Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Scuffle With My Inner Critic

My inner critic shouted me awake this morning with a rant about a plan to mount an art/writing exhibit next May at a neighborhood coffee shop.
“You want to hang handmade books on the wall of a coffee shop? This is the dumbest idea you’ve ever had. No one wants to read mindless stories about your childhood. You can’t write anyway. This is stupid, stupid, STUPID! Why do you come up with this stuff? Your cable car is slipping. Get a grip girl.”
It's my own fault for perusing volumes filled with photos of beautiful handmade books before bed last night. A few minutes of page turning and I'm overwhelmed with too many choices. I spin my wheels through design options until the critic applies the brakes. "What makes you think you can make something half as good as these?" Then I went to bed. While I slept, the critic spent the nightshift planning strategy.

The scuffle with my critic started a few weeks ago after a visit to the neighborhood coffee shop for my weekly decaf mocha. A conversation with the owners about their monthly art exhibits percolated a thought. Maybe if I pick a date several months in advance the deadline will motivate me to work on an art/writing project combining photos, drawings, and text that has been brewing for years. On the spot, I signed up for May 2014. 

When I arrived home bursting with the news, my supportive husband said, "What an exciting idea." My daughter, as daughters do, stopped me short, "Shouldn't you stay with colored pencil drawings. No one in a coffee shop will be interested in stories on the wall. It seems kind of awkward." "Maybe she is right," said a voice in my head.

I decided to poll my writing group. "Please be honest. If this sounds dumb, I want to know before I mount it on the wall." Before the end of the day most responded with enthusiasm and suggestions for how to make it work. One wrote back, "Do it. Without hesitation."

Renewed energy brought out the pile of books . . . and awakened the critic. Today the scuffle continues. Why is it that the head shouts and the heart whispers?


  1. Natalie Goldberg calls it the "monkey mind" voice. It's so loud, isn't it. I've come to understand that my own monkey mind wants to protect me and keep me safe. Yet it uses a vision of me that's outdate and not aligned with who I am now.
    At least our hearts whisper. For so long, mine didn't dare utter a sound.
    So excited by your bold idea.
    Judith Conte

    1. Yes, the "monkey mind" voice is loud and out of touch. Maybe the heart whispers so we will lean in and pay attention.