Meet Barry, my inner critic

Another working week is over. What have I achieved? What have I not achieved? It helps to write something down, to take stock. Normally, I’d sit here on my sofa and let the words flow. I wouldn’t worry about what came out. I’d write and it would clear my head; this is just me talking to myself. But right now I’m aware – I’m paying attention to – the fact that this might be today’s contribution to the project, to the experiment of living by Mary Oliver’s instructions. And I’ve started to share these daily words on Instagram, where people have been commenting and reacting. I have a little audience now. In which case, I ought to be noticing something interesting.

But I feel empty. This has been a busy day; I’ve spent too much of it on Zoom, in my shed, doing stuff for clients. There hasn’t been much time for astonishment or paying attention. I gave my daughter a lift to the train station and noticed how strange it felt to drive a car at over 40 miles per hour. I walked my dog and, remarkably, we found the same unopened bottle of Italian lager that I’ve mentioned twice already in these posts. That was astonishing, sort of, and I took another photo of it. But if I keep noticing and writing about the same thing, it’s not interesting, is it?

I want to say ‘look, I’m just trying to notice what I’m experiencing and to tell about it. That’s all. It is what it is.’ But I think I’ve said that already too. Ah, and now I can feel my inner critic really waking up; that other voice that says: ‘This? You think anyone would read this? Why on Earth would they?’ Etc, etc.

Earlier in the year, or maybe it was last year (I’ve checked, it was November), I went to an excellent workshop about dealing with your inner critic. I learnt that there’s no point trying to make the voice go away; it won’t. But I can notice what it’s trying to do (to make me stop writing) and when it’s doing it (we talked about how to recognise an ‘attack’; I had one a couple of paragraphs ago. Did you notice?) I named my inner critic Barry. Whatever he says can feel deeply persuasive; he knows me very well; he knows exactly which buttons to push. But look Barry in the eye, and he scurries back into the shadows. I drew a picture of Barry in the workshop. He emerged, grinning from a whirl of squiggles. I told myself he was smiling because, really, he is trying to be my friend. Hey, Barry: I’m watching you.

#7 of 30.