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.

May 192013
Mary Higgins Clark's signature

Mary Higgins Clark’s signature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Mary Higgins Clark was born in New York City where her family lived above a tailor shop.  She was only ten years old when her father died. In her teens she went to secretarial school and secured a job with an advertising agency to help with family finances.

A thirst for adventure led to work as a flight attendant before starting a family. When her husband died unexpectedly she supplemented the income from her regular ‘day job’ by writing radio scripts and later, books. She wrote in the morning before work.

All 42 of her books have been best sellers. Her debut suspense novel Where Are the Children has undergone more than 75 printings.

Feb 042013

by Esther Jantzen, guest poster

Think-aloud is a simple yet powerful activity you can do while reading a book to a child. It is just stopping occasionally to tell thoughts and feelings about what you read, or to ask about the child’s reactions.

It is good for children to hear adults do this because it shows them that talking about stories helps to understand them, and that it is fun to interact with a book. But don’t stop so often that it destroys the flow of the story!

Here are some ways to do this:

1) When you are reading a story aloud and come to a part that reminds you of an experience, stop and briefly share about it. Make a connection between what happened to you and what happened in the book.

2) When you are reading a story and come to a part that puzzles you, stop and ask questions like, “I wonder why that character just did that?” or “Wow, I’d better read it again. It doesn’t make sense to me!” or “What do you think that’s about?”

3) When you notice a story reminds you of another book, stop and say something such as, “Oh, this is like another story we read. Here’s another character who wants to have a big adventure! I sure wonder whether he’s going to get caught in a bind somewhere.”

Before you go back to reading aloud, see if your child wants to say something. Listen and encourage your child to talk about what you have read together. When grown-ups share their thoughts and reactions to a story, children learn to do that, too. It is a good way to encourage understanding.


Esther Jantzen, Ed.D, is a mother, an educator and the author of Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids and the Way to Go! Family Learning Journal

Feb 022013

by Esther Jantzen, guest poster

We all usually feel calmer, happier, and more energetic when we write down things we need to remember. It helps un-clutter our minds and it creates “brain-space” for new ideas. Children benefit greatly from the simple act of making a list. It’s an organizational trick they can apply to their schoolwork and their lives. It teaches them to take personal responsibility and be prepared. And it’s fun to brainstorm lists together as one person writes down the ideas that others give! Here are tips for doing this:

1) You or your children can handwrite lists or keep them on a On the (Summer) Job Training — Take 2!. Some lists are reusable (like what to pack for an overnight visit). Others change each week.

2) Think about what kinds of lists would make your lives easier. Start them now, add to them as you think of new items, and let your children see you using them! Here are some suggestions:

  • Gift ideas
  • School projects
  • Household chores
  • Things that need to be done for the day, the week, or the weekend
  • What to pack for a trip or overnight slumber party
  • Favorite family meals (for when you can’t think of what to make for supper)
  • Birthdays of family members and friends
  • Lunchbox food ideas, a picnic supplies list, or a grocery-store list
  • People to call in emergencies
  • Things you want to do in the summer or on vacation
  • Books, CDs, DVDs, video games, movies you borrowed or loaned
  • Stores that carry things you need
  • Things needed for a birthday or holiday celebration

3) Kids may want to create their own lists of things like friends’ names, addresses, and phone numbers; toys or games they like; things they want to do or make, and so on.

4) We recommend you put family lists in a central place.

Make a List! supports the English-Language Arts Content Standards related to writing strategies, organization, and focus.

Esther Jantzen, Ed.D, is a mother, an educator and the author of Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids available at and the Way to Go! Family Learning Journal available through

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