In an experiment, scientists measured the brain activity of jazz musicians as they performed a memorized piece of music, and then measured it again when the musicians did an improvised piece. Different brain regions lit up, according to the type of performance being given. During the improvisation, the medial prefrontal cortex--the part of the brain that allows self-expression--was more active. During the memorized piece, the dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral orbital regions--the brain areas that monitor and correct performance--were more active.
In other words, in order to be creative, we've got to silence our brain's inner critic.
For a writer, it's not always easy to silence an internal critic. Take me, for example. I'm perfectly capable of stalling for days over a single paragraph, even a particular sentence. I'll rewrite and rethink, tweak and prune, until I'm practically clawing at the walls of our house.
But Harpy is a sly, cunning opponent, always scheming to get the better of me. She keeps changing tactics. Recently she's tried to convince me that my medical issues have done a Flowers For Algernon number on the creative parts of my brain, rendering it incapable of producing decent prose. The only way I've been able to reassure myself is by going to my critique group. My group members don't know anything about Harpy--they just tell it like it is about my prose. And so far, everything seems normal. I'm not like Charlie, regressing to a creative IQ of 68. I'm okay (at least as far as the writing is concerned). I can tell Harpy to take a hike.
What about you? Do you ever have to wrangle with a harsh internal critic? How have you put a muzzle on it?
UPDATE: In honor of some of the suggestions in our comments today, I am adding a picture of the Lamisil Monster as a candidate for the Inner Critic...lol.