Write from the Journal: Paging the Critic Write from the Journal: Paging the Critic | Shades of Crimson

Write from the Journal: Paging the Critic

by Davina on July 11, 2010

A freestyle writing exercise

I sat down to do some freestyle writing in my journal a week ago. It was a new journal and I was anxious to break it in. You know; like when you just have to use the toothpaste from the new tube, or the shampoo from the new bottle. I still had some empty pages in my older journal, but I was done with that book. It had old energy.

So, I started writing and as often happens, made the mistake of stopping to re-read what I’d written. That’s when the critic jumped into the session. So, I continued writing about that and by allowing it to become a part of the process I ended up learning something. I was so giddy with how things unfolded, I decided to take photographs of the journal and post it as a blog post.

In keeping with the whole Shades of Crimson theme of rendering the write impact, I thought this was a perfectly fun idea. In case you’re not able to read the journal pages, I’ve transcribed them for you — typos and everything — ugh!

Three pages from my journal

Couldn’t find the journal I wanted, so I ended up with this art pad. I prefer it because the paper is thicker and it’s spiral bound. I bought two.

People talk too much and they drive and walk in a hurry. Not only do they talk too much, but they talk too loud and rarely do they appear to be listening and focusing on the words you say. It’s like they’re off somewhere else, distracted.

Or, they’re waiting for their chance to say what’s on their mind. It’s like they’re listening, but concentrating on holding their thought so they don’t lose it.

I feel the rush and notice my speech speeds up so I can get all my thoughts out before they burst. So we have fast cars, fast food and now, fast conversation.

And here I am, doing it to my writing. I was enjoying the process, but as soon as I stopped to review it the critic had to put in its two cents.

It wants to make something of the writing now. It’s judging. Now I’m distracted from the flow. Irritated. Feel like stopping.

Notice as soon as the outcome becomes important, the process is interrupted. Like a commercial during a good movie. The only difference being a movie has already been set in place and I know it will resume and I can listen again.

In this case, my story is emerging as I write. Okay, so does that possibly mean that my critic could be written into the story? “Just a word from our sponsor.” Hmm.

The flow just picked up as I moved forward, talking about the critic. Makes me suddenly see a parallel here with how I feel when I know someone is not fully listening to me.

I make an effort to be seen. Lock eye contact — urgent — and I hasten the pace to say my piece. Is that what the critic is doing? It just wants to put in its two cents — its perspective?

Guess I could listen. I don’t have to believe it. No need to take it seriously. If something does ring true I’ll take note and decide if it’s worthy of addressing.

What’s cool here is that by noticing the critic and bringing it into the story, I have learned something. It just added a whole new perspective to the flow of writing — a whole new page in my journal, too! Not that we’re counting! :-)

The outcome became less important as I engaged everything in the process. Together we were stronger. Two heads are better than one when they’re on the same page.

This is a good place to stop.

After the journal

She runs to take photographs for the blog post, all the while noticing something and feeling quite triumphant:

“Cool! Suddenly I’m not as afraid of the critic. In fact, I’m looking forward to our next meeting. I wonder what we’ll come up with.
PS. I can now review this with a smile.”

What I enjoyed most about this was how continuing on, despite the interruption of the critic, something really neat came out of it. And actually, when you think about it, I invited the critic in when I stopped; when I opened my mind to it.

Ever stop to think that the critic is our faithful servant? When we’re busy writing and forging forward, inspired and on a mission, the critic is nowhere to be found. Only when we interrupt our flow do we make ourselves vulnerable to it. And the way I see it; in this case it was very helpful. I’ve decided to name my critic, Chip — cause he’s a chip off the old ‘writer’s block’.

When you’re not afraid to keep writing, time renders the words for you. It keeps the writing fresh and the path interesting and me… curious enough to see what’s next.

