Most of us have heard the story of the guy who adopted an ill-mannered parrot. The parrot had a hard life so the guy vowed to woo the parrot into changing with unfailing kindness. No matter what he tried the parrot was incorrigible. The parrot swore abusively, was rude, disrespectful and yet the guy held forth with forbearance. The parrot mocked and ridiculed the very person who saved him. This went on for some time with no effort on the part of the parrot to repent and change. One particularly difficult day, the guy lost his patience and tossed the parrot into the freezer hoping the parrot would cool off a bit. A couple of minutes later he opened the freezer and the parrot sidestepped docilely up his arm.
“Sir,” the parrot said, “I’m profoundly sorry for my ill-mannered behavior after you were kind enough to take me in. What I said and did was rude and loutish. It will never happen again.”
Very quietly the parrot asked,
“Sir, may I venture to ask what the chicken did?”
We drop the friend who is all about themselves, adroitly negotiate the intrusive co-worker, confront the abusive boss, and have at hand numerous ways to leave the narcissistic lover.
So. Why do we let our critic beat us up every time we attempt to make art, write the novel, play the concert, design a building or invent an easier way to install plumbing?
Here’s the news flash. The critic is ours to manage not the other way around, so why do we tolerate the disparaging voice in our head? We wouldn’t consider letting someone talk to us that way in any other situation and yet we do the dance with our critic, and possibly our shrink who is making a lot of money off of a non-existent figment of our imagination.
I’ve read we should give our critic a persona and name. Identify the gender of our critic. Really? In the same amount of time we could make work to get the happy hormones flowing. In the last century we’ve invented as many propitiations to our emotional insecurities as our ancient ancestors did to the volcanos. We’re supposed to eschew victim mentality, yet we let the critic badger us to creative death. Is there a certain cachet if we have an especially cranky critic?
Why spend any time on this dark-side brain candy? The critic only exists as we allow it to. If the critic is ours to create let’s conjure up a well-mannered, cultured colleague. The critic must be trained as we’ve trained our family, friends and coworkers to respect our boundaries. When we need an edit or critique, we can invite the critic in as a trusted collaborator on our terms. Under those conditions, the expertise our critic offers is invaluable. Any other time, the critic should live in the freezer.