The Inner Child Vs Critic Challenge

Big fan of ties and sunglasses… pants not so much

Do you remember Kindergarten art class?

For me, it was magic. I can recall memories of staring in awe at a blank page. Filling it with splashes of colors and patterns. And proudly displaying my crude (and likely crappy) work to my parents. It might not hang at the Louvre, but it sure as hell hung on our refrigerator door. The little dude above was one happy camper.

Flash forward a few years…

This slightly older, and scowling version of myself sat in a similar classroom in front of a similarly blank page. Only this pimply, stubble faced, teenage Tony’s heart raced with terror.

Instead of getting to work he thought: What the heck am I going to make? What if it sucks? What will the girls — who were looking better by the day — think of it? A once exciting grade school art project had turned into a full blown episode of adolescent angst.

What the hell happened?

Unfortunately, sometime between 12 and 14 years old my awe-inspired inner child decided to take a nap. In this moment of slumber a nasty fellow snuck in the door, stole the keys, and took command of the ship. I call this nasty fellow: the inner critic.

Unlike his youthful counterpart, the inner critic is not a good flat mate. He’s loud, likes to complain, and is frankly a bit of a buzzkill.

I’ve tried on multiple occasions to evict this unwelcome tenant. But every time I think I’ve gotten rid of him, he finds a way to sneak back in - the cheeky bastard!

I tried again. And again. And again. Until I got a strange idea…

What if both forces, the child and critic, could split the rent? What if there was a way to harness the wonder of the child and the discernment of the critic? Perhaps the two could get along after all.

To test this out I created:

The Inner Child And Critic Hug It Out Challenge

In this challenge, I want to give both the free flowing and hyper-critical parts of my writing process space to breath. For the next four weeks I will set aside two time slots — 30 to 60 minutes depending on my schedule.***

During the first time slot, my inner child is free to roam. Like a Kindergarten art class, this part of the process is all analog. This means I can plot out ideas on sketch pads, white boards, or note cards — but no computers, tablets, or smart phones allowed.

When the clock goes off, playtime is over. The inner critic is let in and he has (30 to 60 minutes) to turn the child’s mess into something I can post on my blog.

Does this all seem a little silly to you? It should! But there is a reason behind the silliness.

Writing well, or being creative in general, is about balancing moments of openness & spontaneity (ie inner child) with periods of focus and precision (inner critic). This is echoed in the advice of everyone from famous Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld to Hollywood Director’s like Pete Docter.

My hope is to learn more about each part of the process — and find a sane way to integrate the two together (if possible).

Will the cranky critic accept his new job as babysitter for my inner child?

If not, what type of fuss will he put up?

Most importantly, will Tony regain the suave sex appeal(and tie) he has in the opening photo…god I hope so

To find out, stay tuned over the next four weeks for the Inner Child And Critic Hug It Out Challenge!

***Rules and time limits subject to change on the neurotic whims of the creator.

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