Near the beginning of the semester, I have both my Comp and Creative Writing classes read “Shitty First Drafts” from Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Then I ask them to personify their inner critic. Once they have done that, I ask them to get rid of it. One of my students , Taylor Tavanese, wrote this great response and gave me permission to publish it here.
My inner critic
As I am sitting at my desk, keyboard at my finger tips I feel as if I am sinking into an overwhelming rush of emotions constantly repeating “You just can’t do it”, “Taylor you just can NOT do it” I feel as if I am incapable of anything at this point. Slowly my chair legs start to sink into what looks to be this endless pit of sand. Words of negativity that complete my inner thoughts and outer surroundings consume me as if I am physically suffocating from the over powering stress and pressure I constantly feel. Not being able to write is honestly one of my worst fears, what’s even scarier is having the ability to write about anything I wanted and my so called masterpiece turning out to be something absolutely horrid. Children cry at the site of my words written on a piece of paper, grandparents faint, and many adults start projectile vomiting at the sound of the words from something I put all my effort into.
These constant nagging feelings make me feel like (what seems to be slowly) quickly falling into a pit of quick sand struggling to find breath, to keep my fingers attached to that keyboard to write with all my heart’s desire. As the sand consumes my chair and the lower half of my body I feel rushed and panicked to do something, but I just can’t. The consistent whispering of all the voices around me, as many as the grains of sand that are engrossing me, continually discourages me making me feel powerless. I need something to pull me out of this sinking pit of doom, my mind is consumed with only wondering if anyone will care to find me under this pit of sand. Will they miss me, but more importantly will they miss my writing? Will the memory of my life go on without me? The sand pit seems to disagree as the voices of judgment continue to get louder and louder. Will I ever put an end to all my insecurities and just let go? Can I just pull myself out of this sand and find motivation in my experiences to write about what I know is good? Where is my confidence?
As I sank down neck deep I finally realized, in all these years I have spent trying to write, in all the times I have ever gotten blocked I have never wanted to find a solution. I have never tried to get out of any slump that I was in; I would just let myself sink gasping for air as I listen to the negative voices around me. Well screw that. No more negativity, no more sinking! And in that very moment I pulled myself out. I stopped sinking, though I couldn’t save my chair or desk, the derogatory voices went down with my outdated furniture and I am free. I am free to write whatever I wish with no regret, and no shame of what may be the worst writing any one has ever seen, I don’t care because it means something to me. So screw that quick sand! Screw the ones that don’t believe in me! Believing in myself and my possibly horrific writing is all I need.