceptance and becoming my true self.
For those of you who are interested, I will list some of those books at the end of this post, but keep in mind, your needs and what works for you might well be different, and that’s OK.
Fast forward to the present and I’ve made this blog, started training to become a counsellor, taken some Udemy courses, written part of a book, and made a new friend (who is also a writer). I’ve also become brave enough to enter a couple of writing competitions.
How did I silence my inner gremlin? I didn’t. Instead, I got strong enough to fight back and to co-exist with it in a healthy way. It’s nowhere near as big or as consuming as it was, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from writing or going for my dreams.
It’s highly unlikely you will completely silence your inner critic because for the most part, its job is to try to protect us from pain and humiliation. That’s why so many of us remain stuck in jobs we hate, lives that are going nowhere, and relationships that don’t serve us.
At its least destructive, it tells you to stay where you are, in comfortable waters, with everyone else. It halts and destroys dreams.
At its most destructive, it becomes like mine did. A seething mass of hate, doubt, and negativity.
The trick is to not feed it, and to gain power over it by fighting the inner demons that allow those beliefs to cement in your heart and mind.
Let me give an example of the occasional things my gremlin will rasp, and the things I now say back. Perhaps some of it will resonate with you.
You’re dreaming if you think you’ve got a chance.
Just look at this article – no readers. You’re rubbish, may as well give up now.
You lead a rubbish uneventful life, people don’t care what you have to say.
What qualifies you, of all people, to think you can help others?
Oh shut up, everyone started from zero.
But I’m doing something I love. Which is more than what you can do.
You’re just my inner critic, what do you know about writing and having fun? Nothing!
Inner Gremlin, you’d never get anywhere with an attitude like that. You suck. You’re mediocrity itself.
I can do what I want with my life, unlike you who can only criticise.
I am qualified to help people because I desire to, have been through things which could be valuable to others, and am training. You don’t know a thing about helping – just critisising.
I dare get my words out there regardless, and that’s awesome and more than most people will continue to do.
And you know what? Time after time of practising inner dialogue like that has turned the balance of power.
I’ve taken its energy source, cut off its supply, and shrank it down by doing the thing it hates the most – taking action.
Try it today. Argue back with your inner gremlin. Do it time and time again until it becomes nothing more than a minor annoyance.
Wage a war and confront your inner demons. Cut off its food supply.
Don’t let your inner gremlin decide your future.
Oh, and here are the books I said I would link, but before I do that I would also like to give a mention to Anthony Moore on Medium whose stories and articles help keep me going even through the tough times.
I am a writer. You are a writer. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.
And just like you, I sometimes suffer from torturous levels of self-doubt. I haven’t published any books – yet. But I do have a couple of amateurish self-help books that were written years in the past and buried in the attic. I’ve also been writing a self-help blog for the past half a year. A blog I was putting off starting for the longest time because I was petrified of failure.
After starting my blog, people contacted me to tell me how much they appreciated me sharing my stories and advice. It was only a handful of people, but let me tell you, when you have a message to get out and you’re being authentic, it’s the most freeing and amazing feeling in the world.
No matter how rubbish you think you’re writing is, it will always entertain or help someone. And you can only get better, not worse. Though if you never start, nobody can ever hope to be moved by your words or inspired by your inner world.
Looking back on my old work, I see grammatical horrors, and an inconsistent flow. It’s all too easy to listen to that voice from beyond the cobwebs of your mind that says ‘Give it up now. Throw away the pen. Nobody wants to read that hot garbage. Everyone will laugh at you’.
That voice is meaningless. Poison. It will kill your dreams and stifle your voice if you give it so much as an inch.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer. As a child I would sit at home writing stories in cheap spiral notebooks, or typing up a storm on the old-fashioned style typewriter which my parents bought me; you really had to hammer the keys to get the ink onto the paper. I used it so much that one Christmas, they surprised me with an electronic one and I was beside myself with excitement, my fingers soon dancing over the keys, page after page of prose whirring onto the paper.
At school, I put my heart and soul into writing assignments, winning commendations for the stories I wrote in English. It was exhilarating to have my work read out to the whole class, and I felt proud.
Then I got older. And the more of life’s traumas I experienced, the rarer and more incomplete my stories became. I became convinced that they weren’t good enough, even though my cousin would read them, transfixed, and beg me to write the next chapter. I never did. I would screw up entire pages of prose, rewrite it, then screw it up and rewrite it again, until the story got abandoned completely.
Until recently, I would continue to write half stories, only to leave them behind until they become nothing more than a long-buried memory in Google Docs or on my hard drive. Over the years I’ve read dozens of books and magazines on writing. I formed a writing habit, but it still didn’t cure me of my endless need to perfect whatever I was working on. For me, perfectionism was another form of procrastination. As long as I was forever editing my work, I didn’t have to get it out there.
Then something happened which drastically altered that self-defeating mindset that had poisoned my writing over the years. I rediscovered one of the horror stories I had written as a child.
The story was about an alien that came into my house one day and kidnapped my family, then I discovered the family dog could talk because she helped me to defeat the alien and rescue my family. It’s cringe-worthy and hilarious to read now, but ultimately, this story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
You see, back then, I was too young and innocent to let a lack of confidence hold back my imagination. My child-self simply put pen to paper and wrote whatever nonsense her brain had dreamed up, no matter how silly it sounded or how crazy the plot.
It’s astounding and depressing how as I grew older, experiencing trauma and setbacks, my stories eroded alongside my self-confidence.
For many years I’d been held back by my insecurities: I’ll never be any good, I’ll never write anything worthwhile, people will never care about what I write and will judge my work harshly. Yet nobody else had ever read this story. The cruellest judge of all was me.
Without a doubt I can tell you that your mind is the enemy of your pen. Whenever you put off another project, or another sentence, you are standing in your own way of success, letting doubt and fear gain the upper hand.
But you’re worth more than that, aren’t you? You know you are. That’s why you have so many words racing around your mind. So many untold dreams.
The words you keep locked in your mind are endless, just like your potential.
Whenever I feel that self-doubt creeping back in, I still my mind and get back in touch with my inner child, locked up behind bars, still poised at the typewriter. And I start to write as if I were that fearless child again, simply getting anything and everything down on paper or my screen.
Just like I finally started my blog and gained several followers, I brought down that old buried manuscript of the self-help book in the attic, and began to rewrite it with the knowledge and skills I’ve gained as a thirty-something writer.
No longer am I a writer in hiding.
Through getting back in touch with that eager and neglected inner-child who’s always wielding her pen and typewriter, never caring what others think, I’ve found that old buried confidence.
Because I am a writer.
So, what are you waiting for? Go unleash those ideas and share them with the world! Your words are worth it!