Pity the tight, constrained, over-edited lines
living their conventional lives
lined up in perfect order
little scouts, doing what they’re told
unable to speak for themselves…
Oh, do you mind? May I break through the lines to ask a few questions on behalf of those little scouts?
Why must the Critic intervene before an Original Thought can been aired? Where does it come from, this self-doubt, this Second Thought? What is the Second Thought? Why does it attack the first thought, the Original Thought?
What have we done to Original Thought? Why must it be attacked? Why do we not regard it as something sacred, like a newborn child who simply needs to be loved and nurtured? Why can’t it just be left alone to live and grow more Original Thoughts?
And what do we mean by Original Thought in the first place? Where is the origin ground? What is the source from which we draw? (Why do I want to rip this page from my book, strike my original questions?)
Who is the Second Thought? Why does it need to destroy the first? Can’t a voice be heard? Can’t a space be made to air the whole cloth before it is torn to pieces?
What wants to be born? What is pushing to come out, putting me through a lifetime of labor? What gets frustrated when I am not heard? Why do I equate my Soul with the voice of the Original Thought? Am I the Original Thought?
Why must I be shaped, shape-changed, made into a form that is not my own? Am I not good enough? Am I not valid unto myself and worthy of being heard? Why must I be heard? Who demands an audience? With whom?
What if my Second Thought were to change? What if it became more amenable, more curious, more respectful of the Original Thought? Is the Second Thought afraid of my wild nature? Why are we all so happy when the Original voice escapes? Is that not the release that the Second Thought needs?
What has made you so afraid, my Second Thought?
Are you not tired of interjecting yourself between original instinct and the public eye? Are you not disenchanted with others’ opinions and judgements? Don’t you just want to throw away the red pen and have a picnic in the meadow of a single Original Thought?
Aren’t you tired of all the murdering-to-dissect? Isn’t it obvious by now that it’s a self-defeating cycle? When will you be finished with the need to be recognized or rewarded for all the pains you’ve taken? Don’t you think you’ve done enough? Aren’t you ready to retire?
What if you stepped aside and let an Original Thought change the way you decide? What if you simply sat in the meadow and listened to the melodious stream of consciousness? What beauty or free thing might rise up into all that space your listening creates? What if you turned off the noise of the demanding world to find out, for once and for all, what hasn’t been heard?
Can you see yourself in the mirror now, my Second Thought? Do you approve of my questions? Do you not think there is a place for them? Can you stand your own critique? Do you struggle with your own Second Thoughts?
How did I originate as The Critic? Was it in the classroom on my first day of school, when, as a little girl, I drew a blue line down the spine of every page in my scribbler? How did I feel when I was dragged to the front of the class to show my offensive blue lines? Did I come to life when the child was cursed by the teacher who taught the class to point and chant, “Shame, shame, double shame?”
Did I rise up to protect her from future humiliations of Original Thought? Did I find my mission in second-guessing what others wanted to hear? Was I very disappointed when, for all my efforts, her Original Thoughts kept breaking through and humiliating us?
How did I feel when she insisted on writing her university essays in her own voice? Wasn’t I disgruntled when she refused to think the teachers’ thoughts and got D’s on her essays? How awful were those reprimands and the mocking laughter of the professors who put her metaphors to death? Was I not justified in railing against Original Thoughts of every kind?
How exhausted did I become over the years? How much trauma did I suffer when she started to record her dreams? Wasn’t I overwhelmed when those subconscious dams broke? How was I supposed to cope when she started telling fairy tales? What could I do about her resolve to validate what the public regards as childish fantasies?!
How on earth did I survive what came next? How small did I become when she let out her wild voices, when I cringed in the corner and stopped my ears?
Did she push me to the limit then? Did she silence me?
Do I not suffer my own invalidation? Am I not feeling ravaged by her Original Thoughts?
What am I to do now? Am I to stage some sort of rebellion?
Or am I having Second Thoughts about Second Thoughts? Am I starting to reconsider my role? What is helpful critique, and what is not? Is there any reason for my continued existence?
