Creative Problem Solving for Artists: Dealing with the Inner Critic

inner critic

Are you your own worst critic? You’re not alone!

Everyone expects to deal with rejection now and then, but what if you’re the one rejecting your artwork? Creatives can be their own worst critic, and learning to deal with the inner critic is crucial to growing creatively. In this next part of our Creative Problem Solving series (below), Holly deWolf offers tips for silencing your inner critic and taking control of your inner dialog. You can find all of Holly’s creative problem solving tips on Artist’s Market Online.

Keep creating and good luck!


Dealing with the Inner Critic by Holly deWolf

I often think we’re all born with a little critic deep inside each of us. We don’t need this critic’s opinions, negativity and nagging little voice. You can always count on it to rear its head when your work gets rejected or when you get tired and frustrated. The little critic can rule your creative brain if you let it.

“You’re like a pop-up book from hell!” Gilmore Girls

I asked Jeff Andrews to describe how he handles that little critic inside. “I’m easily my own worst critic. Too often I agonize over the most insignificant little things in regard to a current project. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘We [become] what we think about all day long.’ If my clients knew the amount of work I actually put into a job, they’d be amazed. I tend to become a bit obsessed during the early stages of the creative process. A favorite catchphrase of mine is ‘Eat. Sleep. Design.’ The way I usually get around this, however, is by taking a systematic approach to the job, exploring and working through the task at hand in an almost militaristic fashion. And I like to bounce stuff off of my family and colleagues for critique as well. Feedback can be invaluable.”

“Experience is the toughest teacher because she gives the test first, and then the lesson.” —Unknown

When that “voice” strikes, do you know how to talk over it to silence it? How much of it do you believe? The inner critic is basically a really bad dialogue within yourself. It can come from anywhere—from naysayers from the past, from mistakes and from past misunderstandings. Try to remind yourself that this voice is a completely separate entity from yourself. It comes from you, but it isn’t the true you.

“That’s it, mister! You just lost your brain privileges!” —Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants

Try to reprogram this inner chatter in the most creative ways you can. I often challenge my inner critic with silly rebuttals. It sounds odd, but I refuse to let negative script get to me. There is a time to create and a time to evaluate. There is also a time to look for real perspective. Others can never verify self-worth; you can only do that for yourself.

“Practice makes great!” —Holly DeWolf

Holly DeWolf is an illustrator, mentor, DYI’er, blogger and author of the book Breaking Into Freelance Illustration: The Guide for Artists, Designers and Illustrators. She currently lives in New Brunswick, Canada, living the creative freelancer’s dream.

Excerpted from Breaking Into Freelance Illustration © 2009 by Holly DeWolf. Used with the kind permission HOW Books, an imprint of F+W, a Content + eCommerce Company. Visit or call (800)258-0929 to obtain a copy.


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