Sometimes, when you go boldly in the direction of your own dreams, you are met with criticism and disapproval in the initial stages of the process. I have friends who are artistic, and they too face these inner critics. Sometimes, these critics embody a single person, perhaps a teacher who scolded us for doodling in the corners of our homework assignments or maybe a baby-sitter who told us we wasted too much time on scribbling stories.
For me, the critic comes in the form of my mother’s voice. She never approved of me wasting so much time on my stories nor did she ever ask about what I was working on creatively. It was always an inquiry into how my math homework was going or if I was spending enough time looking through my Chemistry notes. She knew English came naturally to me, so there was no struggle to be successful, thus, the wondering on how it was going didn’t seem to come naturally to her. Instead, she told me I was wasting too much time on my writing or that I should focus on more serious ventures. When I got to college, she encouraged me to get a degree I could do something with: Education, Business, anything but English. Now, she suggests English as an easy alternative to what I am studying, but never does she ask about my work-in-progress or my poetry. I voluntarily shared my poetry with her, and while I saw the tears glisten in her eyes and I could tell my poetry had an impact on her, she never has asked to see the manuscript in its full.
The fiction was completely unmentionable. I never understood why it was ignored so completely. My mother fostered my love for reading and is a creative person. She would draw me imaginary creatures and create art out of photographs she saw in the newspaper. She made up songs about my brothers and me and take us on mystery tours, but she never encouraged me to invent worlds or create characters out of thin air. When I first got access to a home computer, I would play with Microsoft Word like some children played Oregon Trail. I would test out different fonts and with the different fonts, I would spin different stories. Olde English became the story of a reluctant royal and her servant she befriended. Lucida Handwriting-the tale of an African slave. Comic Sans was the tale of a boy who created a doughnut machine that grew out of control. I became an expert at mimicking other authors’ styles, and teachers would comment on my growth as a writer myself, often forcing me to stand up and read something I had written.
Rumors circulated that I was going to be something great, that I was a child prodigy. As much as I inhaled books for reading pleasure and as often as I took the pen tot he page, people expected something phenomenal out of me. However, my mother never actively encouraged my writing, and when I began to explore darker themes in my writing (my own demons being exorcised on the page), she began to discourage it. She’d show my journals to psychologists and began to question at my sanity. I began to write furtively and in secret, hiding my journals so she couldn’t find them. I would write stories and rip them to shreds so she couldn’t analyze them. Suddenly, my outlet, my escape, felt like a curse, like something I should be ashamed of.
So, when I think of the critic’s voice, it sounds a lot like my mother’s. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that my mother, though a woman of faith, needs something physical often times to hold on to. Same goes with my writing, she may believe I am writing, and yet, until she can hold a book of mine in her hands, she may not believe that my writing is a worthwhile hobby. I may have over 100 fans here on WordPress and nearly 200 on Facebook, but until I have a concrete book that she can read and flip through the pages of–it is not real.
Thus, my writing to myself hasn’t been real because of her voice in my mind. Not anymore. I’m fighting back. No longer am I an aspiring author. I am a blogger, a poet, and a writer working on her debut novel.