I began teaching a writing class about two years ago, giving prompts, reading inspirational pieces, and offering advice about how to maneuver the world of words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories. I felt that I had something to offer since I’d written so many books. But when I began to share my knowledge and experiences as a writer, I never imagined how much my classes would impact my own writing and my understanding of the writing process in general.

Among many other valuable things, I learned that the very idea of teaching writing is a misnomer. Talent cannot be taught. It’s either there or it isn’t. But when your inner critic is abasing you and calling you names, how will you find out whether or not you have a talent for writing? I have come to realize that rather than teaching how to write, I teach my students how to remove the blocks that stop them from getting from the couch to the computer.

We all have inner critics that were programmed by someone else when were growing up. Few people get away from this tyrannical persona that whispers negativity in our ears and abase us as human beings. They call us stupid, useless, and ignorant, unable to produce anything of value. “You must as well stop,” the voice tells us, “before you embarrass yourself.” But that’s all it is – a discarnate voice that really knows nothing about you.

In my classes, before we start writing, e write a letter to the inner critic, describing what you really think of him or her. This is how you take back control. You can curse at your inner critic, cajole, placate, call names, butter up, or anything else you want to do. Just make sure the inner critic knows who is the wheel. Then and only then can you ply your craft and start exploring the ideas that spill out of your head and onto the page.