Elizabeth wrote a good post about the internal voices of criticism that hold us back. It made me think about how I started to hear those voices more clearly when reading the words of others — those who say to the world at large:
- Why do you write blogs nobody wants to read?
- Why do you upload pictures nobody likes?
- ‘Amongst’ and ‘whilst’ are archaic and pompous. [Not true!]
- Open-toed sandals are ugly.
- Don’t write about cats, or anthropomorphize inanimate objects (Totty the Toaster or some such).
- If you don’t speak as you write, it means your writing style is fake. [If I wrote as I speak, you wouldn’t understand me half the time. I do write as I think, however – with plenty of editing!]
- We won’t read blogs with truncated feeds, as we imagine we’re being forced onto your blog and get irate, when really you had other reasons for doing it that way.
- Why should you write about things from our culture when you’re not of it? What do you know about riders in the sky, or trolls?
…and so on.
The clamour is deafening. Perhaps they’re the sheep from Animal Farm, drowning out the urge to be individual. Actually, they’re only opinions. Sometimes reasonable, sometimes not. We have to learn to weigh them up for ourselves.
On Saturday night, in my private journal, the last sentence I wrote before turning out the light was, “It’s sad that we feel constrained.” We believe that only certain things are acceptable and we must work and think within those confines. The phrase ‘think outside the box’ annoys a lot of people but speaks volumes, and I won’t dismiss it in a hurry.
Every time you go out, you imagine people nudging each other and whispering “why does she wear that, it doesn’t suit her!” or “she shouldn’t be trailing that shopping trolley around; it’s getting in my way. She’s young and strong and should lump heavy carrier bags around like the rest of us.” [Why? What’s the point of inventing the wheel if we don’t use it?]
I guess it doesn’t happen only in the writing world; it happens all the time, and you start to hear those whispering voices everywhere. It’s not imagination… you know that someone, somewhere at some time is bound to have said these things. You hear them said about others.
I have to keep my own criticisms in check and frequently fail. When I was a child, a book I loved would be some kind of bible to me; a guide to life and ideal behaviour. As an older person, I see the ‘humbug’ — the frail human being behind the beautiful book or piece of writing: someone with agendas, fears and limitations — and I’m less inclined to be beguiled.
When you have reasons for feeling this way, it can be hard to combat. Nobody wants to be treated casually, and the fear of what others might say about us restrict the choices we make. But they’re our choices, aren’t they?
Try the perfumes, write the stories. And tell all those inner and outer critics to take a break once in a while.