May 152019

Most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of work. As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. This is part of the reason that the online #WritersCommunity flourishes: there’s always someone there to be goofy or to share compliments with a floundering counterpart.

We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we are doing well. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.

That #InnerCritic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet

I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Below are 45 words for positive traits:

  • active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
  • lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
  • expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
  • bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
  • powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
  • handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
  • changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
  • strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
  • inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise

Choose your favorite 5 and list an example of how it manifests in your life.

You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) “crew.” Tweet, text, or email an example of how each of them exemplifies one of these traits. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. Eventually, each of you will have a great collection. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add 10 or 15 words to the list?

One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.

Sometimes this works best if you don't compliment the person directly -- let her overhear you. Click To Tweet

In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? Her creativity is really shining through!” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara should either not respond or can say/post a simple “thank you.”

Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!


Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.

Sep 072018

And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.

The Mending Wall, by Robert Frost


When considering boundaries I’m rarely surprised when the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors” shows up in my brain.

Just what are boundaries, anyway? Experts say they are a combination of rules, limits, and standards that help define a personal code. They help us choose who is in our lives and at what distance. That code helps us know how to respond if someone oversteps those boundaries. Feeling unsafe or uncomfortable can be a signal that our boundaries are being breached. 

Each individual gets to define the boundaries that work for them: some people love hugs from strangers while others find the same warm gesture from friends a bit needy and intrusive. A personal code is exactly that: unique, individual and highly personal. And since its parts are a combination of upbringing, culture, experience, values, attitudes, and beliefs, that makes a lot of sense.

Boundaries are Bi-Directional

Personal boundaries are bi-directional — affecting both what is given and what is taken. So what kind of boundaries do we set with — and for — ourselves?

Is there a painful, annoying, or humiliating scene you revisit? Call it to your consciousness.  Get a good clear picture, making sure you are IN it. (Not an observer but a participant.) When you have it clearly in mind picture yourself picking up a very big bucket. It looks a lot like a paint bucket but it’s full of powerful, healing white light. Imagine yourself picking up a paintbrush or a roller, the bigger the better. Dip it into your magic bucket, loading it up with the white light to paint a great, big white “X” over any part of the scene makes you uncomfortable. Keep going until it’s only you, positive parts of the story and lots of white light. (This is practice for a boundary that removes hurtful elements from your environment.) 

Here’s one that works best when you’re feeling pretty good but headed for a situation that has potential to be draining or stressful: you have “butterflies.” Take a moment to notice the sensation and where it is located in your body. Some people feel a vibration, others feel pressure or heat. It might be in your spine, your abdomen or your chest — any place is fine. Notice it and appreciate it. Call it “energy,” “power,” or “life force.” Now call in the white light only this time there is a giant invisible hand directing the paint brush. The cool thing about this giant hand is that it responds to your telepathic direction so picture it encircling you, your family, your home, your car, your office, your family…. all with a sparkling circle of protective, healing white light. Go about your day knowing you’ve put divine protection in place.

A Little Woo-Woo Goes a Long Way

If you find the white light thing a little too “woo-woo,” perhaps you’d prefer something more concrete, like a spaceship? Raise your force field shields to fend off all the meteors, space debris and harsh judgment the world is flinging at you today. With your shields up you’re protected and ready to fly.

Blowing bubbles can be fun. They have a fun and funky energy that combines elements of light and of air. Picture yourself using an over-sized bubble loop. The next bubble you blow will expand with every out-breath. Enjoy watching it grow bigger and bigger until it surrounds you. What’s interesting about this bubble is that once you are safely inside, it takes a different form, still transparent but very strong. Unbreakable. It travels with you, helping you float above sticky situations while still seeing them clearly.

When people are feeling stressed they sometimes don’t feel it’s worth the energy it might take to make themselves immovable. So, rather than put a stake in the ground, we step aside until whatever kind of psychic storm is coming overtakes the path. That’s no good. Maybe taking a stand is too much work, but maybe imitating a tree could help — especially if we choose one that is rooted yet flexible enough to bend in a wind storm. 

