So…I can’t keep it in anymore! And it’s time to share: I’m writing a second book! I’ve BEEN writing it this whole year — discerning, listening, scribbling down notes as ideas come to me, and writing in between work and family life. But this month, it became clear to me that it’s time to dig in and dedicate my energies and time to writing this book. (Want to know more about it? Keep reading!)
Do you have a creative project that it’s “just time for” – – that has been on your heart, that you get whispers of while you are in the shower, driving in the car, or on a walk?
As I have been digging into writing these past few weeks, I have noticed the Inner Critic gearing up again: “Who are YOU to write?”, “No one is going to buy this/like it”, “You aren’t going to do a good enough job”, “Self-publishing?! It’s not good enough. No one is going to take you seriously. Your book is going to go nowhere.”
Does that happen to you, too? Your Inner Critic tries to stop you even before you start!
Well, in doing a Kickstarter campaign and self-publishing my first book, Gems of Delight, I encountered a lot of that. Self-doubt would ask, “Do you really think you can do this? Do you really think this is the right thing to say? What if no one gets it?” The Inner Critic would chime in, “Who do you think you are to write a book?! You don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said! Who’s going to want to read something YOU wrote?!”
Then one day I was taking a break from writing and going into the kitchen to get something to eat, when it dawned on me, “If I get distracted by those messages from the Inner Critic and listen to them, this book will never get written.”
I stood there in the kitchen and I recognized from practicing mindfulness and compassion for a few decades that treating my Inner Critic harshly wasn’t going to work. And honestly, I was tired of the energy it took to be harsh to my Inner Critic and push her away. But listening to her every word and letting her take take over wasn’t going to work either. I had experienced enough of my Inner Critic teaming up with Perfection in me and hijacking my nervous system and decisions that held me back from creating and doing what I love.
Instead, I knew there was a middle path.
And so over time — in my own inner work and in accompany clients in coaching and psychotherapy — I started to practice a radical way relating to my Inner Critic:
Instead of trying to get rid of the Inner Critic…
Instead of putting so much effort into silencing her…
I am learning to INCLUDE her. I am learning to LOVE her.
Wait — what?! Include the Inner Critic?! Love her?!
Think about it: exclusion never feels good – let alone heals. I wrote an article about being excluded in middle school that goes viral every year and I’ve received thousands of emails and comments from readers sharing their own experience of exclusion either as a child or even now as an adult. It hurts and its painful. The same goes for all the parts of us — even the Inner Critic. When we exclude a part of ourselves from the wholeness of who we are in this human experience, we suffer. Learning to skillfully include heals (and note this word “skillfully” — which includes boundaries and regard. I’ll get to that in a moment).
Let’s talk about LOVE, because like “compassion,” people often misunderstand what LOVE is.
I often hear this: “Well, how am I supposed to love someone (or act with compassion toward someone) who is toxic and hurtful? I’m just supposed to let them do whatever they want and accept whatever they do?!”
NO. That’s not love.
LOVE is not: “I don’t have any boundaries. And I’m all about you.”
LOVE is not: “Go ahead and be mean, cruel, hurtful — and I’ll have no boundaries and self-regard.”
Love that doesn’t include regard for YOU is not really love. It’s unhealthy relating.
Compassion that doesn’t include SELF-COMPASSION is not really compassion. It’s unhealthy sympathy.
I started to practice this radical way of including and loving my Inner Critic. And then one day, the image of a BUS came to me. I started to imagine that Awareness (or the Wise One, Observer, Aware One, or Kind Parent) was the bus driver and all the various “parts” of me would get on the bus: the Writer, the Hopeful One, the Calm One, the Certain One, the Inner Critic, Self-Doubt, the Perfectionist, etc etc. Some of these parts jump on the bus and immediately try and take over the wheel, like the Inner Critic. That’s when Awareness would remain seated at the wheel as the bus driver and say, “Haaaaaaang on there a minute, buddy. I get it. You are afraid of (rejection, hurt, disappointment, etc). And you are trying to keep us all safe. I’M driving this bus, my friend. Go and take a seat. You’ll see — it’ll be an okay ride. If we need you, we’ll call you. Go take a rest — you need it!”
See what happened there? Awareness ACKNOWLEDGED the Inner Critic, then NAMED what it was trying to do (keep us safe), and then CREATED A FIRM AND KIND BOUNDARY.
THAT’S love. That’s inclusion. We didn’t kick anyone off the bus. We didn’t try and “conquer, master, or tame” the Inner Critic like you read so often in self-help books. Instead, we included – skillfully, wisely.
Such a radical way of relating to my Inner Critic has enabled me to keep writing even as she pipes up from her seat on the bus with, “Really? You are going to write THAT?” It’s enabled me to healthily relate to Inner Critic’s friends: Self-Doubt, Perfection, and Fear the same way. I include and I love.
No longer am I putting my energy into trying to get rid of these guys. They are here as part of the human experience AND the writing process! Instead, I am investing my energy into relating to them in a much healthier, kinder, and even more productive way.
And even more importantly, I’m clearer about the soul risks I need to take even with the Inner Critic on the bus. I’m clearer about the Voice Within Me that I need to honor – even with all these characters showing up on the bus! And so a second book it is! Almost 90% of this book will be poetry. I’m coming back around to what I love to write and create: poetry.
About poetry, Jack Kornfield, Buddhist, meditation teacher, said: “The heart needs poetry much like the Earth needs rain. It is the music, the harmony, and the bearer of truth throughout our life’s journey. To uncover our poetic sensibility is to begin to find the rhythm of language that matches the beauty of the world around us.”
All these decades of writing poetry, I’ve realized how SETTLED I feel when I am writing, when I am IN THE FLOW of writing a poem…and READING a poem.
Poetry — it has a rhythm to it. It evokes images. It tells a story in a very brief period of time. Rhythm, images, and stories — in the world of neuroscience, we know that THESE ARE POWERFUL ways of settling, soothing and nourishing the nervous system.
Poetry gets us out of “fight or flight.”
It names our hurts and our heart’s desire.
It helps us to “rest and digest”- literally our food and metaphorically our emotions and experiences.
It connects us to our own truth AND each other.
We remember what really matters. We remember our innate goodness. We remember that we belong to each other.
Poetry is an invitation into truth. It’s an experience of coming into union with our breath, beauty, and beyond.
So, my second book with be filled with poetry — to inspire your soul to wake with hope and courage, to redefine strength (like including rather than excluding!), to deepen your compassion for your own self and others, and to end your day with a sense of peace.
As for the Inner Critic in YOU…
I’ve shared this image of “the bus” with my clients. I wanted to share it with you, too. I imagine that you have a creative endeavor that you are called to as well. Maybe it’s to act, write a book, do art, sing, play a musical instrument, start a business, take swing dancing lessons…whatever it may be, when your Inner Critic flings open the door to your bus, let the Wise One within you stay at the wheel and try a radical way of including and loving the Inner Critic. AND continue to honor that holy impulse within you to create.
*2021 update: My second book was successfully funded on Kickstarter. And I published it! You can now get your own copy of Your Light is Rising.