Kick the Critic

The world, and my head, is full of critics.

Big talkers with sandpaper voices that cripple every action with an overwhelming fear of mediocrity. When my inner critic is louder than my mind is bright, I go to the experts:

Natalie Goldberg, who wrote the classic Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, encourages writers to kick their critic to the curb. And indeed, in my copy (circa 1980s) the chapter Trouble with the Editor is dog-eared and nearly every passage is underlined.

Anne Lamott’s self-deprecating wit and tender humor always move me to a place of possibility — and my inner critic rankled enough to go away. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is her classic how-to book. Fortunately, this ‘manual’ is more humor and heart than step-by-step guide.

But sometimes even the ‘experts’ aren’t enough. To keep my mind encouraged and my spirits lifted, I have this touchstone at easy reach:

Keep the Channel Open

A letter from Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille

There is a vitality, a life force,
a quickening that is translated through
you into action. And because there is only
one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through
any other medium, and it will be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your
business to determine how good it is,
nor how valuable, nor how it compares
with other expressions. It is your
business to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself
or your work.
You have to keep open and aware
directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.