6 Powerful Methods to Fight Your Inner Critic as an Artist

#6 — Give yourself to the dark side.

Nate Miller
Sep 15, 2020 · 6 min read
An artist drawing, with their brain popping out of their head to tell them their artwork is bad.
An artist drawing, with their brain popping out of their head to tell them their artwork is bad.
Image by Nate Miller

Does your inner-critic bully you?

Do they leave you exhausted and broken with nothing to show for your efforts? Do they ground and pound you like your life is a lopsided MMA match? Do they smash your face into a car windshield, then take your mother out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again?

Oh, you know the feeling? Great!

An inner-critic can be bad in any field of work, but self-criticism is a million times more damaging to the work of an artist.

You become your very own art critic when it comes to your work, picking it apart for everything it is and everything it isn’t before it’s even done.

That nagging voice can be debilitating, leading to creative block and depression. You can’t afford to let it keep you down.

So buckle up, grab a trident and get ready to kill a man, because we’re about to kick some serious ass with these six powerful methods to fight your inner art critic.

1. Get multiple personalities

Stop identifying with your inner critic and treat that assholish little voice as a separate entity altogether. Other the shit out of it.

You are not that voice and that voice is not you.

It helps to imagine this entity as a bratty, whiny being that’s really small in size because the smaller you imagine it to be the less intimidating it seems. So imagine it’s Caillou. That kid is real annoying.

Use your creative mind to picture your inner art critic's voice in this way to make the constant negative chatter become less relevant — the same way you wouldn’t give energy to an actual shit person with the same bad qualities. Speaking of shit person…

2. Treat it like a stinky diaper

Once you’ve separated the voice from yourself, treat it the same way you’d treat an actual turd goblin who goes around spewing crap-filled negativity like it had some sort of wastewater cannon. Stay the heck away from it.

Negativity feeds on energy, but when it doesn’t get any it begins to shrink.

The minute you have a negative opinion or thought about your work, make a conscious effort to remind yourself that this whiny little puke of a voice is not you, and that you’re giving your attention and energy to something else, something that matters.

Imagine having the swagger of that prince from Disney’s Aladdin (the animated version, not the live-action cash grab) who says “You were born a street rat, you’ll die a street rat, and only your fleas will mourn you!” as you flush that talking pile of poo down the sewer and enter the palace gates of getting shit done.

3. Fuhgeddaboudit

Depression in general, or depression from art block, can be caused by two trains of thought; constantly worrying about the work you haven’t made, and worrying about the work you have made. It’s like your inner art critic is a mob boss who’s sending his two goons past and future after you.

Still got your trident? Good, because you’re gonna have to off those MFers.

There’s only one real moment that exists right now and that’s the present moment — the past is gone and the future has yet to arrive. Mostly because you just killed them. You might wanna lay low for a while because you’re probably wanted for murder.

Your inner critic thrives by attaching itself to any moment that isn’t the present one — rebel against this notion and bring your attention to the present. You can start by disposing of the bodies.

Next, pick up your art utensil and begin creating not according to what you think it should be, or what you failed to create last time, but rather create through the energy and ideas that are flowing at this moment. You know, if you can tell ‘em apart from the adrenaline rush you got from all that murder.

4. Relocate yo’ ass

The bully inside your head loves comfort and familiar surroundings and knows exactly which buttons to press to kill your inspiration and grow your art block. I mean it was part of you once so it knows a lot about you.

By venturing into a completely new environment you can fight your inner art critic and watch how new inspiration begins to make itself known.

Your environment change doesn’t have to be permanent either; it could be as simple as going for a short walk. For example, you could walk to the playground, strip your inner art critic naked, chain them to a carousel, and leave them there.

A new environment may also spark a new feeling toward the negative voice, realizing there’s a time and place for criticism in healthy doses. You need to be objective with your work, but at the same time, self-criticism shouldn’t be bad enough to take away your love for your craft. A change in scenery could bring about a change in perspective.

For example, maybe it’s not your best work, but at least you aren’t chained up nude in public.

5. Try, try again

So you’ve started giving yourself a hard time anyway, huh? Even with all the help I’ve already given you? For shame.

Well, I guess all isn’t lost. You could still try to break your negative thought pattern using the Mel Robbins five-second rule.

Originally this was an extremely effective way to be more productive, by counting down from five so that your brain doesn’t have enough time to decide it doesn’t feel like doing something.

By catching your brain’s thought-pattern at the right moment enough times, you’re able to make behavioral changes. Your brain will go from a third of its proper size to being fully functional. It’s science.*

Even though the rule is for productivity, who’s to say it won’t work for your inner art critic? The moment you catch that penis-breathed voice beginning to say something negative, count down 5 4 3 2 1 and deliberately focus your thoughts on something else. Like a positive affirmation or some shit.

Eventually, those repetitive negative thoughts will no longer be your default pattern each time you try to work, but rather a rare occurrence that will feel less devastating and more manageable.

6. Give yourself to the dark side

Even the most positive people in the world who love their work and find ways to be creative every day have an inner art critic just like you. As it turns out you aren’t a special little snowflake after all.

The difference lies in how you deal with feeling overwhelmed. The most beautifully written songs are often sad and the art that grips us doesn’t always come from sunshine and roses. Your inner art critic is constantly begging you to come to the dark side, and sometimes maybe you should.

Turn your pain into a painting, some writing, or a drawing that represents how you feel. Abandon the rules and expectations. Embrace your last resort. Cut your inner art critics hand off and tell him he’s your son. Your bastard son.

Then bring your inner art critic into the light by creating a depiction of it in an artistic way — let your imagination run wild — I dunno, draw a dickbutt, or the Star Wars equivalent: a Porg.

Once you use that voice to make art instead of allowing it to stop you, you take its power away and put yourself back in the driver’s seat. The driver’s seat of a Death Star no less.

The bigger you imagine a monster the scarier it seems. That’s why changing the way you think can make all the difference.

When you implement these six powerful methods to fight your inner art critic you’ll begin to see significant changes in your craft.

Everything you need to create unique and incredible work is already inside you, merely hidden behind the negative self-talk and critical chatter. The choice to put that loud-mouthed critic back in its place and take control of your power is yours. Change begins the moment you begin to take a different approach to your work.

Above all else, always remember: you are the captain of your own ship, and silencing your inner critic is always at your command.

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Nate Miller

Written by

Artist and blogger. I help people bring more art into the world: natedoesart.com

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Nate Miller

Written by

Artist and blogger. I help people bring more art into the world: natedoesart.com

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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