You’re Dumb and Nobody Likes You

Girl in box with laptop in an alleyway.
Girl in box with laptop in an alleyway.

You're Dumb and Nobody Likes You

This is the voice I have in my head.

This is the inner critic who constantly feeds me lines that make me not want to write, that keep me from filling the blank page or the words that shout back at me from that very page before I have even put a word down. The inner critic is an asshole, designed by my own fear to try and protect me from actually pursuing my dream. 

The voice is more than just a subpersonality that judges and demeans me. It makes me question what my life would be like if I actually reached for that obscure idea in the distance. 

I published a book. Hurray!

But no-not hurray. Everyone hates it.

Because they hate the book, they hate me.

Because they hate me, I'm obviously a waste of space and don't belong working on anything creative. Because I don't belong working on anything creative, I have to settle for a job I absolutely hate until my soul either takes one last gasp of air when I'm in my mid-fifties because it can only be smothered for so long or I turn into a hollow shell of my former self for the same reason. 

Or worse. 

At least if no one likes the book, it means they read the book. But if no one reads the book, then what's the point?

Why make art for no one to see? Why spend hundreds, if not thousands of hours agonizing over the plot--the characters-

a sentence--

a word-

if by the time it gets published, I'm the only to read it? 

Sure, my parents would say they read it and my wife would be required to at least act as though she's read halfway through before saying "It's not my type of story," but beyond my family walls, the purchase button on any platform would sit growing the technological equivalent of cobwebs not even worthy for page two of Google.

Then where do I go from there?

Knowingly betrayed by my passion, regretting all the time I spent tucked into my story when I could have been at a party, reading a book I actually enjoyed, or pursuing a hobby instead of writing, like model trains or calligraphy?

But then I take a breath. 

I remember why I write. 

Yes, I write because I want others to read my stories but I also need to tell my stories. I come from a long line of storytellers, generations touched by the ghosts of past Jews who passed down stories of family, of religion, of trauma, of vulnerability, of miracles, of magic. And they continue to tell their stories through me.

The inner critic tries to protect me.

The inner critic tries to serve me-a survival mechanism that saves me from perceived threats, in this case, the threat of society, of being an outcast, of embarrassment...

Of failure. 

My inner critic tries to keep me from stepping onto the ledge with no railing. But I'm a storyteller. If the ledge doesn't have a railing, it's because I didn't put one there. If I didn't put a railing there, it's because I either forgot or didn't want one.

Either way, the experience teaches me a valuable lesson. Either I need to remember to put the railing in...

Or I Don't Need One. 

"You're stupid and nobody likes you," the critic says.

But then I write down a word. I create a sentence.

"Thank you," I tell the critic. "But I'm ok. It's going to be ok."

"But you'll fail. Of course, you'll fail. Here are all the stats to support the reason that you'll fail."

"Then I'll fail," I say. "And it's going to be a great fucking story."