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Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations July 11, 2010 at 5:08 am


Wow, where was the critic when you decided to show the world the inside of your journal? Real handwriting and all? It looks as if taking the time to face and acknowledge the critic maybe might make us brave too! I think this is a great exercise. When we are able to face that voice and look at it, we can see that it is really just a part of ego trying to interfere with the creative process.And yes, I think the ego can add stuff. It shows us where we are the most vulnerable and sensitive, reminds us of times when life has wounded us and hurt, when pride has been bruised beyond pain. We pull from that-it brings humanity to the page. The two sides of our being have much to say to each other if we take the time to listen. What’s important is to remember that we are not our ego and we have the power to thank it and make it to go silent again when it’s time.

Mike July 11, 2010 at 7:41 am

Interesting seeing the thought processes unfold.

I’ve tried handwritten journals a number of times over the years. I generally only keep it up for a few days and then it’s forgotten. However, there are some “good” entries here and there that record a few trying times at work. Brings back the “why” of getting away from there by retiring early — not that my job or workplace was unbearably bad — I was just able to do it, so did. (stream of consciousness writing must be slightly contagious…, didn’t intend to write about retirement when I started this comment…, oh, well, time to take a shower and head on down the road a ways.)
.-= Mike´s last blog ..A Soddie =-.

Julie July 11, 2010 at 8:42 am

Davina, your morning pages are much more coherent than mine!! :) Love this, seeing how your thoughts twist yet always flow forward. Finding the shiny nuggets hidden from sight is like having our own Easter egg hunt, little gifts we give ourselves. I’ve been journaling in the mornings for many years, but graduated to Word docs a long time ago. Goes faster; can keep up with my thoughts that bounce all over the place. Well, mostly I can keep up… I still have a shelf full of journals, though, and I don’t know what to do with them. They’re very precious, filled with tiny bits of wisdom, but they don’t make for very good reading! I love how you ended this, by showing the emotional release, how tension (subtle or overt) can simply fade away through this exercise. Having done it both handwritten and electronically, I have to say there’s something much richer about old-fashioned writing. Maybe I should dust off one of my books that still has pages waiting… ;)
.-= Julie´s last blog ..I Am Like the Squirrels =-.

Davina July 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Good question. I think the critic was happy that I made him visible. I agree, facing this will make us brave, build our writing muscle and reinforce what we are *good at* too. As I’m writing this reply I’m getting that we’ll be steering ourselves in the write direction. Kind of like an obstacle course, but a fun one.

Definitely it shows us when we are most vulnerable and I also think it shows us what is most important to us… it seems to show up in those places; I’m referring to how writer’s deal with it so much. Writing IS important to them.

Yes… we’re not our ego. We easily fall into trap of identifying too much with it. I believe the more sensitive and creative a person is the more easily this can happen.

It IS really cool how things emerge. It would be interesting to know why those “good” entries are good entries to you. There is a connection, or a charge to the topic you were writing about? Those hooks or charges are good fuel, especially when we use it or express it in some way.

Oh that’s right (almost typed “write” – haha), you’re writing from campgrounds! You know, I think you’re right, stream of consciousness writing is contagious. Do you find while leaving comments on blogs you get into stuff you hadn’t realized was there until you started writing? So, what beautiful part of our planet are you exploring now?

Ha! We’ll see. This might be beginner’s luck (who said that?) :-D This was a really cool process because it was how you described… thoughts twist yet always flow forward… like a snake! I felt high after, lol.

Yes, I say go for it! Dust off one of those books and see what little gifts are waiting in there for you :) This is making me realize that it’s good to write in different places and with different tools; really does impact our writing in a big way. More than I think we realize. I know you are quite sensitive to your environment, too. Wonder what putting the pen to page would do for you. Maybe sometimes slowing down your thoughts while writing might catch things you otherwise would miss when flying across the keyboard.

vered | blogger for hire July 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm

“made the mistake of stopping to re-read what I’d written” – this is the one mistake I finally taught myself not to make. When blogging, I write the entire blog post, not stopping to re-read it. Only when it’s done, I re-read and make changes. But the first draft absolutely has to flow.

