Silencing the Judges

Silencing the Judges


Fellow writers,

You know how you feel when someone harshly judges you, and you make the mistake of taking the criticism to heart?



When we were kids, we didn’t have much choice. But as we grew older, we learned (or are learning or would benefit greatly by learning) that we didn’t have to listen to people’s judgy pronouncements, didn’t have to let their words wreck our confidence, wreck our hearts.

But what about the unembodied judges, the ones that pop into the room while we’re trying to write, that hover next to our desks, insisting that we don’t know what we’re doing, that we’re wasting our time? If you’re beating yourself up about the quality of your writing or the amount of time you spend on it, if you’re tied up in knots over it, you can be darned sure there’s a judge – or two or three – hanging out with you.

Who are these nasty creatures? Cultural voices – often in the mouths of our parents or other loved ones – who have crept into the very fibers of our being and taken up residence.

They need to go.


I have several methods for removing judges, but they all have one thing in common: They come from a place of kindness. I’m the one who let the big-mouths in to begin with. At some point, I listened to them because I thought they were protecting me: from failure, from shame, from isolation from the tribe.

I know now that they’re not protecting me one bit. I know now that they’ve become poison. I know that I have to ask them to leave.

Years ago, a large, swaggering judge started standing behind me as I sat at my desk, writing. I, a former two-and-a-half-pack-a-day smoker, was in the process of freeing myself from this killer addiction. This loud-mouthed judge wanted none of it. He stood behind me going on about how I couldn’t write without a cigarette! What was I thinking? Who did I think I was? I’d never be able to do it. Anything I wrote would be a total mess.

I turned in my chair, pointed at the other side of the room, and told him to go stand over there. He went. He tried to creep up behind me a couple more times, but I sent him back. I didn’t yell. I was kind and polite. I just told him where he needed to be.

He came back for several days, with the same mouthful of horror. But I just calmly sent him to the other side of the room. He didn’t have to leave; he just had to leave me alone.

After a few more days, he stopped coming. I guess he got bored. This was over 20 years ago. I’ve never seen his face again.


Those judges? We need to ask them to leave.

What strategy can you create?




Reprint of “Something to Consider,” June 12, 2019