Keep your inner censor at bay

What’s keeping you from doing what you really want? What prevents you from embarking on a new career?

What’s thwarting my efforts to bring my long-planned, yet infrequently worked-on, novel across the finish line?

Rank laziness is part of it (I’m speaking of myself, here). But something else is standing in the way, and this is the part I bet also applies to you or someone you know: The insidious inner censor.

About a dozen years ago, I literally dreamed of the protagonist of my oft-started-and-stopped novel and, in addition to the aforementioned lack of gumption and drive, my efforts have been undercut by the critic inside my head (who has an uncanny ability to imitate my own speaking voice). It challenges me each day, demanding to know what kind of decent person thinks the kind of thoughts I’m putting to paper.

You were raised better than that. Your late aunt and grandparents will certainly be ashamed. What will your friends think?

I suspect we all have this critic inside us (and suspect it has a Rich Little-like talent for imitating your voice, as well). How did it get there, and how do you expel it, or at least ignore it?

I haven’t, yet, found the answer, or at least a good one. Whiskey, cigars and day-to-day work have a certain palliative effect, but those are only quick fixes, at best. (At worst, they become habits that sap all ambition, urgency and life itself. I’m struck by something the late Christopher Hitchens said about alcohol being a good soldier but a terrible master.)

At some point, I suppose, one has to just ignore one’s inner critic. Just avert your eyes even if it means staring at the ground as you pass it in the corridor on the way to the writing laboratory or the interview for the job you really want, or whatever.

The examples of people you admire help a little, as does the encouragement of the friends, family and others who comprise your personal cheering section. But, ultimately, you’re on your own. That’s what I think, anyway.

One thing is certain: The cost of failing to disregard the inner critic is greater than the ease of giving into it. I hope so, anyway.

2 thoughts on “Keep your inner censor at bay

  1. I love the style of your writing, FJ. I also notice that in series of three, you do not insert the comma before “and.” You Associated Press junkie, you.

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