Battling with an old foe today.
The Inner Critic.
Seth Godin referred to it as a dance with the Resistance. And Cheryl Strayed wrote a brilliant letter to a struggling writer who was overwhelmed with fear and insecurity, the voice echoing in her head.
I read this essay often.
How many women wrote beautiful novels and stories and poems and essays and plays and scripts and songs in spite of all the crap they endured. How many of them didn’t collapse in a heap of “I could have been better than this” and instead went right ahead and became better than anyone would have predicted or allowed them to be. The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve, deny you –,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.
Writing here and being vulnerable with my words and my art has opened up some opportunities, opportunities that will expand me in ways that scare me. Doors have replaced my concrete walls. But it’s my choice whether to open them to step through or let something in.
I can hear the voice daily – sometimes it’s a whisper, an annoying gnat I can shoo away with the flick of a wrist while other times, like today, it pins me down, an elephant sitting on my chest.
But it works the same each time. You begin to feel grateful for being able to create and for being in flow. But then you feel that this is unsustainable especially when a challenge is set in front of you that is both exhilarating and terrifying. The Inner Voice seizes this moment of doubt and runs with it. It talks unceasingly. It froze me all morning and all afternoon as I tried to create my Book of Hours entry.
It says horrible and mean things. It makes me want to lock away my supplies, delete the blog, and throw out every writing utensil.
But then there is a moment when the self-doubt is so bad that I surrender to it. I welcome it. I say, Bring it. And in the moment of this release, in spite of the negative stream of thought, I see a light. I open my Book of Hours and write the only quote that comes to mind. My own. Something I have never truly admitted to myself. Something that terrifies me to admit publicly because I am afraid.
I am an artist.
I create art with words and images. Sometimes with one or the other and sometimes with both.
And in listening to my true calling, and consciously stepping into it for the first time, I have silenced that other voice today. But I know it will be back. It always returns. But now I know creation is one half of the equation. In order to have balance, I need the other voice to try to destroy me as I welcome it to the dance.
I try to remember that the job — as well as the plight, and the unexpected joy — of the artist is to embrace uncertainty, to be sharpened and honed by it. To be birthed by it. Each time we come to the end of a piece of work, we have failed as we have leapt — spectacularly, brazenly — into the unknown. – Dani Shapiro
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing the here and now.