“…it is not necessary that we change any of our beliefs. It is necessary that we examine them.” – Julia Cameron*
The faces that greet me are smiling, laughing, welcoming. My thumb and forefinger reach into my back pants pocket to find the business cards with my website address and contact information. Then it starts:
- You don’t know a past participle from a predicate, and you think you write?
- Do you have an opinion about anything?
- You know you will make a mistake, and then another and another.
- What’s the point?
- Your writing is childish.
- Who cares what you think.
I pull my empty hand away from my pocket and let the smiling faces pull me into the vibrant room and out of my head. My inner critic won that round.
For me this is but one of many inner critic scuffles that occur. I have tried fighting my critic, point-for-point.
“I do have opinions,” I say.
“Name one,” the critic counters.
I am silent, and the critic wins another round.
I have tried smothering the critic, covering the unkind words with generous thoughts, much like Saturday Night Live’s (SNL) Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”^ The negative thoughts are squashed for the moment, but they ooze out of minuscule cracks in my confidence when I least expect them.
This time though, I return home from the party, and sit down for a chat with my inner critic.
“My friends said kind things about my blog,” I say.
“That’s what friends do. But you know it was a piece of fluff.”
“Well, maybe, but I was playing with the technique,” I say, “and I wanted to get those memories in writing.”
“How self-indulgent of you,” my critic says, an arched eyebrow challenging me to disagree.
“Yes, it was a bit self-indulgent, but…”
“And you know, your article doesn’t make sense to the outside reader.”
“I thought it was kind of cool…”
“Did you check your spelling? Your grammar?”
“I suppose I could do a better job of that, next time.”
“Well, good. That’s a start.”
Then surprisingly the critic is quiet for a few moments, allowing me to consider the truths in the words. I realize that writing for myself is important, but that I should give the reader something to take away; a reason for reading other than entertainment. I decide I will work harder to do that each time I post.
My inner critic often highlights the very things in my writing or personal interactions that I already knew were my weaknesses. But rather than providing constructive criticism, this eyebrow-arching nemesis attempts to tear down my confidence and shepherd me back into a safe box. In the exchange above, rather than fighting my critic, I explored the message behind the scorn and accepted that my writing needs improvement.
Then I sent my critic back to its safe box, with an invitation to return with new ideas, and clicked “Publish”.
* The Artist’s Way, page 51, Copyright 1992, 2002 by Julia Cameron.
^ I thought about embedding the SNL skit’s URL in the paragraph, but figured you would enjoy the SNL skit so much that you might never return to finish my article!