Cath Lawson July 11, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Hi Davina – You are brave. I would never show people my journal – especially my freewriting. When I do morning pages, I don’t handwrite – they go straight onto my laptop and I put a password protect on them.

I was laughing when I read the words in your journal. I do the same as you – if I feel that someone is waiting to say something else, or wanting to interrupt, I speed up. And if I feel they’re really distracted, I just cut off mid-sentence.

Tony Single July 11, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Davina, I enjoyed reading about your process and how you didn’t allow it to be derailed by the Critic in you. I have been trying to write a story for the last few months with no success, and I’m beginning to think that it may be because the Critic in me has hijacked the process. Curse you, Tony Critic! My mortal emeny! Er… enemy. Oh, whatever… :P

Like you, I think I’m going to have to find a way to incorporate the Critic in all of this, otherwise nothing will happen and I’ll still be sitting around thinking about all the possibilities…

Patty - Why Not Start Now? July 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Hi Davina,

I love the idea of writing in a journal and making it a blog post. And how the critic showed up was fascinating. I do think you’re right about the critic being a faithful servant of sorts, really having good intentions (to keep us safe) and wanting the best for us but not often knowing how to help us get that. So I love that you proclaimed a partnership with Chip. Reminds me of that line at the end of Casablanca – “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Who knows what the two of you will come up with?

p.s. I know someone who used to photograph his journal for his blog. He still does it a bit but after his book was published the blog focused more on that. But here’s a link to one of the journal posts: http://www.jaimalyogis.com/?p=289.

I think you might enjoy them. He did a lot of them during 2008 and the first part of 2009.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays- Lazy =-.

Davina July 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm

It takes discipline to not stop and re-read. When you stop and rewrite, it’s almost like you’re writing two or three posts at once.

You must write some “interesting” stuff, lol, if you keep it locked up :)

It’s funny how perceptive we can be… and freakin tolerant, too! I have a friend, bless her heart, who loves to talk. Our conversations start out fairly balanced but by the end of an afternoon visit, she’s all revved up. There’s almost no point in trying to get a word in because it goes nowhere, or she’s barely nodded before changing the subject.

Lol, what if you let the critic write something? Do you have the plot developed, and the characters? What would one of them want to write into the story, perhaps? What if you were one of the characters; what would you have to suggest to Tony, the writer? Why are you writing this particular story? Me like questions :-) Okay, I’ll stop now. Hope one of these stirs something for you…

Oh, this is so cool! Thanks for the link. I love this from Jaimal Yogis, so I’ve keyed it here for everyone:

Overnight the ego can shift
it finds a new muse
a bee on a brand new flower
excited —
“this will be it forever,” it thinks
this flower will never run dry
every ego has the same dream
which is to be happy
it’s unfortunate that
it looks to new flowers
sustenance will always
be a cheap proxy
for happiness

Hilary July 12, 2010 at 4:13 am

Hi Davina .. For over 20 years .. I’ve typed ‘things’ up .. often long letters re places I’ve visited etc or what I’ve been doing for the year .. so the news is all in one place … yes they were round robins, but I thought they were interesting and so did everyone else – so that was alright.

I draft quite easily for the letters re my mother and I did what I thought was a brilliant one about my uncle .. I couldn’t post it on my own blog – the family would go nutty – but it was so true, empathetic to him and his way of life, his garden …

I write hand letters out to everyone too – so my typed letters in recent years have included a personal card .. answering their letters to us and their questions etc ..- so I still do both.

Re my posts … I use pencil written notes, copies from magazines/newspapers, bits out of books I look at, and mainly from Wiki but sometimes by Googling .. – then I blend them .. but I can really get my knickers in a knot – with so much info .. and the post often changes subject or title half way through .. oh well .. it’s an asset base and can refined for the gold version later on??!!!!

Have a great week .. and thanks for printing out the poem for us – and to Patty for giving us the link across .. have fun .. Hilary
.-= Hilary´s last blog ..A Century of Aces Afghanistan to Zimbabwe =-.

