Silencing the Saboteur
by Carollyne Hutter
Although it can be unpleasant, criticism is essential to a writing life. Most writers I know are in critique groups—the feedback is so valuable.
Sometimes criticism can cross the line and be destructive to a writer’s work or sense of worth. The most caustic critic can be the voice in a writer’s own head. My friend Eliza King, a talented life coach, calls the voice “the saboteur.” She gives this advice about dealing with the saboteur:
“The saboteur is the voice of our internal critic or the voice of self-doubt that often appears when we are trying something new, and stretching into new, unfamiliar places in our lives. The saboteur comes in and tells us that we are not good enough, competent enough, etc . . . to be who we'd like to be and urges us not to take on the new challenges we are undertaking.
“If we listen to this voice, it eventually takes us on a one-way trip to our worst fears of our possible future. So do not attempt to argue with the saboteur: it will not be convinced!
“The saboteur comes from old survival patterns in our past that may once have kept us safe, but are now no longer necessary and end up holding us back from living fulfilling lives. The saboteur often masquerades in a familiar voice, like a family member's or teacher's voice, so that it really presses our buttons. When the saboteur appears, you feel foggy, confused, resistant to doing anything, and overwhelmed. Who needs that?
“To minimize its influence practice these two steps:
1. Identify and name the voice when it shows up in whatever guise. ‘I hear you, saboteur! I recognize your voice and you are not the expert on the truth about me.’
2. Create your own way of banishing it that works for you. It will never disappear for more than a few hours but you can shut it up for awhile. It can be especially strong when you’re tired or off guard.
“Some examples of ways to get rid of the saboteur: Flush it down the toilet; shove gum or taffy in its mouth; lock it in a cupboard; put it in a jar with a tight lid; make it weed the garden..."
“Be persistent in banishing the saboteur so you can plan your next step and live your life with more peace and hope for your future.”
I would like to add two suggestions to Eliza’s great comments about dealing with the saboteur:
1. Make goals. The saboteur is all about the past. When you make goals, you’re focused on
the future. Keep the goals simple and attainable.
2. Celebrate all your accomplishments, even the so-called “little” ones. For example, I regularly write for a terrific children’s social studies magazine, APPLESEEDS. APPLESEEDS is doing an issue on weather and my editor assigned me to two articles: one on the National Hurricane Center, which was a delight to do. And a second article on weather experiments for kids. I froze when I saw this assignment: Hey, I’m a writer, not a scientist. But despite my reservations, I pushed forward and gathered various weather experiments. Then I invited a bunch of kids over to test the experiments. (To our surprise, we couldn’t get some of the experiments to work and others had to be modified.)
After we were done testing, I wrote up the experiments and emailed the article to my editor. Then I stopped at the grocery store and bought cupcakes. The kids came over and we celebrated finishing this assignment!
About: When she’s not sending her saboteur out to weed in the garden, Carollyne Hutter is a freelance writer/editor/communications manager, specializing in environmental, scientific, and international development topics. She also enjoys writing fiction and creative nonfiction for adults and children (early readers, picture books, and young-adult novels). Please visit her website—www.HutterWriter.com—to learn more. You can contact Carollyne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eliza King is trained in Co-active Coaching by the Coaches Training Institute, one of the most rigorous and respected training programs in the coaching industry. She loves working with people who are in transition or want to make a change in their lives. Her gift is in seeing people for who they truly are, and helping them be courageous in seeing themselves and living that vision.