He's the jerk on the hoverboard who keeps telling me I suck.
T stairs work because it is an ex_tendes metaphor. We have a one in 10 thousand kid who dolts his feeling about writing in this way. Made space for me to remember an other evisceration feeling a few of boomers would tell me things about my wedge of the room being some nothing . I walked out of those moments sideways but feeling performative. One of them was a capricious woman they say in part because she had a good hobbit strong husband. They can be mine it sounds in my paper helmeted head like when friends say just no to you. Plus, thankyou for this.
“You haven’t been hot since college.” Omg… I’m in tears. What a fabulous article. You put a face to a writers self-doubt by imagining one amalgamous, turd face, punk kid. Brilliant! My self-doubt is not as specifically defined but it is there and it is debilitating. Why do we take criticism to heart as much as we do? We know in our logical brain that there are way more readers who love our work than hate it. Yet, one scathing comment can send us into the fetal position. You are correct, though, that the critic, inner and outer can (and must) be defeated. We have to practice our thick-skinned-ness and simply trust that we are doing what we do because it’s what we do. Articles like this one is a huge help, Meg!
Yes. This writing feels real.
Haha. Great piece Meg! Fuck hoverboards!
Signed the guest book, now for the mimosa—may I request a mojito instead please?
Glad to hear you broke Dolt's hoverboard and shoved the vape stick into his ear (usually nemesis bros like this don't have much btwn the ears so the smoke will go right through). You got this Meg.
There is a secret to defeating your writer's nemesis before s/he even materializes. It's directing your soul to be born in a country behind the Iron Curtain, with your ancestral family shattered, some of its members assassinated, and the survivors sent to all corners of the world to save themselves. You are then swept away across the ocean, deposited in a strange land where little kids poke fun at you and hate on you for being the spelling bee in class despite not speaking English yet. You not only learn English as a second language—you wear the hats of every permutation of a writer you can think of, and infiltrate that industry's communications core. You learn the weak spots of the nemeses in each of those worlds, you hone in on their fears, their doubts, and you neutralize them before they grow big enough to threaten you. It's a lifelong journey, but it is The Path.
Great metaphor and great advice. I’m glad you’re on the other side of this , which is evident by your writing an excellent piece.
In grad school, when I was preparing to write my dissertation, a professor gave me similar advice. Find the critical voice and give it shape. That can even be an object, anything that you can see, and talk to. Talk back at. And it works!
I think I have a totally different take on life, now that life has thrown me a curve ball. I don't listen to the self doubting voices anymore. I know they'll always be there, but I've turned my back on them. I don't care; I don't give a fuck what those voices say. Maybe it helps that I don't write essays? Fiction is interpretive. I don't know where the voice I write with comes from, but it kicks the shit out of the voices that used to call me out as a fake. Maybe it's because I had so many people telling me I should give up and walk away because I'll never make it as a writer? I don't know. I don't have the answers. So I don't go looking for them. I live in my own little bubble--a fantasy world (and it has dragons)--and try not to second guess myself. I don't expect to be a best seller, but I might be; I don't expect to win prizes, or make a living; but it could happen. All I know is that if I don't write and put my stuff out there, the voices in the back of my head will have won. I can hold them back when I write, and so that's what I do. I mean, don't get me wrong, sometimes the voices in my head have some pretty good ideas, but I try not to listen to them...too much.
So timely, this. Had a long conversation the other night with my partner on the topic of, why are we gaslighting ourselves? And how do we stop?
I’m wondering whether these inner multitudinous hypercritical voices have been planted in our heads by parents and peers, or are they genetic, hardwired in our brains? Damn it, half of living a decent life lies in damping down our own self-negativity. (Without going too far the other way into narcissism and sociopathy. Ah, damn the balance beam, full speed ahead!)
Giving your nemesis an exploding ride and cancer habit is an excellent long-term investment. You’re in trouble when your anti-muse does 10ks.
First, you made laugh-- so there hoverboard guy! Second, I totally get this essay. Now, more serious stuff: Did you know that Alice Munro once went to a college workshop and the prof told her she had no talent? She didn't pick up her pen for another nine months, according to her daughter's book about her. Then, Alice won the Nobel Prize. I know she was exceptional. I know, I know. I also know we writers need encouragement. Thank you for this funny, wise essay, Meg Oolders--and for joining us on Inner Life. xo ~ Mary
Thanks, Meg. And I too contain multitudes, so I feel your soul through your voice. And I love your other article, as well. They both make me think, which is why I read. I wrote something similar to that one years back: https://www.tomasacker.com/personal-articles/shine-a-light
Yes, as social animals, we are wired to engage and share. And so when we feel that connection, it fuels us to create even more. The true question is the source of our drive. Is it the Universe wanting to create through us, and we are simply its earthly vehicles? Or is our drive determined, directed and fed by external rewards and incentives?
Interestingly, I think the inner narrative is the problem, regardless of its sentiment. And I've been thinking a lot about whether or not a self-referential story is necessary for a powerful creative drive – especially one filled with fantasy and drama regarding one's relative place in the social world. I wrote a longer piece about that as well: https://www.tomasacker.com/personal-articles/the-unintended-consequences-of-storying-ourselves
Anyway, thanks for connecting. I truly appreciate your passion and willingness to engage.
Such a brilliant idea! Get the condemning voices out of my own head and into someone else that I can step on like a cockroach! Why did I never think of that? I have days just like this, Meg, lots of them. Always second guessing, internal voices sabotaging, denigrating my work. It is exhausting. I just want you to know, for what it is worth: I DO give a shit about your work, I WILL read any book you write because you CAN write fucking brilliantly --better than most anyone I know. As far as witnessing the world catching fire and ending in our lifetime, that, I am afraid, I have to agree with. So we need to write quickly.
Dolt’s older brother, Diff (short for indifference), is on the couch with a game controller. He’s wearing a fracture boot on one foot; his other foot is bare. His T-shirt depicts a sloth hanging upside down with the caption “TWO LEGS SCHOOL / FOUR LEGS RULE.”
It's so important when someone shares their private struggles. It reminds the rest of us that we're not alone with our brutal inner critics. It's tricky. To be a good writer, we must have a tough inner critic. Without her, our work would be mushy derivative, drivel. But what you're describing in your hoverboard dude is not that. That's the shame monster. The one who isn't interested in the work, but rather the ego and specifically how to annihilate it. If I had to attach one phrase to my shame monster it's "Who do YOU think you are?!"
I love your writing, please keep doing it. But your intuition about your inner voice, if it’s sincere, is misguided and will not serve you well over time. Get to know it, it has value. And then teach it how and when to be of service to you.