Cath Lawson July 12, 2010 at 7:20 am

LOL Davina – A lot of it is pretty mundane. But a few years ago, I discovered my ex had been reading my morning pages and stuff. I don’t remember what I’d written but I think I was really sick of him by then and it was doing me good to get it down on paper. So I just got into the habit of locking them after that.

Mike July 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm

We are currently on the outskirts of Casper, Wyoming, at a Starbucks, because the campground that we are at doesn’t have cell phone or internet access. (If we had cell phone access, we could use our smart phones to get online.) We are camped on the shore of a lake near here.

Yes, often, I write comments, they end up going someplace unexpected. Quite often, though, I reevaluate whether that fits with the what I’m commenting on and, sometimes, delete all but whatever is germane to the topic.
.-= Mike´s last blog ..A Soddie =-.

Alien Ghost July 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Hi Davina,

I too experience the problem of stopping and getting the flow interrupted, now, after reading this post, finally I know and understand the “mechanics” of this situation and what to do to use what seems to be a problem as an advantage. Thank you! :)

.-= Alien Ghost´s last blog ..Digital Face =-.

XUP July 13, 2010 at 4:58 am

A graphologist would notice that on your first page the lines of your writing slant up indicating optimism. The letters are large and the loops pronounced, further indicating a happy, open state of mind. On the second page the lines of writing are almost straight with a bit of a mound in the middle. The letters are smaller and tighter. This carries over to the beginning of the third page, but then at the end the optimism returns!

Davina July 13, 2010 at 8:39 am

I love your comments; it’s almost like I’m there in the room with you having a conversation. :) You posts are filled with information. You’re a researcher through and through. When you have THAT much to compile I’d be keying it too. Journalling lends a more intimate space to the writing, I’ve found and I can’t remember the last time I’ve received a handwritten letter. That would be sweet.

LOL, I think I would have gravitate to locking my journal notes in that case too. Nosy ________ ! :)

Sounds like some of these comments of yours want to become blog posts. Ah, Starbucks… I’ve been *there* before, lol.

Alien Ghost,
You’re welcome! :-) Let me know how it works. I have a couple more of these types of posts coming up in the near future. Maybe you’ll pick something up from one of them, too. It’s fun to experiment.

That is so cool! The page with the tighter letters and straighter lines is where I’m into it with “Chip” – hah! I’ve been to a graphologist before and remember hearing that about the upward slant, but when you look at it from this perspective in regards to the content of the writing, it makes it even more interesting.

XUP July 13, 2010 at 8:51 am

I know, eh? That’s what I was thinking.

Sara July 13, 2010 at 10:58 am

Davina — What a helpful post for all writers!!! I know my inner critic has stopped me way too many times. I think this is the downside of writing by computer…anytime spell check notifies me that I have made a spelling error, I get interrupted and start reviewing…then my writing can become stilted.

I liked your idea of inviting the critic in and listening. Thanks to you and also to CHIP:~)
.-= Sara´s last blog ..Story Photo- The selection is… =-.

Patricia July 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I have written a free flowing journal since I was about 7 or 8 years old, it was my best friend for many years and my brother and sister would taunt me about it and regularly steal it….so I began throwing them away, because they were the conversations I was having with myself…often 4 parts of me were involved in discussions.. I need to talk with myself and not just rattle around in my head with various brain synapses going rogue.

I do my hand written journal not so much since I started blogging and I write the whole post and then edit or chip away at it :)

What I like better about blogging is that others read the post and some comment…then it becomes a dialogue/ a conversation. There is interaction.

In my journal after the flow of words and even the next day, I will take coloured pens and edit or curse what is written…and I would make decisions about how I would handle my children’s behaviors in a new way the next time! or an action plan for the theme of what was emerging.

This was a fun post Davina – I do not understand why it took me two days of being on computer to read it? Maybe I have too much Duct Tape connectivity right now?

Rose July 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Davina silly gal. You should know by now that you write and then revise. Thanks for sharing with us your journal. I have not kept one for years.

