If I could identify the most difficult thing about being a writer, it would be wrestling with the inner critic.
The inner critic.
“You’ll never be good at this.”
“No one will want to hear/read/see/buy that.”
Recognize that voice? Of course you do. We all have it.
Successful people still have an inner critic, but they’ve learned to manage it. They tell it to piss off, they starve it for attention, or better still, they simply don’t believe anything that comes out of its stupid little mouth.
The inner critic hates one thing above all others – your story. The goal of the inner critic is to have you remain mediocre your whole life, or at least, to get you to act as if you were. But the truth? Nobody is mediocre. Everyone has the basic ingredient needed to be amazing.
Stories. Now I happen to think stories are something akin to life itself. Of everything you are, you own, you have or can learn, you can lose it all, but you cannot lose your story. You don’t even need to have lived a whole day on this earth to have your own story. Besides that, your story is more precious and far more needed than either your advice or your expertise. Your intricate skills, your sage wisdom, your vast experience and your lofty education may say “I can do it.” but when you simply tell your story, what you say to everyone is is “You can do it.”
Author Don Miller said last week on Facebook, “I don’t want your advice. I just want your story. Your advice sends me on my way. Your story comes with me.” Way to change my life in just four sentences, Miller.
What a precious gift we give when we agree to simply tell the truth.
And when it comes to our truth telling, there is little in this world that is more crippling, more hurtful or more damaging than when someone chooses – even inadvertantly – to agree with the inner critic.
Your story isn’t really that important.
Nobody will want to hear that.
Who would care about that?
You are so wrong.
And I thought you were a good person.
If you say that, everyone will know what you did.
If you say that, everyone will know what they did.
They always said you were too much trouble.
You know of course this makes you no better than they are.
It’s all in the past.
Aren’t you over it yet?
There’s always two sides to every story.
Who would believe you?
You spelled that wrong.
It’s time you learned to forgive and forget.
Please stop, you’re hurting my ears.
Who told you you could do that?
When someone tells the truth, when they share their story, you may be hurt by what they say. You may be offended, challenged, confronted or even lied about. Now, you may absolutely respond – you may engage in discussion, you may even disagree and of course, defend yourself. But you may not tell the storyteller they have no right to speak, no voice, and no leg to stand on. You may speak, but you may not silence others. What they say may be in your opinion stupid, trivial, meaningless, or perhaps even politically, morally or factually wrong to you, but you may not ever agree with their inner critic and tell them they must shut the fuck up.
I have this theory. My theory is that there is no devil. The devil is whatever things keep us from committing good or from exposing evil. The devil is whatever binds us in the dark, regardless of who it was that tied us up and shoved us down the hole.
Stories have the power to save us. They save us from ignorance, they save us from injustice. It may even be said that stories save us from our sins. But without the telling, without the freedom to tell, without our overcoming our insecurities, ignoring our critics (inner, and outer) and banishing the prejudice and censorship and oppression, even the most redemptive of gospels and inspiring of epics will stay locked up, stunted and barren, in our imaginations. Don’t you be the one who tried to silence what may set someone else free.
I think if there is such a thing as eternal life, then its DNA lies in story.
Go tell yours.
Q. Who is Harry Bridge?
A. Harry Bridge is my male pseudonym.