Embracing My Inner Critic

Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler

Sometimes the best helping hand you get is a good, firm push” Joann Thomas

I sat in author, June Gould’s workshop at the recent International Women’s Writing Guild Conference holding back reading the story I had just written, letting my inner critic, Gertrude, get her way. I was  thinking what I had written was not as good as everyone else’s. I had made myself a promise to read in most every  workshop but at that moment I held back. When I read the piece a few weeks later, I realized  that it was fine and I really could have read it. So I decided to send my inner critic packing:

You know, I’m sitting here minding my own business.” I said, annoyed.

“It’s my business too.” She sneered.

You are not invited into my writer’s world. Go, just go away,” I said as I waved my hand.

“I will not. I have a right to be here. I have  a job to do.” She answered.

I really don’t have the time to give you any more attention. I also have  a job to do.”

” OhI love it when you get  flustered. Makes my job so much easier,” she snickered as she rubbed her hands together.

Job? What job?”

To distract you from your writing, to get you so frustrated, you want to ditch the whole idea of writing your memoir, even though you have worked steadily on it for over a year.” She began.

I could tell she was getting cranked up.

“I love it when you question or doubt yourself,” she continued, “I especially love it when you feel you don’t measure up to others. Everytime you back away from promoting yourself, I revel in it.”

Then she struck her final blow,

Every time you compare yourself to anyone else in a way that prevents you from believing in yourself and in moving forward, it is a feather in my cap.My work is complete. My mission is to thwart your passion, your progress toward your memoir. After all,

“Who are you to think anyone else would care about your life?

Your story isn’t nearly as interesting or exciting as others.

What makes you think you can get anything published? Your writing is trite,syrupy and boring.”

I stared directly into her beady, lifeless eyes. She was like a gnat encircling me. For all the bluster, she was really quite small. She started to blink and shrink as my stare persisted.

Then I blew her away like a candle on a birthday cake.

Poof, she was gone.

I know she’ll come back from time to time as it all seems to be part of the writing process.  But, maybe, in some strange way, she may help me to become a better writer. Maybe I can learn something from the nagging, like how to  develop a tough skin or how to  critique my own writing effectively.

Raymond Obstfeld lists  “The 10 Commandments of Fiction Writing” (applies to non-fiction as well),  in  this recent Writer’s Digest article which offered a new twist on one’s inner critic.  The 7th commandment is:

” Be critical of your work and embrace your inner critic”

Now that I know I can banish my inner critic from taking over, maybe I can concentrate on critiquing my work in a constructive and useful way and even embrace the little pest.


How about you? How do you handle that pesky inner critic in your writing or in your life?


I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~





Getting in Touch with the Poet Within


I never thought of myself as a poet, but after I heard poet and author Mary Mackey in the NAMW Teleseminar talk about the role that poetry can play in writing, I began to see how  poetry may be a good place to start the creative process of using my words to convey my feelings and experiences. Mary talked about writing with “creative flow”, not stopping to edit or critique the words along the way.  “Capture precious memories when creative thought puts itself into words”. Her website is rich with her beautiful work, including novels about the Civil War,The Widow’s War and The Notorious Mrs. Winston which flowed from poems she had written. It is worth a visit. 

I thought about one of the pieces I had written in a free-write session with  author and visionary thought leader,Jan Phillips during the International Women’s Writer’s Guild Workshop I just attended in Providence,RI. I would like to share it here as a tribute to my WWII “Greatest Generation” hero father,Robert Pease, on the momentous occasion of his 88th birthday which he will celebrate on this Tuesday, August 17th: 

                                                                         My Father’s Hands 

A  four-year old little girl stands on a hill next to a man in the black and white photo. Her small, soft hands reach up to hold the large, safe hand of her father , her hero. 

Now the little girl has grown. She is sixty-four and her aging, wrinkled hand wraps,fingers intertwined, the same hand of her eighty-seven year old father whose hands are frail and spindly with skin as thin as parchment paper. She puts her other hand over their intertwined hands as they slowly walk in unison down the  stairs of the lake house to sit on a beach swing and watch the boats go by or watch a mother duck lead her eight baby ducklings across the water. 

These hands that guided and soothed and provided are now still and worn. These  soft child hands that reached up and were held are now wrinkled and reaching  out to guide and nurture. 

These hands that have begged for healing, have joined a family in prayer, have held crying babies, have rubbed a dying friend’s shoulder, have soothed a patient’s pain; these hands that have received a father’s love, these are my hands. 

Watkins Glen,NY circa 1951

 I guess there are really no hard and fast rules about how to write poetry as long as your words tap into emotionally rich memories that scream to be put on the page. 

Have you found the poet within?

Finding the Magic…


This week, I ‘m at the International Women’s Writing Guild’s 34th Annual Summer Conference  at Brown University in Providence ,Rhode Island, “Remember the Magic 2010″

It didn’t start out so magical though. The train ride from New York’s Penn Station was long and there was chaos at each of the five quick stops before Providence. Chatting with the lady next to me helped the time go by. She was excited to be visiting her brother and sister-in-law in New London,Ct. Our conversation ended abruptly when her stop was announced  and she got caught up in the flurry of getting her bag from the front of the cab as new passengers wrestled their way to their seats.

“Have a nice visit.’ I waved as she walked by rolling her suitcase behind her.

Next stop,Providence. Quickly get my bag and exit. No time to waste. Others  pouring in. Where’s my bag? Oh,no. Panic. But I have to get off. The crowd has thinned.

Rushing to the back of the cab, I arrive at the door just as it begins to close. Stop.

“I can’t find my bag”

Another frantic search to no avail.

“Step out Ma’m. The Amtrak Police will take over”

The sweet lady I had chatted with mistakenly grabbed my look-alike suitcase in the chaos of her departure. I received a call later that night . My luggage retrieved , I no longer had to feel envious of others with rolling suitcases

OK,  now that the basics are in order  I can find the magic and it is everywhere…the sprawling quaint Brown campus with its manicured, tree-lined quads and stately brick buildings, the college students throwing frisbees or lounging on the grass , the hordes of young campers in their turquoise or yellow tee shirts following their leaders while punching each other- they all serve as a background to the incredible talent of  the founder Hannelore Hahn, the IWWG staff, workshop leaders and members who stroll about alone or in groups, lead workshops, share their writing, their hearts, their passions and ultimately form a collective energy that helps each of us find the magic within ourselves. There’s no dust collecting here, only talented women coming together out of common purpose to shake and change the world by their own magic.

We all have magic within. Have you found your magic?