Some days the words flow, yet others they bog down, tacky like glue, sticky, not budging from my brain.  Honestly, I’m not sure which days are more challenging.  On the sticky, clogged-brain days, I push through, knowing that writing comes with discipline while taking solace in knowing that those days I’m only writing for myself.   Just write, I tell myself, just practice.

It’s the days when the words ooze and ideas flit like butterflies on the first spring day that I feel most stressed, because those are the days when I’m writing things that might be shared with others. 

And sharing is hard. 

It’s vulnerable. It feels like laying my soul naked on the table for all to see.

The automatic thought, blinking in my brain like a neon sign, is “What if it’s not any good?”

Apparently, this process is known to all of us in one way or another.  Gallivanting around under the moniker Inner Critic, this voice that tells us no, we can’t really do that thing we want to do.  It growls, “Seriously, you think anyone will care?” It chatters incessantly about how funny it is that you think you can be daring and brave and try new things. 

It’s job is to keep us down, to hold us back.

Under the guise of keeping our little egos safe, it’s real job is to keep our souls small.

The Inner Critic tends to lurk in the dark corners of our brains, gaining power from it’s mystery and darkness.  It systematically keeps tabs on the risks we want to take, and knocks us back into the safety lane, cramped and small and stagnant. 

And because it is so consistent, so loud, and so incredibly self-assured in it’s warnings, we listen to it.

If it was a co-worker, a family member, a friend we would stay clear and set strong boundaries, not allowing that kind of negativity and critique to dominate our space.  But this guy, well, this guy we give our full attention, believing all it says.

In Julia Cameron’s seminal work on creativity, The Artist’s Way, she suggests  we name our Inner Critics as a way of interacting with them and bringing them into the light.  The more we personalize and visualize this little bugger of a killjoy, the more we can address the nagging doubts head on. 

So, I named my guy Grogg.  

I couldn’t envision a person, and I love animals too much to put that much sourness onto them.  Grogg is a mishmash of Big Foot, the old Pac Man ghost, and Cousin Itt from the Addams family.  He is short and round and brown and grumpy. Good Lord is he grumpy!!

Grogg is a nay-sayer, nothing positive ever passing his furry, snarly little lips.  Grogg spends his days thinking everything is stupid and not worth the effort.  He’s quick to tell me why things won’t work out, how horribly I will be embarrassed by my failures, why it’s foolish to put time and effort into things, and the big one…why even bother.

And he never stops grouching at me.  With every blog, with every course I develop, with every project I imagine, Grogg is quick to list every “won’t, shouldn’t and can’t.”  He will fill in any empty space in my mind with all the reasons why not.  Why not to even try.

So, for the past week Grogg and I have spent some time getting to know one another.  Now when I hear his nagging little grunt of a voice, I envision him, peppery and pungent like Ebeneezer Scrooge, telling me my ideas aren’t good enough.   That they’re downright foolish.

And a funny thing has happened. 

I’ve come to kind of like him.

Grogg has become some kind of companion who joins me on any creative venture.  He’s a constant tag-along, sour-puss that he is.  He’s always been there anyway, but now he’s out of the dark and standing in the light.  He’s not as big as I imagined before, and certainly not as powerful. Instead of intimidating, he’s almost cartoonish and preposterous.

 Rather than listen to him, letting him fill me with doubt and shame and thinking I’m silly for even trying, I’ve come to feel a bit sorry for him. 

It must be lonely being a non-believer in goodness and creativity.  I imagine it’s a gloomy place to live, this space where failure is expected and courage is seen as weakness.

I wonder, now that I’m getting to know him, why I ever allowed him to speak to me that way, why I believed him.  After all, he’s just a little matted brown-haired critter that is missing out on all the fun.  Why have I given him so much of my time, of my headspace?  Why have I allowed him to talk me out of dreams, opportunities, things I wanted to risk trying?

It’s a bit like pulling the curtain back on the Great Oz, only to find a small, sniveling man posturing, trying to impress. 

When he was a growly voice in the dingy recesses of my brain, he was scary.  He sounded forcefully all-knowing, as if guaranteeing failure if I so much as tried.  And I’d listen.  For some reason I’d listen.

Now that he’s out in the light, almost like a little devil on my shoulder, I see him for his insecurities, and I have both patience and compassion for him.  I’ve come to realize that he is not to be feared and certainly is not a reliable guide.

He doesn’t know what’s best.  He’s just too timid to try.

I see now that the admonishing, the pessimism, the warnings of wasted efforts, are not prophecies, but rather insecurities.

  I see now that his snarly little demeanor is truly just the discomfort that comes whenever we show a part of ourselves to the world. 

I’m fully aware Grogg is a reflection of my own inner self-doubt. Personalizing him has made him not only easier to understand, but also to respectfully thwart.  I see now that the anxiety keeps him back from adventures, the possibility of trying, the thrill of risk, even the peril of potential failure or embarrassment. 

Now as Grogg and I drink coffee in the mornings, pondering the days work ahead, I’m hoping to share a bit of compassionate optimism and tender courage with him, hoping he will grow. 

Because growth might just be worth the risk.

2 thoughts on “Grogg

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