Who Owns the Inner Critic?

Hardly had I announced the new book would deal with the inner critic, when the emails started to come in. People letting me know that there was someone else teaching a class on the inner critic, another one saying that they had taken a class with someone who had a chapter in her book about the inner critic. Still another who reminded me that “inner critic” belonged to Julia Cameron, Martha Beck, and a host of other people who have used the term some where, some time.

Big, deep breath. I know. The term “inner critic” is a generic term for that voice we all have that yammers about what we are missing, what we don’t have, and how we are not enough.

I did not invent the inner critic–he (or she) comes built-in to your brain, courtesy hundreds of  thousands of years of evolution. I did not invent the name “Inner Critic,” Byron Brown has used it since he wrote Soul Without Shame, in 1998. Before that, Hal Stone wrote Embracing Your Inner Critic in 1993, and Matthew Ignoffo wrote Coping With Your Inner Critic in 1989. So, the term has been around a while.

But let’s scratch the itch, here. I know about copyright, but copyright doesn’t preclude me  (or you, or 300 yodeling unicorns) from writing a book about the inner critic. The inner critic is a concept, an idea, and ideas don’t qualify for copyright.

Learn to make this apple pie, complete with micro-lattice from EvilMadScientist.com: http://www.evilmadscientist.com/2008/now-thats-an-apple-pie/

Imagine what it would be like if there were one book on apple pie, or, for that matter, one recipe for apple pie. One, and done. Maybe, if you are generous, one open pie, one lattice pie, one deep-dish, and one streusel.  Or one book on journaling, one book on watercolor. Libraries would be tiny. My bookcases would take up a lot less of my house,  and Cooking Man’s collection (now numbering close to 300 cookbooks) would be down to just one.

Incidentally, here is Country Home’s recipe that claims to be the best apple pie ever. And here are 15 more “best” apple pie recipes from Country Living. The one with salted pecan topping looks pretty good. And the orange-spiced, streusel-topped, cream-enriched Dutch apple pie looks yummy, too. And while I’m on a tear, streusel doesn’t rhyme with doozle, it comes from the German word for scatter (streuen) and it rhymes with Roy-zell. I think I’m done now.

Those three books I mentioned above deal with the inner critic, just as mine will. But each offers a different method, as mine will. And then there is the idea that a lot of books on the same topic allows a lot of perspectives. A lot of solutions. A lot of right answers. Because there is not only more than one answer, there is more than one right answer. And I’m looking to add another.

-Quinn McDonald is writing again. But she’s got her mind on apple pie.

35 thoughts on “Who Owns the Inner Critic?

  1. Well put, Quinn! Everyone’s inner critic is different, therefore we need various writiers to “speak” to us all. Hurray to all comments. There is always a strand of originality in all ideas.

  2. 🙂 Staggered at how helpful people can be…

    Go you.

    Enjoy the best apple pie (which ever recipe you choose), and keep whistling even if it feels like it is in the dark, the tune helps us all find our own wisdom. 🙂

  3. This made me laugh. It’s only a matter of time now before the inner critic gets trademarked by Disney or something and then we’re all screwed. 😉 I’m starting to think people are going a little over the top with the need to be completely original (there’s no such thing and then again, it’s hard not to be original at all, some paradox there I know).
    As for the inner critic, she can be quite useful when handled with care. 😉

  4. There’s a little something that many seem to be missing when you said the new book would deal with the inner critic. There’s the wonderful subject of developing those Inner Heroes (or Heroines?) which I would imagine will be a major focus. Critic schmitic! They get far too much air-time!

    • Yes, Joanna,the book is designed to allow people to confront the inner critic, who is not always wrong. When the inner critic becomes a strengthening agent instead of a destructive voice, mending can happen.

  5. Best to you Quinn on your new book! I can’t wait until it is released and we can read it and compare to all the other similar books and decide which one we like best. Forge ahead!

  6. Quinn: Those of us who read your blog every day know that you will be able to describe the inner critic in a way that will make sense to us. Everyone learns differently, so we need lots of people explain the same thing in various ways. I will never forget the post where you suggested that instead of running away from fear and stress, we invite them in for a chat and see what they have to say. I decided to take a walk that day and bring “Fear” and “Stress” with me to see what they had to say. But as I got to the end of the driveway, I realized I needed to take “Money” with me instead. That half hour walk has been life changing for me and all because I read you post and invited the “Inner Critic” or whatever you want to call it to take a walk with me. Looking forward to your book, I am sure it will be the “right recipe” for many people.

    • You have a good memory, Pat. I had the idea in February of 2009, and then wrote about inviting them in around January of 2011. It was the first idea for this book. I’m so glad you wrote and let me know it was useful. There are times I feel I’m just whistling in the dark.

      • Quinn: I applaud you for continuing to blog every day. I look forward to what you have to say because I know it will be insightful and make me think. Just know that you are touching my life and I am sure many other people’s too.

  7. And then there is the Outer Critic, just as relentless as the Inner Critic. Maybe there should be a book about that too!

    • There are always outer critics. When the inner critic and outer critic start saying the same things, we know we’ve been paying too much attention to things that don’t make meaning for us.

  8. almost sounds like a discussion about religion…
    “mine is the only way”..sigh…
    and to think these words came from people who read your words…..amazing.
    thank you for your words this morning. i don’t always post a comment, however, i do savor your thoughts as a beginning point in my day.

  9. On another subtopic, Julian Jaynes wrote _The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind_, which has a pretty wild but intriguing premise. I think one extrapolation of that theory would be that an inner critic is more attributable to the development of language than to general evolutionary effects.

    The best thing about Jaynes’ book, as Luhrmann observed, is that it is “…undoubtedly wrong, but wrong in such an interesting way that readers, on finishing it, find that they think about the world quite differently.”

    I’m not suggesting, by the way, that an inner critic is an auditory hallucination, which is part of what that book deals with.

  10. “This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything…”
    -Plato (_Apology of Socrates_, so it’s actually Socrates speaking)

    That copyright expired 2500 years ago.

  11. Quinn, I don’t give a hoot what those people are saying. This book will be YOUR voice, as an artist, and coach, and it will be different from any other.

    I have had the pleasure of a coaching session with you, and I really value what you have to say as well as how you say it. I would pre-order your next book right now if I could. I wish I could afford another coaching session but this book will be worth many, many sessions and I eagerly await its release.

    One request: can they make a version for e-readers like Nook or Kindle? Do you have any say in that?

    Warmest regards,


    • Thank you Lisa, that was really kind. There is a Kindle version of my book. It had some problems–ones you would expect with a how-to art book. Supposdedly, it’s fixed. No, I don’t have any say in whether or not they do an ebook version.

    • Good one, Krystyna!

      Truth to tell, I grew up in a family of critics and carried on the tradition for many years. However, as I started to gain some control over my inner critic, the outer critic tended not to pester others. It turned out to be a win-win situation. (Gosh, I hope it’s OK that I said “win-win” … I’m sure someone else said it before I did!)

      Looking forward to your new book, Quinn.

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