The Practice of Creativity

Inner Critics and Word Play: Why Comparison = Creativity Prison

Posted on: July 13, 2015

No matter how lumpy or faded or boring you feel, your creativity is of value.

Creativity author and mentor, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK) has written a lot on inner critics and how they can sabotage our creative work. Inner critics are the sharp-tongued internal voices that often prevent us from writing and/or creating. They speak to us with the seemingly definitive voice of KNOWING ABOUT EVERYTHING CREATIVE. Our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are uninvited guests during our writing sessions. Inner critics usually know how to do just one thing and have long outlived whatever protective role they once had. They won’t leave until we imaginatively assign them a new “job”.

I’ve had great fun reassigning many inner critics to new jobs*. One inner critic was called ‘Relentless Ruthie’ and no matter what I did, according to her, I wasn’t doing it fast or good enough. My accomplishments were only as good as yesterday. She was methodical, meticulous and intense. In dreaming up a new job for her, I wondered where her qualities might be really valued. SARK suggested that Relentless Ruthie would be perfect in being security detail on Air Force One. I agreed! Since being reassigned in my imagination, I haven’t heard a peep from RR in years.

SARK notes that a typical inner critic is the ‘comparer’. This critic is hyper focused on comparing us to others. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of comparison in one’s creative life and the word COMPARISON.


Have you ever read a novel (or your creative equivalent) and thought, ‘This sucks. I can write SO much better than this’ (and felt quite good and superior about it)? Then, perhaps in the same week, have you ever read a book by a different author and thought, ‘God, I can NEVER write like this. This is brilliant’ (and felt quite inadequate)?

One can go between these extremes in the same week or even day!

A few days ago, I started doodling the word ‘comparison’ and I saw that is has the word PRISON contained in it. This made me think of how often we put our writing/creative selves in prison when we spend too much time comparing. Our job, as creative folk, is not to swing between feeling superior and feeling inadequate, but is to just do the work and honor our own process. Most of the time this is easier said than done! I wondered why I never noticed prison in the word comparison before, but was glad I got the message!


Do you notice when your ‘inner comparer’ gets activated? How do you respond?


*Two wonderful SARK books that have long discussions about (and great exercises for) dealing with inner critics is Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, Avoiders and People Who Would Rather Sleep All Day and Prosperity Pie: How to Relax About Money and Everything Else. I highly recommend them.


3 Responses to "Inner Critics and Word Play: Why Comparison = Creativity Prison"

Great post. It’s true, the compulsion to compare ourselves with others leads to feelings of superiority or inferiority, and neither help the creative process. Thanks for the great reminder.


I do, at times, find my interior critiques to be helpful. They push me to edit and re-edit and edit again. And, if I do my job right, they hush in silent approval. Then I can smile.


[…] derail us. In various posts, I’ve discussed some of the more common inner critics including the comparer, the pusher, the judger, the imposter, the procrastinator and the perfectionist. Inner critics […]


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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