My inner critic told me that I write because I’m self-absorbed, or maybe just deluded. She said that underneath the desire to write lurks the grandiose idea that I’m a creative person or uniquely interesting. Some preposterous notion that I’m right about something. Or just the hubris that I have something to say that is worth reading by other people who are going about their mortal lives. How dare I think that some of the time they have on this earth will be well spent reading what I’ve written.
Writing is a cheeky business. I imagine t’s not much different than being a prophet, or seeing the face of the Virgin Mary in the folds of the laundry crammed into the hamper. But instead of showing up with 10 commandments or infinite loaves and fishes, the writer offers the world a novel. Or maybe just a short story, and sometimes just a click bait internet article. Look at what I created! Behold how I’ve spun these words into this tapestry for you to enjoy! I imagine them shouting this from the mountaintop, while their work quivers beside them, aware of its own lack of necessity.
Who am I to be so arrogant? I could go and get a job that actually makes a contribution to this world. There are children starving somewhere. While I sip green tea in a cabin and try to come up with the last 100 pages of a book that might never even get published. I feel like one of those slackers from an 80s movie. Some dude that sleeps on his friend’s couch all day. I stand up every now and again to grab a snack from the mini fridge. I’m overdue for a haircut.
My negative self talk is like having a silly little troll in my mind. A warty runt of a thing that lurks under every bridge I cross and hurls insults at me as I go about my day. Yet silencing the troll is not the point. Ignoring it actually makes it throw even bigger rocks at me.
Instead, the fears need to be heard so the other parts of me (that are more loving and mature) can ease my anxiety. So that I can find the courage to live and write and love despite the dangers.
Interrupting negative self talk with affirmations or feigned positive self talk doesn’t work for me.
The inner critic just pauses for a moment as if temporarily stunned by some benign fairy magic and then begins laughing maniacally.
My inner critic is also the meanest reader I can conjure. It’s every grade school bully I ever met all rolled into one sinister whispering voice that sounds eerily just like my own. When I feel any joy at all because I composed a few hundred words that appear to be somewhat engaging, my inner critic tells me that what I’ve written is trite. It’s been done a million times and my attempt isn’t even one of the better ones.
I argue with my inner critic. I tell her that the whole point is to write honestly about life in a way that is relatable. That I can’t strive for originality itself or I’ll look like that person that tries so hard to dress cool and different that it shows and has the opposite effect of making them look weird and insecure.
I tell her that sometimes the truth is cliche.
She says I’m wrong, and that I need to rewrite the whole piece, or else go do something productive.
I say Fine. I will. Watch me. Then stomp all the way to my room like my ten year old does when she wants everyone to know she’s offended.
On my way up the stairs I shout that I’m going to expose her by sharing all her negative self talk examples so the world can see how cliche she is. That we all have an inner critic. There’s some relief in that.
I don’t have any secret methods or tips for silencing your inner critic. But what I’m discovering is rather ironic. The more I pay attention to the negative self talk, the more I can detach from it and not take it so seriously. Perhaps I can even collaborate with that bitch.