Do you know where you are going? Where your life is headed and how you’re going to get there? What about your business? Your writing? Have you found your path and are you following it diligently? Or are you meandering through the woods in the dark crisscrossing a faint trail that you only spot occasionally, because most of it has been washed away in a storm of despair and self-doubt? Are you confident that you’re doing the right thing and every move you make is the smart one? Or are you frozen by fear? Fear of failure? Fear of success, because success only means you have farther to fall when it all comes apart? Are you somewhere in the middle? Or both, as I am, just not at the same time? I kind of flip flop between the most confident writer, who has yet to find his voice, and an idiot who throws random words at paper at rearranges the ones that stick.
Do your dreams and desires all have to get checked over by your inner critic, who immediately dashes each and every one? Damn I hate that guy. How do you argue with a voice in your own head? How do you refute someone who speaks in your own voice? You know deep down that you’re only arguing with yourself, and you have a lot of good points.
Your inner critic is the voice you unwillingly give to your fears, like ventriloquist does his dummies. Afraid of failure, “Well you don’t have to worry about that. You’re not even good enough to fail. Failures point at you and laugh.” He is so hard to argue with because he’s using your own voice.
The critic may be using your voice, but it’s not you. It is years of doubts, whether earned honestly, or given to you by careless family members and friends, pushing their way to the surface. An unthinking comment here, an overheard remark there. These things burrow into our psyche and resurface at the most inconvenient times. It’s like all of the negative events in our lives strung together, tangled in a giant ball of horror that comes along and stomps us down when we are just starting to climb.
I was talking to a friend the other day about Look Out For Sharks, and how someone told me that my suspicious, don’t trust anybody attitude turned them off to my writing. I was shocked. That wasn’t the point I was trying to get across at all. I couldn’t understand how they got that out of what I wrote. Now, every piece I write I have her read before it’s posted to make sure my intent is there. Every word is chosen a little more carefully because I’m afraid of being misunderstood and driving more readers away. My topics are a little tamer.
I told her how fear was dictating my writing. How the critic was wielding my voice like a weapon to cut me up every time I wrote. She asked why I didn’t fight it. “Because you can’t fight yourself” I told her. Then she gave me the most brilliant piece of advice I had ever heard.
She told me to name it.
That struck me like a lightning bolt in the face.
I knew what she meant immediately.
Name the critic. Give him a name.
Give your critic a name and it becomes just any other stranger on the street. Give it a name you don’t particularly care for, or of a person you don’t like. You can’t argue with the voice in your head when it feels like it’s coming from you. However, Cody…… Cody is just an asshole. Cody doesn’t know fuck all. Cody is just a guy. A guy I can debate. A guy I can dispute.
“You’re never going to make it as a writer.”
“Well, what the hell do you know, jackwagon?”
Giving your critic a name allows you to interact with it on a new level. The arguments it makes against you are no longer automatically valid because it’s your voice. It gives you authority over the voice, instead of the other way around.
Like everything else here, this isn’t an instant fix. This isn’t going to immediately turn your life around, beat your fears, and set you on the path to happiness and success. This technique only gives you solid footing to help you stand your ground against your inner critic. It gives you a platform to debate your fears, to feel them out and see if they have merit, or if they are completely unwarranted. Is it something you are comfortable doing anyway, despite your fear, or is this a battle for another day? These are things only you can decide for yourself. Everyone’s situation is different. But you should get to decide them, not the critic, and I hope this helps you do so.