Liara Covert July 13, 2010 at 8:30 pm

One perspective is that mistakes do not exist, only deviations or detours from the path. Every experience exists as a learning opportunity.
.-= Liara Covert´s last blog ..Practice the Middle Way =-.

Davina July 13, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I thought so. Thanks for bringing that up.

You’re welcome. The Devil’s Triangle… the writer, the muse and the critic. Would be a good title :-) It never ceases to amaze me at the power that these “invisible” forces have over us. They say there is a purpose to everything and there is no “wrong”…

LOL, you and your duct tape :-D It really makes a difference to get this “stuff” out of our heads. Writing in a journal is therapeutic; there’s just something about the pen in the hand and the page. I find I can go deeper that way, maybe because it slows things down. Makes you pace yourself in a way that you don’t when you’re at the keyboard.

Yeah, I know. We like to “fix” things.

Easy for you to say, lol :-D All kidding aside, I hear you.

Joy July 14, 2010 at 6:49 am

This is awesome for me…
Because no, I do not embrace the critic…I would like to avoid, ignore, banish the critic because in my life criticism has led to pain..
But you’ve allowed me to see that if I embrace my inner critic, I am embracing fear, and using it’s power to *create* with..once I am familiar with my inner critic, I may use the same techniques on external critics :)
Thank you Davina…awe-some!

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work July 14, 2010 at 7:17 am

Pretty cool idea embracing the voice that I usually tell to back off. It’s kind of like getting in close in a fist fight. Even though it’s scarier going in, once there you can see options that you couldn’t see when you kept your distance. Embracing the enemy within is always an interesting strategy that leads sometimes to pleasant surprises.
.-= Tom Volkar / Delightful Work´s last blog ..True Calling On A Wing A Prayer And A Guess =-.

Tess The Bold Life July 14, 2010 at 7:59 pm

You are soooo brave for showing off your journal. I hate to tell you this but I’m a loud person. It’s my ADHD. I had to learn how to reign in my energy and my voice. Oh it took years…and when I get excited…it’s all over;)

Davina July 14, 2010 at 11:55 pm

You’re welcome! :-) I was just talking about this with a friend today. We discussed how it all comes down to resonance and dissonance. If we are against something it holds us back, whereas when we are for something we are propelled forward. Not saying that resonating with the critic means to agree with it, but more that we are in control of what we believe about what it is saying. It’s that whole idea of what you fight just gets stronger.

I love how these discussions reveal more information. I’m imagining saying no to the critic as you might… being strong about it… and in saying no it’s not with a judgment or fear-based “right or wrong”, but more of an assertive knowing that you have about which direction to move forward.

LOL… “and when I get excited…it’s all over” :-) There’s loud and then there’s LOUD… with disrespect (in my opinion). I don’t imagine you fall into the latter category.

Barbara Swafford July 15, 2010 at 12:55 am

Hi Davina,

As others have mentioned, you’re brave to show your journals, PLUS the translation. But, you’ve also educated us with your words – rendering the write impact. :)

I don’t write as often in a journal as I once did. That said, when I did, if I let the words flow and let the critic in, the result was fascinating, indeed. When I blog, some posts flow naturally whereas others take a lot of rewrites. It’s those rewrites that usually don’t get published but instead stay in the draft folder for future inspiration.
.-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..They Lied There Is No King =-.

Jim July 15, 2010 at 2:36 am

It is great that you shared your journal with everyone. Extremely honest and brave on your part. I really enjoyed going through your process, of how you write.
I have to laugh, when we went to dim sum; you had a note book to jot down your ideas;
You forgot to bring one of your hundreds pens with you. The first store we saw, you bought a pen.
Total dedication!
You are a one of the best proof readers and editor around period. (Eagle Eyes).
Why would you not let your inner critic guide you? For everyone!

Susan Deborah July 15, 2010 at 5:10 am


I know this. The writer and the critic are in a constant tussle. Sometimes this becomes a bit stressful as both try to outdo the other. No man can serve two masters so I guess it’s better to let the writer write and later let the critic in.