Write a Better Ending

Finally, here’s one just for the writers in the crowd. Sometimes writing about grief or violence can be a little hard to shake so, when you’ve finished a particularly difficult scene, open a new document and re-write the worst parts. Give yourself and your character a happy ending — even if you trash it or save it in a file called “Transitions.” Let your imagination run wild. So what if your character has to turn into a flying, fire-eating dragon to escape the violence? Who cares if the love interest was unconscious rather than dead? Let it be. Finishing on this sort of a note lets you store a much more positive image as you shut things down and prepare to tackle your work again tomorrow. It couldn’t hurt, right?







Aug 092017

When I think about awards, I picture movie stars and media personalities who  “thank the academy” as they run down the mental list of all the people who support them. There are jokes about forgetting important people and occasionally a musical “hook” designed to drag them off of center stage. My recent, personal award experience, however, makes me think of Groundhog Day — not the movie with Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray, but the actual day.

It's summer in north Florida, but I was deep in my best imitation of a hibernating groundhog. Click To Tweet

Not long ago, the incoming president of FAPA (the Florida Authors and Publishers Association) came to speak to our local writers’ group. After an informative presentation about a new venue for sales, she talked about a training collaboration with the Amelia Island Book Festival. She also told us about FAPA’s national book awards and the coming deadline. After the meeting, she engaged me in conversation and encouraged me to submit. “We need more non-fiction,” she said. “Who doesn’t?” I thought.

And then I went back into my burrow.

I worked on a big website and a multi-author project. I pulled up the award application and ignored it some more. I purged a ton of paper. I nested deeper into my office space and did some planning. It was summer in Florida, but I was deep in my best imitation of a hibernating groundhog.

Then I applied.

I think it is important to support my peers and felt good about donating my entry fee to an organization that supports authors and literacy. As far as I knew, that was the end of that.

You see, while some will dress in costume to promote their work, there are legions of us who would rather be home — writing or researching. It’s not because we are unfriendly. Many of us are introverts. That doesn’t mean we are shy: it means that being in a large group of people drains every bit of our social energy. We need to re-charge in private, in our personal burrows. Like Punxsutawney Phil.

Introversion doesn't mean we are shy: it means that being in a large group of people drains every bit of our social energy. Click To Tweet

When I was notified that TICA (that’s what we call The Inner Critic Advantage around here) would receive a medal, I was grateful that my friend Nancy Blanton, author of  Irish historical fiction, was also at the top of her category. I knew once I committed to her, I would have to go. And it would be fun.

Traveling to somewhere I’ve been before… hotel ballrooms…. playing dress-up…. schmoozing… all outside my comfort zone.

But guess what? An in-person group of authors and publishers is a lot like an online version: warm, encouraging, funny, and supportive. We swapped tips and wished one another well. We applauded the success of each of our peers, across numerous categories. And, thanks to the loving attention of the FAPA board? Even in heels, not a single one of us fell flat on our faces while crossing the stage.

Friends keep asking how I feel and I can’t help thinking about all those who make writing possible. I’m thinking about those who help me grow and improve. And those who give the swift kick in the butt beta read and proofread and answer Facebook questions that don’t really look like research. I’ve got a long list.

More than anything, I feel grateful. Humble and inspired to do more. So I’d like to thank the Academy… and get back into my burrow, be quiet, and to get to work.

Who’s in your personal Academy?







Apr 222017

There’s nothing like a change of scene to wake up curiosity and creativity. We recently had the opportunity to travel to south Florida to catch up with a family member and, together, did a bit of exploring. Familiar with our love of art and innovation, she whisked us off to Wynwood where the vibe is as friendly and colorful as the wall-to-wall street art. I can’t imagine anyone spending time there without thinking about creativity and where it fits in their lives. Here are some favorite thoughts on the topic.


Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way. ~Twyla Tharp

Creativity is not just for artists. Click To Tweet

Art knows no prejudice, art knows no boundaries, art doesn’t really have judgment in its purest form. So just go, just go. ~ K. D. Lang

Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas. ~ Donatella Versace

I want art to make me think. In order to do that, it may piss me off, or make me uncomfortable. That promotes awareness and change, or at least some discussion. ~ Pink

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. ~ Steve Jobs

Creativity is just connecting things. Click To Tweet



Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. ~ Phylicia Rashad


When you live under the power of terror and segregation, you can’t ever start a work of art. ~ Jeanne Moreau



Terrorized by your Inner Editor? Inner Critic Kicking your butt? If you’re looking for an answer be sure to check out The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten. (On Amazon. Or ask at your local indie bookstore.)

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