The Art Of Smacking Up The Inner Troll


You know that little voice in your head that starts yammering  the second you begin work on a terrific new idea?

You brainstorm and prepare. Ju28Set out paints. Insert fresh memory cards. Open a new pin board. Lay out your ingredients for that sweet potato and bacon dish you just dreamed up… and lo and behold, there’s the voice. The inner troll.

You’re not ready.
What makes you qualified to even try this?
Someone else already did this. Hers was better.
You tried this before and you’re not good at it.
If you close WordPress now and watch reruns on Netflix instead, you won’t look stupid on the internet.
No one wants to hear about this subject.
People want to hear about this subject, but you’re not qualified to address it.
You think this is new and exciting, but it’s lame. Lame people always think their ideas are new and exciting.
It’d better be perfect on the first try, because if it’s not, everyone will know you’re not a real chef (photographer, songwriter, designer,etc.)
You’ll offend people, and they’ll take screen shots that go viral, and the world will see you’re a loser.
That other guy sang it better.
You’re writing draft 1 in passive voice. Stop and fix it. NOW.  Fixing it made you lose your train of thought? Good going, stupid.

My inner voice is a mashup of this and Piper Laurie as that awful mother in Carrie, screaming, “You’re weak! They’re all gonna laugh at you!”

Rejection silences artists.

Few things are as persistent as the inner troll. She never takes a holiday, even if I do. She never shuts up, not in church, not at work, not on dates, not in confrontations, not on the best days of my life.

Everything I do in life is in spite of this voice, because she never thinks I’m ready, never thinks I’m qualified, and never thinks I do anything right.

Like you, I have a choice. And I’ve decided that instead of shrinking back into silence, I’m going to move on without the voice’s permission.

Every time that hateful inner voice says no and I still move forward, I’m that much more prepared to face the critics who will materialize as I release my art into the universe. If I don’t live down to my own expectations, I won’t live down to anyone else’s either. The more I address that voice with reason or “I’m not going to dignify that ridiculous notion” silence, the more it erodes the internal fear that I have nothing to offer.

When a critic stands up and calls me a no-talent fraud, I’ll be ready. I will understand that rejection is part of the process, and I will not see it as a permanent stop sign.

You may not think I’m qualified, but I’m the one getting this done.
Every day I will learn more and grow my talent.
If this message burns inside of me for weeks, months, and years, it is proof that I have something to say.
I will write that chapter and fix the passive voice later.
I will create something and send into the world, in front of people who could hate me for it.
I forgive myself for every mistake I have ever made in the course of trying.

Time spent trying to please the inner troll and outer critics wastes creative mental space, so address it.

Raid the dungeons of your insecurities, confront your troll, take back your art. When the critics come, you’ll be ready. You’ll be unstoppable.


“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” -Georgia O’Keeffe


5 thoughts on “The Art Of Smacking Up The Inner Troll

  1. Taylor Jamieson says:

    The voice of pride echoes in expectation. I told a friend this week when you write to be published you will never succeed. When you do that thing artists do for the reason, for the real reason, then you need no audience.

    Like the Dalai Lama says, pride causes suffering.

    Keep writing.

  2. Zuzka says:

    Have you heard of Carol Dweck? She writes about mindset, and it’s a lot of the stuff that you’re talking about, but framed around have a belief that you can grow and improve as a result of those negative experiences.
    Love your Pinterest board, by the way.

  3. Cynthia R. Sawyer says:

    This is all starting to ring a bell now, right? Welcome to the voice of your inner critic. Oh, I’m positive you can manage your inner critic—you’ve got a relationship with it, right? No matter that you’re producing like crazy at the expense of pushing yourself to exhaustion and burnout. No big deal that you’re beginning to resent the work and industry that you used to love so much. You totally have it under control, of course. Er…or not. Whether it’s infrequently or often, if these sorts of thoughts or behaviors appear regularly in your life, then it’s time to reconsider your tactics for dealing with and silencing your inner critic.

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