By Allegra Goodman

Published: March 12, 2001

They say writing is lonely work. But that’s an exaggeration. Even alone at their desks, writers entertain visitors: characters of a novel, famous and not so famous figures from the past. On good days, all these come to the table. On bad days, however, only unwelcome visitors appear: The specter of the third-grade teacher who despaired of your penmanship. The ghost of the first person who told you that spelling counts. The voice of reason pointing out that what you are about to attempt has already been done — and done far better than you might even hope.

So why bother? Why even begin? It is, after all, abundantly clear that you are not Henry James. Your themes are hackneyed, your style imitative. As for your emotions, memories, insights and invented characters, what makes you think anyone will care? These are the perfectly logical questions of the famous, petty and implacable inner critic.

What should a writer do when the inner critic comes to call? How to silence these disparaging whispers? I have no magic cure, but here, from my own experience, is a modest proposal to combat the fiend.

Read More: Allegra Goodman – Calming the Inner Critic and Getting to Work –