Gatekeepers, Critics, Edges: Why I Avoided Writing Essays for 10 Years

My husband's family lives 50 minutes or so away, with a drive that can be made by highway or by cutting through cornfields and small farms. The sky was puffed up with sun and clouds when we left for our Mother's Day visit this weekend, so we opted for the scenic route.

It was an ideal backdrop for listening to Pete Holmes' podcast, You Made It Weird. We caught his conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert, and one of my favorite moments was when she wondered:

What if your inner critic is just curious? 

So often we hear our inner critic saying "Who do you think you are?" in a gruff, intimidating tone. Elizabeth suggests that we might have it wrong. What if we hear the question with curiosity at its heart? Maybe it's an invitation: "Well, who do you think you are? Could you show me?"

I've come to believe that the more our inner voice asks such questions, the more it's a sign that we're coming to an edge in our creative life. We're reaching a point of departure, either into something deeper or into a new area of learning altogether. 

In my writing, there's an area where I avoided the edge for a long time. I let two teachers and my inner critic decide (for 10 years) that I could not write essays.

Last year, I finally approached that edge, only to discover that there was a place for me in essays after all. And I didn't need the authority of a teacher to get there. I wrote more about it for The Writing Cooperative. If you've avoided or abandoned some form of creativity because a gatekeeper or critic stopped you, I hope you'll reconsider! Go back to the tug that drew you to create in the first place... can you find another way in now?