National Eating Disorders Association

Writing Requires Talent That I Don't Have (But Who's Telling You That?)

Carolyn Jennings

Does fear convince you that you lack talent and that your writing will shamefully sound more elementary-school than polished and dazzling? A journal is a great place to challenge that voice that tells you you're lacking talent, you're doing it wrong, that you and your writing aren't good enough.  The voice confuses, slips, slides, taunts. 

In my head, I'm unable to disentangle from that voice. Only nailing it on paper gives me clarity and power.  How does it know I’m doing it wrong?  What makes it an expert about writing (or anything else)? 

An idea for a poem would come to me.  When I sat to write, fear would paralyze me, stop me—fear of not being good enough.  I'd grab my journal, write down what the fear-mongering, disparaging voice was telling me, often something about how the poem would never be worthy of being published.  Tears would melt into laughter.  Published???  I just want to play with some words, ideas and images on a blank page!  I would then be free to write.

This same voice that can stop your writing can also stop anything worthwhile. Examine the voice more closely in order to discount it, combat it and evict it. Defy this voice through Cognitive Restructuring.


Make a quick list.  Draw a line down a page to create two columns.  Label the first column “The Lies.”  Label the second column “The Truth.”  In “The Lies” column, write down 3 things your inner critic tells you—the meanest 3, the most common 3, the first 3 that come to mind, anything, just write down 3.  In the second column, write next to each lie what the truth is.  Not sure what the truth is?  Try writing the opposite of what the inner critic says.  Reassure yourself kindly as you would a friend.  Still not sure?  Share your list with a therapist, friend or other trusted person.  The inner critic thrives in secrecy; it dissolves under scrutiny.

The Lies The Truth
You don't have time to write I don't have time to listen to your lies. 
Your writing is stupid.  You won't discover anything new or worthwhile.  Besides, writing is hard. You don't tell me anything new or worthwhile.  I'm shutting out your bad advice so I can play on the page, try some new techniques and have fun.  I don't have to prove anything.  Nothing hard about that.
Your writing is childish and boring. My writing is expressive and exploring.  I do it for the process, not to achieve some result.  It enriches my days and I'm noticing how boring you are, inner critic.


Repeat these Cognitive Restructuring lists often.  They don't take much time.

“This cognitive restructuring process takes lots of practice...we are undoing years of old, negative, dichotomous thinking patterns...but now we have a new and powerful tool.  Plus we can take comfort in knowing that we are starting to change one very important behavior: our thinking itself.” - Margo Maine, The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to Be Perfect

Gaining familiarity with and distance from the inner critic's repetitive rants and seeing on the page how cruel and limited, how idiotic and invalid they are will help you step free of them, whether they direct themselves at your writing or at anything else about you, your recovery or your life.