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QWSW: Gremlins, Your Cruel Inner Critics



Your Cruel Inner Critics

What is a Gremlin?

  • It is the self-doubting, pessimistic, obnoxious part of us.
  • It is the voice in our head that says the laundry needs to be folded, the cat litter boxes need to be cleaned, the living room needs to be vacuumed, the yard needs to be raked, and the closets need to be organized, all BEFORE you write.
  • It tells you that you will never make it as a writer.
  • It tells you that you are not good enough.
  • It focuses on your grammar and spelling in the first draft.

It says:

  • “Who are you to think you can write?”
  • “You can’t do that.”
  • “You’ll fail, so don’t even try.”

My gremlin sits on my shoulder, swinging her legs and just chilling. Then, when I start writing, the gremlin starts in with the obnoxious talk:  you can’t spell; no one is going to want to read this; you’re not smart enough to write … and if that isn’t enough to scare me off,  my gremlin pulls my ear open and starts yelling even louder.

That is when I need to remind myself just who these gremlins are.

Who are Our Gremlins?

We may think that because we hear the gremlins in our head, the voice must belong to us and therefore we need to listen to what is being said. This is not true. The voices of these gremlins are from the people around us and the people in our past. They are parents, teachers, friends, family members, coaches, and bosses. They might be a bully from third grade, or a nasty co-worker.

What our gremlins tell us are things we have heard from others and although they may not have been meant to hurt us, their negative impact has remained and rears its ugly gremlin head.

How to Live With Your Gremlins

Believe that the gremlins are not you! These are NOT your voices.

Think of someone you care about. Would you say the cruel things to that person that your gremlin says to you? NO! Think of your child, a friend or relative you love. Would you say to them “You’re a failure?” Of course not. Do NOT give those voices power by believing they are your voice.

Your gremlin is repeating those words from a voice in your past. Recognize where that voice is coming from and the power will be taken away.

One of my gremlins used to always tell me I could not write. He would laugh when I wrote something and tell me it was stupid. When I realized the voice belonged to an unpleasant acquaintance in my past, I laughed out loud. This person did not know anything about writing and his opinion meant nothing to me. Recognizing where the voice was coming from helped take the power away from the gremlin’s words.

When your gremlin starts in on you, do something physical to get rid of him. I will sometimes flick him off my shoulder. Try it! This can be done anywhere—at work, in the car, shopping—anywhere your gremlin starts chattering in your ear, flick him off your shoulder.

Have something specific that represents your gremlin.

Give it a physical being, something tangible that you can grab hold of and feel, knowing you have complete control.  Keep it nearby.  A “You Can’t” Gremlin works like a charm.

When your gremlin starts in, pick up the item and put it in a drawer. This is the equivalent to a time-out for your gremlin.

Let it physically exist and have its voice so that you can do something physical with it. Like placing it somewhere far enough away, so you no longer hear the negative ramblings it is spewing.

Carol had a horrible boss who was very critical and demeaning. She quit her job because she could not take the abuse any longer. However, whenever she would apply for jobs, or go on interviews she heard the gremlin’s voice.

When she realized the gremlin was her boss, she found the wooden nutcracker he had given her for Christmas. She carried it out to the fire pit and set it on fire. After that, every time her boss gremlin started talking, she said, “Hey, you are ashes in my fire pit and I don’t have to listen to you anymore.”

When your gremlin starts in on you, stop what you are doing and draw a picture of your gremlin. It does not have to be anything extravagant or take long to do. Then scrunch up the picture and throw it in the garbage.

You have disposed of your gremlin and now you can get back to work. There is something about physically removing your gremlin that is freeing!


Time needed: 45 minutes

  1. Write About Your Gremlin.

    What does it tell you?

  2. Draw a Picture

    What does it look like?

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