REVIEWS Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk

In the first in a new series for Words & Pictures, Katherine Lynas reviews a book that gives her faith in her own creativity.

Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk and Other Truths About Being Creative 

by Danielle Krysa

Every now and again my inner critic gets the better of me. 'Your drawings are terrible', 'Why don't you stop trying and get a proper job?', 'If you put that online people will think you are rubbish'. So when I saw a friendly-looking book with the title Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk, I couldn't help but agree with it. I took my new book home and by the end of the day I had read it cover-to-cover. As I turned the pages I found myself nodding away, it was as if the writer had been spying on my brain.

Photo of cover by Katherine Lynas

Although the book is written primarily with artists in mind, the subjects covered are likely to apply to people working in any creative field. Each chapter covers a different topic that can cause you to become blocked and offers strategies to help you deal with it.

The introduction tells us how excited Danielle Krysa was to be given the go-ahead to create the book, and how hard she procrastinated to avoid writing it.
This is an incredibly white, empty page. And you're the one who's supposed to fill it? You can't write a whole book. Um, hello, you're not even a 'writer'! 
First-hand creative block led the author to start her art blog, The Jealous Curator. Inner Critic came out of a desire to help people realise they are not the only ones that face these problems and to look at the common issues that crop up for creative people.

Chapter 5 is all about jealousy. I've experienced jealousy that has led to me not making things for weeks, even months. I've also experienced the kind of jealousy that is more exciting, the 'This person is brilliant! I must look at all their stuff and gaze admiringly at it', kind. This chapter encourages you to examine the jealousy. Why are you jealous of that particular person? How can you use that to encourage yourself?

One of the strategies in this section is to write down, or tell a person, why you think they are awesome. So here goes…

I love how you are SO, Sarah McIntyre. I love your outfits, I love your silly songs (yip!), and your crazy books. I love that your yetis have a noodle bar (because selling spaghetti would be too obvious) and that you stuck your head up to start #picturesmeanbusiness to help raise the profile of illustrators. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Attempting to downplay my fan-girl feelings with Sarah and Philip Reeve while we work out which camera to look at.
Photo credit: Kitty Dinners
Step two, why Sarah? What is it about her that sucks me in, and can I use that knowledge to develop myself? One of the things I love about her books are the unusual juxtapositions and twists (Jampires anyone?). They have a strong sense of fun, with plenty of mischievousness thrown in. Sarah is brave; she encourages change in the publishing industry by saying what she thinks and gathering others to her cause. She draws and sings in public, and is sometimes filmed doing it (the horror!). She wears fun things, and doesn't seem to feel the need to tone it down ('Maybe that dress is a bit too much–it's a bit…colourful').

There's a lot there that I can use.

Do my legs look bright in these?
Photo credit: Michelle Weatherald
I've taken to carrying this book around with me, revisiting sections when my inner critic is having a loud day. I also have a sneaking suspicion it might be making me slightly braver…

For years I've been interested in filming, in particular filming classes about illustration on Skillshare. My inner critic stopped me. 'You are not a proper illustrator. Nobody will want to watch.' Since reading this book, I've been putting together my first class. It's called 'Be Inspired: Drawing without Fear'. Hopefully I'll be brave enough to hit the publish button!   


Could you write a review of something you think is great? 

Words & Pictures is looking for short reviews everything to do with the craft of writing and illustrating books for young people – books, of course, but also websites, Youtube trailers for books, Twitter chats and authors, podcasts, tools, resources of any type you'd like to share with the SCBWI-BI community.

Send your proposals to Julie Sullivan at with 'Reviews' in the subject line.

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