Andrea Patten on The Inner Critic Advantage

Today I am featuring an interview with fellow author Andrea Patten, who wants to help writers everywhere to overcome that crippling struggle against our inner critics.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 10.43.25 AMLike many of us, Andrea has been writing books — at least imaginary ones — since she could first hold a crayon. A favorite place to play was her grandmother’s desk with its endless supply of scrap paper from Gram’s classroom projects. “I’d spend hours on my stories, adding colorful covers and carefully stapling each masterpiece together. I loved writing “by Andrea Patten” in my best version of fancy handwriting on those covers.”

So, of course, one of the places her writer’s journey frequently took her was to ghostwriting. So much for the byline, huh?

“I worked for several people whose vision was far more inspiring than their ability to share it. I’m not sure how it happened the first time, but it was never uncommon for my immediate supervisor or her boss to stop by my desk and ask me to ‘have a look’ at a speech, an article, a letter, or a memo before sharing with a wider audience.”

But those experiences helped her learn to write in different styles and voices: a CEO’s speech to motivate the staff required different writing chops than persuading legislators to provide funds for homeless teens.

“I wrote curricula and reports, financial disclosures and direct mail pieces… Brochures, classified ads, grant applications, staff bios, and company histories. It was excellent training and helped me appreciate the impact good writing can have,” says Patten.

Eventually, Andrea started to discover her voice as a writer. It’s honest, straightforward, and often funny.

“I worked in human services for a long time and wanted to continue to help people. I realized that part of that might come from sharing some of the fascinating ideas I’d picked up along the way. What Kids Need to Succeed is a book I wrote for parents, but it includes wisdom from the business world: when setting goals and making plans, start with the desired outcome in mind. Part of that book’s purpose was to help parents stop getting discouraged with day-to-day challenges and think about the bigger picture: raising future adults.”

Her latest release has similar roots. “Everybody talks about the Inner Critic, but most of the available advice doesn’t work. You can try to ignore “that voice” until you’re blue in the face but that’s not enough: the name of the game is to get it on your side…to make it an ally. You can learn to use its’ energy to your advantage.”

And, to anyone who has struggled with an Inner Critic (or Inner Editor or Inner Bully) this is very good news, indeed.

Here’s an excerpt from The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten

AndreaOutlineA few million years ago, when the inner alarm bell sounded, all stress was short-lived: prehistoric primates either responded and escaped or became part of the predator’s buffet. Period. Either way, intense stress did not last long.

Modern stress is different. It’s cumulative — and from the lizard brain’s point of view — relentless. From the jarring sound of the alarm to the gloom and doom news report that accompanies morning coffee, there’s no break. Commuting. Car horns. Caffeine. Kardashians. And that’s even before you get to work.

Most of us don’t pay attention to regular, vanilla stress. It gets stuffed because we think we should be able to handle it. We tamp it down or ignore it and assume we should be able to just power through.

Can you imagine the impact this has on the primitive part of the brain? From that perspective, we’re ignoring death threats which tends to make it cranky. Louder. More insistent. No wonder it wants to take over — you’re not paying attention and giving it relief.

Remember, the survival center’s job is to alert us to potential threats: it is NOT for deep thinking, nuance, delicate wording or high-level negotiation.

Continuing to ignore the needs of our primitive brains can lead to chronic stress, making us unreasonable and sometimes causing arguments. I don’t think that’s what it intends to do — it’s really just the old brain’s way of trying to get your attention.

To help you. When trying to get along with people at work or seeking compromise with a loved one, we need to get that thing tucked in.

Despite the problems it has caused for you, there’s much to respect and appreciate about that old brain. It:

  • loves you and wants to keep you safe,
  • is part of your hardwired survival mechanism,
  • constantly scans your environment for threats, and
  • will not back down until it has been heard.

It takes hard work and a special sort of mindfulness to turn an Inner Critic into an ally, but do you have what it takes to turn it into an advantage?

Check with your local indie bookstore for the softcover version of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten. It is also available in e-book or softcover on amazon.com  

 

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All that Jazz in Waynesville

And what it has to do with writing

Jazz Cats promo poster

Jazz Cats promo poster

Just over a week ago I was in Waynesville NC to hear the Jazz Cats play at a local night spot, the Classic Wineseller. This trio features my cousin Bonnie Rossa on flute and vocals, Brad Keller on piano, vocals and keyboard bass, and Jean Bolduc on drums. Because of their tremendous talents, experience and the synchronicity between them that only a long-term friendship could create, as I heard them play I deeply felt the music in a whole new way.

Of all things music is emotional, and I have had it bring me to tears — as when a pianist Michael Yanette plays Someone to Watch Over Me, that became a song of love between my cousin and her father, or the Jazz Cats play Autumn Leaves that my own father loved to sing around the house or in the car. But never before have I known music to lift me up, stir my blood and send it soaring as it did when the trio played Icarus.

Why had I never heard this before? Or had I heard but never listened? Composed by Ralph Towner and recorded by Paul Winter in 1973, it was mostly intended for strings and Winter’s soprano sax. About two minutes into the song the emotion really begins to build. I have listened to a couple of Winter’s recordings which are great, but I find I prefer the Jazz Cats version using flute, piano and drums. Somehow it feels less restrained. When I saw them play, I think the three of them were caught up in the joy of the music and the feeling of flight, and took the audience with them.

From left, Jean Bolduc, Brad Keller, Sharon Elsasser, Bonnie Rossa

From left, Jean Bolduc, Brad Keller, Sharon Elsasser, Bonnie Rossa

What has this to do with writing? Well, music tells a story. And what author does not want to write like the wind, get caught up in the emotion of the story they are telling and lift their readers up in exactly the same way? Most of the time writing is like slogging through the mud, but then that joyful inspiration comes and you cannot stop your fingers from skipping across they keyboard (nor would you try). You are flying. You are flying.

And, because the main character of the book I am writing is someone who dreams of soaring in a way, to elevate his life and claim his heritage, this song of Icarus helps me think about and experience what he feels when he dreams of his future.

Music can be such an inspiration, and I forget that sometimes. Thank you Jazz Cats for lifting me up.

 

SharavogueCoverNancy Blanton is the author of Sharavogue, an award-winning novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies. She is at work on two more novels, and also has published a children’s book, The Curious Adventure of Roodle Jones. Find her books on amazon.com, barnesandnoble, and ibooks.