What is this new feeling, this new confidence in Original Thoughts? Where is she getting the spirit to present herself to critics without shame? Am I not relieved to see her standing up for the worth of her Original Thoughts?
What is this new affection I am feeling for the Original voice? Isn’t she wonderfully irrepressible? Have I not felt this love all along? Can it finally be expressed? Can I now relax and come to know the wonders of my Original Thoughts? Am I made of more than negation and fear, cautions and admonitions: “You can’t say that, what will people think?” Can I switch sides? Can I stand with her in the face of critique? Can I look at Rejection and say, “No, we reject your rejection!”
What is this new détente I am feeling? Where is the impression coming from that I am sitting beside a melodious stream with my sister, my eternally Original Thoughts?
Is that laughter I hear? Is it raining in the meadow? Are these my tears?
Featured image by William Black
Final image by Michelle Tocher
Such an interesting and timely blog post, Michelle. My husband and I generally don’t read the newspapers, we haven’t subscribed for years, but today I wanted to read the comics, which come with the Sunday paper, so he bought a copy and we both enjoyed them. Along with the paper came a copy of the Times magazine and I read it cover to cover, then went outside to sit on the porch with hubby. “MOooooOOOooo!” I said. “I feel like a cow.” I’d read an article written by a father who just couldn’t understand why his son (aged 2) wasn’t interested in sports. This author whined through several pages about his own love of sports and the benefits of them, then shared several attempts he’d put his son through in the next few years, trying to get him interested in various kinds of team sports. Wow I wanted to pop the author upside the back of his head and ask, “How is it that you can’t respect this beautiful child’s inherent right to, and joy in his own individuality and interests?!” For many tedious pages, this author continued to exhibit what I consider very misplaced pride in his attempts to funnel this boy into the “mini-me” complex. Wow. It is so very common. And I am just so appalled. Being an artist and a writer, I’m a creator, not a cow. It’s my suspicion that many, many others are happier creating than copying, following others, or staying inside the lines by following the rules of others. So I really enjoyed your post, and I love the way you expressed it. We are all, I believe, inherently creators. Yes, many of us love developing a sense of community and belonging with others who have interests similar to our own. That is a joyous discovery to be sure. But wow, how many years do we have to press against this stifling conformity and how hard must we work on deconditioning ourselves until we can stretch into our potentials!
Well said, Jen! Thank you for your comments and for being true to your own original voice in your gorgeous art-making and writings. I have been reading your book, Coming Alive After Death, and am very moved by your honest, uplifting perspective. More on that later!
Thank you Michelle, all feedback most welcome, especially valuable from you, as you know how much I love the books you’ve written!
Public nudity seems so much easier than being a writer.
Maybe “second thoughts” are why so many fiction writers use a pen name?
Love the sentence, “What if you simply sat in the meadow and listened to the melodious stream of consciousness? What beauty or free thing might rise up into all that space your listening creates?”
What a long journey it is with the inner critic, glad to hear she/he seems to be mellowing.
Haha, yeah, Mark, well I completely agree. Writing ain’t for the faint of heart. Getting the inner critic and the editor sorted has been a mission of mine in the last couple of years because we need that constructive criticism but not the slash and burn kind. I have a special love for my first drafts, with all the their flaws. They’re so fresh, which is why it’s so fun to doodle as well, and send the editing mind off to grab a coffee. Thanks for your comments. Always great to hear from you! ❤️
For the original voice, know that science is on your side! According to research, some highly creative people have the ability to “shut down” or bypass that inner critic part of the brain when they are immersed in their work. The rest of us need to know that its a capacity worth learning!
How interesting to know that, Jeannette. Any link or paper you might cite? I’d be fascinated to dig into that research. I’ve always loved first drafts, mockups, doodles, children’s art … all that fresh and original stuff. At the same time, these reflections are bringing me into a wonderfully healthy relationship with the editor. It is important to know the difference between the editor who is on one’s side and the critic who is not, but it seems to me to hinge on a delight with our original thoughts. I very much appreciate your comments, thank you!