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With an Inner Critic Like That...

Pamela Hamilton

Many of us have been there at least once, searching frantically for that misplaced diary, worried that our most private thoughts would be exposed. Pillows overturned, drawers emptied, we looked everywhere trying to find that precious book before someone discovered truths we had so carefully kept to ourselves; whom we liked, what we really thought of that Christmas gift, along with our rants, stories or most embarrassing, our poetry.

           We loved writing in our diary and knowing it would always be waiting for us to return to it later, more like a good friend than merely paper held together by stitching and glue. We told it everything and when we finished an entry, we often wrote "bye" or "good night", perhaps even decorating the page with a few stars and crescent moon, like I did.

           Our writing didn't start out this way. As children writing was unguarded and free, to be read by everyone. "Look what I wrote," we'd say to practically anyone within earshot, pleased to share our ideas, even if only we could decipher the letters.

           Maybe we were just proud that we had formed those letters with our very own fingers -- or perhaps we really wanted to share a specific story. Whatever the reason, we wanted someone else to see what we created, our eagerness a declaration: I did this and it's important -- and so are my thoughts. There was joy in the creation and the sharing.

           What made us change our approach to writing? Why is it that at some point we began to associate writing with secret keeping, bolting our thoughts, stories and poems safely behind a locked diary cover? Click. The sound of security. We even hid the tiny key in alternating hiding spots. For some, though, writing didn't become a secret activity, it stopped altogether.

           There have been volumes written about how a child's creative voice is stifled. How girls, high achievers at age ten stop raising their hands by age twelve. I don't understand the dynamics but I have experienced them. My own writing went undercover and then stopped completely by the time I was twenty-four, only to be rekindled in my early thirties and then squelched by an internal critic that convinced me I couldn't do it and it wasn't important -- and neither were my thoughts.

           Now forty-one, I have finally learned to overcome that inner critic, and in the process, have rediscovered the joy of writing and sharing that writing with others. Writing is much more difficult than I remember, and much more rewarding.

           Where I begin my writing has changed very little. A diary is now a "journal" and I still use it as a private place in which to record my thoughts and story ideas; but it is more than that. When read in sequence it's entries display a common thread that helps me recognize who I am, what I want and the sound of my unique voice. One thing has changed completely, however, and that is this: today, if I choose to not share my writing with others it is because I don't want to and not because I believe I have nothing important to say.

About the Author (click here) © 2004 Pamela Hamilton, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission

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