Is that your handwriting there? It’s wonderful to behold. Ah! the joy of holding a pen and writing. I am so glad that people like you are around in this age of tapping away in keyboards.

I am glad that you chose to share this with us. Brave-heart, you are!

Joy and peace,
.-= Susan Deborah´s last blog ..Inside-out =-.

Jannie Funster July 15, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Yes, Davina is always brave. And an inspiration to me.

Nothing like a fresh new journal! I am impressed how your lines of writing stay relatively horizontal and neat. I don’t have that skill, I buy lined journals. But, as Barbara, I no longer journal much. (Blogging has taken over for me.) :)

I think this was a very helpful exercise for you. And us. Just write. Let it flow as it’s meant to.

And listen. And don’t talk so fast. And keep reading Davina’s beautiful writing.
.-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Party Princesses- Ages 4- 5 &amp 6 =-.

Davina July 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm

That’s what I love about the journals that “don’t work”. They generally turn out to be fodder for something else. It’s the whole idea of the rendering… like sketching out a drawing, only with words.

I remember that. It was pretty funny… a dollar for one pen, too! Dedication… or obsession :) Thanks for the vote of confidence.

There’s something quite personal about reading handwriting as opposed to typed material, isn’t there. I think we just need more practice facing “it” — it challenges us. We’re just so used to focusing on what’s right that we get spoiled :)

Thanks :) Oh, I know, you’ve gotta love a fresh new journal — lined pages or not. Doesn’t matter if you write in a straight line either. You must find some days your writing is better than others, eh? Some days the pen feels foreign? A metaphor I like to use for journal writing is like taking a Sunday drive. You get in the car and drive, not knowing what scenery you will see until you get there, even though you might have a destination in mind. The writing is like that and in a way, when a person gets into this mode, it’s like they’re being read a story and they’re simply transcribing it.

Joyce at What Would You Do in Heaven July 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm

It’s wonderful that even with the critic around, you were still able to make something out of it! As for me, I felt I have to write as freely as I could and as far away from the critic as possible. At least, in my first draft. Only then do I let the critic in, to help me judge what I have written so far, and to make it all better. ;)
.-= Joyce at What Would You Do in Heaven´s last blog ..All The World Is Meaningless Without Love! =-.

Jannie Funster July 16, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I do admit a computer keyboard has taken over most of my writing. A pen feels strange in my hand to write letters, making me slowdown, which is probably a very good thing indeed, tho not many typos to capture. :)

.-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Sail A Child — Song Lyrics =-.

Davina July 16, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I think it’s a matter of practice, lol. Freestyle writing is a good place to practice. Wonder how this would work though for something that had to be written to a particular topic?

We’re very used to being fast, these days. Do you remember times when you were little, out driving with your parents on the highway? After so much time at high speeds it was weird to adjust to the slower speed after turning off the highway.

J.D. Meier July 26, 2010 at 12:13 am

Beautiful move of pairing up with your inner critic and Chip is a perfect pet name.
.-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Lessons Learned from Dr K on Interpersonal Skills and the Art of Persuasion =-.

Davina July 26, 2010 at 11:06 am

I thought so too :) “Pet name” — that’s a friendly label for the critic — love it!

Liara Covert July 31, 2010 at 4:53 pm

You are noticing you have a more malleable identity than mind admits. When you make assumptions about what you want or not, you begin to you notice a conditioned unwillingness to change. And yet, the essence of who you are is flexible, in constant motion, intrinsically open to change, sense s every choice you make is perfect at a given moment. The ego mind resists and the soul allows everything to flow, is always satisfied and accepts what is. Why is it some people are so resistant to change? Part of you may feel that you feel like those things you cling to are part of your identity. Remember a person bends the facts to fit the faith and belief or bends the faith to fit the mind- defined facts.
.-= Liara Covert´s last blog ..When do you avoid what is =-.

Davina July 31, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Could it just be that because the soul is so fluid that the mind is always playing catchup? It only seems like it is resisting? Just a thought that occurred to me.

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