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Managing your inner critic: An exercise

Rizwan Javaid
Rizwan Javaid
3 min read

Our inner critic knows just the right time to show up and start whispering to us that our ideas aren’t good enough, so why bother creating them and that we definitely shouldn’t be sharing them with the world. The subtle whispers can keep us from getting started and block our creativity from flowing.

Being able to control when to create and evaluate our work is a skill we need to develop consciously, so we don’t let the inner voice hold us back from producing and sharing our creative work with the world.

In today’s exercise, you will explore how your inner critic shows up to feed off the evaluative brain through a drawing activity. The constraint of this exercise is that you will not look at your drawing or lift your hand while you draw, which will help you practice creating and sharing without judgment which is a big challenge in producing creative work.

You can use this exercise whenever you feel your inner critic’s voice getting louder and becomes a distraction from your creative exploration and output.

Also, you can practice this exercise anywhere you see another person. It could be in a coffee shop, in a Zoom, or in-person meeting, basically anytime you’re sitting across someone, but for today’s exercise, you can use the images I have shared.

On to the exercise!


Women holding her collar standing near wall
Photo by Prince Akachi on Unsplash

Part 1: The Blind Contour Drawing


Supplies:

All you need is a pen and a paper

Instructions:

  • Take a few minutes to draw the person in the photo above. Smaller size photo
  • Don’t look down at your drawing as you draw, even though you will be tempted.
  • Don’t pick up your pen during this time either, even though you will be tempted.
  • Follow the contours and add as much detail as you can within the time.
  • Once the time is up, look down at your drawing and begin part two of this exercise, reflecting upon your experience doing this exercise.

Remember, it’s not about creating a masterpiece; it’s about practicing reducing the influence of our evaluative mind while we are in generating mode. Your inner voice will scream to start judging your work but keep drawing without looking down. Trust yourself!

Part 2: Reflection Time

Take a moment to examine how you felt during this exercise; this is a great time to write down your answers in a journal to come back to as your creative practice grows.

The most crucial part is reflecting on how this exercise made you feel and the thoughts that came up for you as you drew, which will help you become more aware of yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions, to be better prepared for when the judging mind shows up in your creative work.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How did you feel not being able to look down at your drawing?
  • Did your inner critic show up? If it did, how strong was the voice of judgment?
  • Was this exercise fun for you, or did you feel anxious?
  • Did the constraints of not looking down at your drawing feel limiting or liberating?
  • How can you apply what you have learned through this exercise in your creative work?

Continue exploring when you need to be generating ideas versus evaluating your thoughts and how you can manage the inner voice so you can control when it needs to show up for you.


a pencil drawing for the bline contour drawing exercise
My drawing for this exercise

I used to think that I had to completely get rid of the inner voice that judges my creative work. After reading the book Creative Acts for Curious People by Sarah Stein Greenberg, which this exercise is inspired by, I realized that there is a time for generating and producing ideas and a time for evaluating and critiquing them as they are both essential parts of creative work. Think of them as specialized tools we have available for our creative work.

We probably won’t ever get rid of our inner critic, but instead of fighting it, we can make the judging voice our partner to enable us to produce and share our creative work with the world and let our creativity flow freely.

Here are a few more photos to continue your practice.

Person 1 / Person 2 / Object / Objects


I would love to see how this exercise turned out for you. Share your experience.

Till next time, stay strong!

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